Famous Converts: Michaela DePrince (1995 - present)
[description: an image of a young black woman with short natural hair and some pale vitiligo speckling on her chest. she is wearing brown pointe shoes that match her skin color, a hot pink tutu, and a hot pink bandeau top. she is standing en pointe with her legs together, one arm stretched low and behind her, and the other stretched up and in front; she is facing that arm, looking slightly away from the camera]
Michaela DePrince is a ballerina who first rose to national attention when she was featured in the documentary First Position, about her and other dancers’ entry into the Young American Grand Prix. She is currently a dancer with the Dutch National Ballet. She has spoken out about the discrimination she has faced in the dance industry as a black woman, and frequently works with disadvantaged youth; with her mother, she published her memoirs, Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina, as well as a version intended for younger readers called Ballerina Dreams.
DePrince was born in Sierra Leone but was orphaned at a young age. She was adopted by Elaine and Charles DePrince, an American couple from New Jersey. She formally converted to Judaism when she was five years old and was raised in the faith.
In the course of filming First Position, DePrince visited Israel, where she left prayers for her family in the Western Wall. She also wears a hamesh (aka hamsa) necklace while traveling, because her mother thinks it will protect her, and DePrince “believe[s] that the hamesh represents [her] mother’s hand, reaching out to protect [her] from half a world away.”