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Ballerina Michaela DePrince, Once An Orphan From War-Torn Sierra Leone, Defies The Odds And Racial Stereotypes

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Defying staggering odds, an orphan from war-torn Sierra Leone is taking the ballet world by storm, ABC News reports.

After her parents were shot and killed when she was 3 years old, Michaela DePrince was brought to an orphanage. But her chances of getting adopted seemed slim.

She was often referred to as a "devil child" because of her skin condition that causes depigmentation.

But two critical moments in DePrince's young life changed her fate, the Burlington Free Press reports,

First, she found a magazine that featured a prima ballerina on the cover.

"She looked so happy," DePrince told ABC News. "That's the only thing I lived for -- to become this person, to be exactly like this ballerina."

Then, when she was 4, she was adopted by an American couple who brought her to the U.S.

Before long, DePrince was enrolled in ballet classes for children, according to Pointe Magazine.

Today, more than a decade later, 17-year-old DePrince is living her dream.

DePrince is finishing up her last year at the prestigious Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre in New York City and she told the Burlington Free Press that she will be dancing with a professional ballet company by the end of the summer.

The teen, who was invited to perform on the popular television show "Dancing With the Stars" last month, is also one of six young ballet dancers featured in the new documentary "First Position."

But despite her talent and success, DePrince told ABC News that she still faces some serious obstacles.

Being a "dark black ballet dancer," she said, means she has to work "10 times harder" than everyone else.

In 2007, The New York Times reported that though "other minorities have made inroads in classical ballet, the complicated reality of racial inequality persists, especially for black women".

DePrince said she hopes to use her skills to break down those color barriers.

"One day I want to perform White Swan and I know that'll be really weird to have a black girl in a white tutu performing Swan Lake, but I just hope that they see past that," she said.

Watch Michaela DePrince's performance on "Dancing With the Stars" here:

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