MGM, one of the world’s oldest film studios, acquired the rights to ballerina, Michaela DePrince’s, memoir in 2015. Today, the studio announced that American singer, Madonna, will be directing the film, Taking Flight, which follows DePrince’s journey from a war orphan in Sierra Leone to a world-class ballerina.
DePrince, 23, is one of very few black classical ballerinas in the world. She lost both of her parents when she was three years old. Her father was murdered in the country’s brutal civil war and her mother died from fever. She was then put in a shelter with 26 other children in her native Sierra Leone, where adults teased her that she was too ugly to ever be adopted, calling her “the devil child” because of her vitiligo (a skin condition that causes loss of pigment).
But DePrince always believed she was destined for more, telling Glamour Magazine, “I guess I was a little sassy. Whenever people called me things, I would say, ‘I don’t care. I’m going to be someone.’”
At age four, she was adopted by a New Jersey couple raising 10 other children (nine of whom were adopted) and was brought to the US. She was immediately put into dance class where she fell in love with ballet. “There was so much love right away,” she explained. “I had never been surrounded by something like that.” Though she didn’t fit the ballet dancer stereotype, losing out on various roles because her body was deemed too athletic, she pushed through. “I put up a front that I was fine with being the only black girl or not getting a role. But it was very difficult,” she revealed.
At age 14, she starred in a documentary, First Position, as she competed for—and won—a prestigious scholarship to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theater in New York. Today, she is a soloist with the Dutch National Ballet and Opera in Amsterdam. She also appeared in Beyoncé’s music video album, Lemonade and works with Girl Scouts and War Child, a group that helps children in conflict zones. She tells Glamour that her ultimate dream is to open a school in Sierra Leone.
“Sometimes you just need to make a little ripple to open the doors for others”.
Madonna, the bestselling singer who also wrote, produced and narrated the 2008 documentary I Am Because We Are, about children in Malawi orphaned by the AIDs epidemic says of her directing Taking Flight, “Michaela’s journey resonated with me deeply as both an artist and an activist who understands adversity. 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. I am honoured to bring her story to life.”
The cast and release date for Taking Flight is yet to be released. Camilla Blackett, writer of the comedy series Fresh Off the Boat, will write the screenplay.