princess of pointe

Part of my job as a ballet teacher is to write lesson plans for our classes.  Hours and hours each week I spend on the hunt for material that I hope not only inspires my students, but awakens their curiosity and passion for ballet.

Recently I ran across this amazing article from Teen Vogue that left me stunned and inspired.  It is the story of African war orphan turned professional ballerina, Michaela DePrince.  This remarkable young woman overcame unthinkable personal tragedies such as the brutal death of her parents at age three and the label “devil child” in a foster home, as a result of having a rare skin condition called vitiligo.

Look at her now.

michaela deprince

At age four, Michaela and her best friend in the orphanage were adopted by a loving couple from Philadelphia.  Michaela revealed her love of ballet to her parents and from that moment forward, they faithfully provided the best training they could afford.  Michaela blossomed as a dancer, continued to overcome and shall we say, overachieve.  An understatement. 

Her big break came when she was 14 after a grand success competing in Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest student ballet scholarship competition that awards scholarships to leading dance schools worldwide. The competition is held annually around the world and in New York City, and is open to dance students of all nationalities 9-19 years old.

Michaela was one of six dancers featured in the award-winning documentary, First Position, which chronicles a dancer’s life while training for this intensely fierce competition.


I bought it immediately and watched with my ballet-loving daughter.  Not even sure if we blinked the whole time. It was amazing!  Can’t wait to share it with my students.

The journey of becoming a professional dancer is one of great sacrifice and pain.  There are no free handouts; skill can only be acquired through blood, sweat and tears.  In the best of circumstances, the success rate for going pro is less than 3%.  This talented young lady never allowed loss, rejection, obstacles or stereotypes stop her.  She never stopped to feel sorry for herself.  Not even for a second.  I admire her so much for that.

She soars.  Always with a smile.

michaela deprince2

michaela deprince2

Michaela’s story is a must read.  And a great reminder of the power of love, hope and determination.  On a note related to today’s holiday, I think it’s cool that MLK’s birthday is January 15th and Michaela’s is January 6th.  Both remarkable African-American individuals who inspire us all.

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  1. Such an inspirational story that is so fitting for today! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. My oldest son and I watched First Position about a year ago and we were both so completely engrossed. I think he was fascinated with children that had such love and passion for something at such a young age. We were both so inspired by all of the dancers. As a Pilates teacher I often see and work with these young dancers and the struggle and sacrifice they make with their time and bodies is commendable.

  3. Lisa says:

    Such a beautiful ballerina! What a wonderful story to share with your class to show the power of determination even in the face of extreme obstacles. I enjoyed reading about Michaela.

  4. Judy says:

    beautiful dancer and what an inspiring story!

  5. Claire says:

    I heard about this documentary and have been dying to see it… but it’s not the kind of thing that shows in our local theatres, unfortunately. Where were you able to buy it?

  6. kayce ughes says:

    Love her story and so many others in that movie.

  7. Deena says:

    I too was impressed with Michaela and her family when I watched First Position with my young
    dancer, Kayla. We just happened to come across it on Netflix and decided to check it out. What a delightful surprise. As an aspiring African-American dancer, my daughter needs to hear these remarkable stories of dreams coming true. If Michaela could dare to dream, why shouldn’t she? Thank you for your post. I can’t wait to show this to my daughter!

  8. Oh my goodness, gorgeous! I’ll have to tell my mom about that film–she was a professional ballerina for years and years. What a lovely and inspirational story, thanks for sharing :)

  9. Seleta says:

    Deena, I’m so happy that your daughter has been inspired to achieve in dance. It’s wonderful how the the art of ballet is a universal language spoken by all who have the passion, no matter what nationality or background. My best to your daughter! xo

    Claire, we bought our copy on amazon. I just checked and they are still in stock : )

    Sarah, I was wondering if your Pilates ever intersects with the ballet world…I bet you are a great resource for those dancers!


  10. Angie R. says:

    As a decorator, I began reading your blog for all of the beautiful imagery you share. I have continued to read, not only for the wonderful designs, but because of your sweet family and beautiful horses and the generous way that you share them with us, your readers. I have also learned to love the stories, like Michaela’s that you find and bring to our attention. I too, studied ballet, but didn’t have the long, lean figure common to professional dancers. I’m so glad to see that this young girl never let go of her dreams. I hope she dances her way into the brightest of futures. May the nay-sayers move aside and watch her fly!

  11. Janice says:

    How inspiring. I love Dance so much. Seleta, have you heard this quote:

    “”The philosopher’s soul dwells in his head, the poet’s soul is in his heart; the singer’s soul lingers about his throat, but the soul of the dancer abides in all her body.”
    ~ Khalil Gibran


  12. Seleta says:

    Angie, thank you for sharing such kind words : )

    Janice, thanks for that inspiring quote!


  13. LAUREN SCHIFF says:

    Hi Seleta, haven’t been on your site in a while. It’s still my favorite blog and you are still my favorite style beacon. I am pregnant, four months! First one! I took lots of ballet as a child and teenager, as did my best friend. I love that you are a dancer. I am about to watch the movie now. Thanks for sharing it!
    Lauren Elise McCord (Schiff)

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    SeletaI‘m Seleta, a city girl living the beach life with my family. A former TV personality turned designer, I love to share the sparkly side of life. Read more here.
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