Photograph by Abbey Drucker
Her father was murdered by gunmen, her mother starved to death and Michaela DePrince was branded a “devil child” at her orphanage because of a rare skin condition. Then, as civil war raged around her in Sierra Leone, a vision came as if from another world.
Outside the orphanage gates was a magazine with a picture of a ballet dancer. “I’d never seen anything like it before,” Michaela, now 17, tells the Guardian.
"It was kind of strange because she looked so beautiful and so happy, and so I ripped the cover off and I tucked it into my underwear. I kept looking at it every single night and just dreaming that if I came to America I want to look exactly like this person."
Her dream was realised. Mabinty Bangura, as she was then, was adopted by an American couple and given a new name and new life in the US. She is now a rising star in the ballet world and makes her full professional debut next week in Le Corsaire at the Joburg Theatre in South Africa.
What an inspiring young woman.