Film, TV & Stage

Orphaned as a child, ballerina Michaela DePrince is the choreographer behind Beyoncé’s ‘Freedom’ music video

TRAGEDY TO TRIUMPH: Michaela DePrince

TALENTED BALLERINA Michaela DePrince was born in Sierra Leone in 1995 during the civil war.

At age three, she lost both her parents and was sent to an orphanage before she and her best friend were adopted by an American couple when they were four.

Fast forward to today and the 22-year-old is now a professional ballerina with the Dutch National Ballet – the only dancer of African origin and has just published her memoir, Hope in a Ballet Shoe.

Last year, Michaela was personally contacted by Beyoncé, who sent the professional dancer a message by using the ‘contact me’ feature on her website.

“When my mom saw the message from Beyoncé, she forwarded it to me, but I thought it was a joke,” she told ET, reflecting on the moment she discovered she would be featured in the pop star’s visual album. “However, I passed it on to my agent, just in case. And sure enough, it was the real thing!”

“She turned out to be friendly, warm, caring and down-to-earth – not at all a diva!” the dancer recalls. “She even told me, ‘It’s such an honour to have you here.’ But [I told her] the honor was all mine. I so admire her genius and creativity.”

Beyonce also left the creative decisions up to Michaela.

“The director [Kahlil Joseph] gave me music to listen to, and about three minutes later, he had me dance to it,” she remembers. “I improvised, choreographing the dance on the spot. I needed three takes. When I saw the final Lemonade video, it was fun to see my name on the credits for choreography.”

In the future, she hopes to start a free arts school in Sierra Leone, and teach ballet there.

“That would be amazing – I’d like to use the money we earn from this book to open the school,” she told The Guardian.”It’ll have to be when I retire from dancing. The arts can change you as a person. Dancing helped me share my emotions and connect to my family, it helped me feel like I was special.”

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