What do you get when you combine a prima ballerina with the Material Girl? You get two dancing divas and an inspirational bio-pic set to uplift spirits and inspire hearts across the globe.
The story follows the incredible journey of ballet dance star Michaela DePrince. While many ballerinas often hail from not so modest beginnings, Michaela wasn’t as lucky. Born in then war-torn Sierra Leone, Michaela, born Mabinty Bangura, grew up in an orphanage after her father was killed by a revolutionary group, and her mother died of starvation.
During her time in the orphanage, Michaela was often malnourished, mistreated, and considered a devil’s spawn because of her vitiligo, a skin condition causing depigmentation that was first famously linked with mega music star Michael Jackson.
After her orphanage was bombed, Michaela later fled to a refugee camp where she was eventually adopted by a Jewish-American couple, the DePrinces from New Jersey. Michaela was then taken to the United States to live with her adopted parents and their nine other adopted kids in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
Inspired by a ballet dancer on a magazine cover she found while still in Sierra Leon, Michaela studied classical ballet at The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While continuing intense dance training, she earned her high school diploma online and also performed at the Youth America Grand Prix among other places. Her Grand Prix contributions earned her a scholarship to study at American Ballet Theatre‘s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Ballet. In addition to overcoming malnutrition and other abuses early in life, Michaela later had to contend with the additional obstacle of explicit racial discrimination all around her.
From teachers telling her parents that black dancers aren’t worth investing in, to being rejected from roles with comments like “America is not ready for a black girl dancer,” and all of this from the tender, impressionable age of just eight years old. To be told such defeating things by teachers and some of the very others who are supposed be there to guide and support you, would be career ending for most.
Despite these potential debilitating setbacks, Michaela managed to build quite an impressive resume by the time she was a teenager. At just 16 years old, Michaela became the star of a documentary First Position, about six young dancers vying for a spot in an elite ballet company. She also performed on televisions Dancing With the Stars and made her European debut with De Dutch Don’t Dance Division (Dance Company The Hague, NL) in The Hague, Netherlands. After graduating the American Ballet Theatre, she became the youngest member of the prestigious Dance Theatre of Harlem. Her professional debut performance was in the South African Ballet Theater’s premier of Le Corsaire, in the role of Gulnare in 2012. Within two years she had joined the Dutch National Ballet, where she was promoted a number of times until reaching the ultimate level of soloist. These were all tremendous achievements for anyone, much less the only dancer of African origin at that time. In 2016 Michaela crossed over into the pop world with an appearance in the “hope” sequence in Beyoncé‘s Lemonade visual album.
The rights to DePrinces memoir Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina were acquired by MGM in 2015, and just this year MGM announced that the Material Girl, also known as the Queen of Pop, Madonna will direct Taking Flight, a bio-pic on DePrinces life and career. Having spent years working with charitable organizations in Africa and adopting four kids, two just recently from Malawi, Africa, makes it clear why Madonna is so excited to direct Michaela’s biopic. Madonna has also had close ties with orphanages in war torn regions, and like Michaela, lost her own mother at a young age, then surmounted obstacles to become an iconic dancer and groundbreaking, dominant force in her a field; all of this illustrates Madonna’s personal connection to Michaela’s story. “Michaela’s journey resonated with me deeply as both an artist and activist who understands adversity,” Madonna said in a statement. “We have a unique opportunity to shed light on Sierra Leone and let Michaela be the voice for all the orphaned children she grew up beside.”
To have achieved all of this by the tender age of 23 is quite a tremendous accomplishment for anyone, especially a young woman from a war-torn land, who surmounted so many tragedies and life afflicting obstacles to ultimately become a source of hope and inspiration for so many.
More information at michaeladeprince.com or comingsoon.net.