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Meet The Sierra Leonean Ballet Star From Beyoncé's 'Lemonade'

Sierra Leonean-American ballet dancer Michaela DePrince appears in Beyoncé's visual album, 'Lemonade'

In the “Hope” sequence of Beyoncé’s new visual album, Lemonade, a ballerina takes the stage as Beyoncé sings the words to “Freedom.”


The dancer in a white dress and headpiece is 21-year-old Sierra Leonean-born ballet star Michaela DePrince.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, DePrince admits she thought it was a joke when she found out Beyoncé wanted to cast her in the video. At the time, DePrince was living in Amsterdam, where she performs as a member of the Dutch National Ballet. It wasn’t long before she was on a plane to New Orleans. Shooting for the scene took place over the course of two days in December. According to the WSJ article, the dancer choreographed her own moves.

“She said I looked like I was a creature from another planet,” DePrince tells WSJ of her encounter with Beyoncé. “She walked up to me and said, ‘It’s such an honor to have you here.’ I was really cheesy and said, ‘The honor is mine.’ I was on cloud nine.”

#lemonade #beyonce #michaeladeprince #ballerina #freedom THANK YOU @beyonce ?❤️

A photo posted by Michaela DePrince (@michaeladeprince) on

Born Mabinty Bangura in Sierra Leone in 1995, DePrince lost both her parents during the country’s civil war. Her uncle left her in an orphanage when she was three. There, she was taunted and abused by the women who looked after her. She was called “devil child” due to a skin condition she was born with, vitiligo, that made her skin appear spotted.

As the story goes, it was at the orphanage that she first came across a photo of a ballet dancer on the cover of a magazine. DePrince was mesmerized. "It represented freedom, it represented hope, it represented trying to live a little longer," she told CNN in a 2012 interview. "I was so upset in the orphanage, I have no idea how I got through it but seeing that, it completely saved me."

At four, DePrince and her closest friend were adapted by an American couple from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The family encouraged her to pursue her passion for ballet from a young age.

In 2011, DePrince starred in the ballet documentary First Position, which follows six young dancers as they compete for the prestigious Youth American Grand Prix in New York City.

From then onward DePrince’s list of accomplishments is long.

In 2012 she graduated from the American Ballet Theatre Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York City, and in July of that year she made her professional stage debut as a guest principal in the South African Ballet Theatre’s production of Le Corsaire at the Joburg Ballet.

At 18 she was the youngest member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Since 2013 she’s been with the Dutch National Ballet.

Along with her adoptive mother, Elaine DePrince, the dancer co-authored the 2014 memoir, Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina. “It was a therapeutic outlet and a way for me to reach out to other people,” DePrince told The Guardian of why she wrote the book. “When I went to South Africa, I shared my story with a few high-school kids and realised it could really have an impact. It inspired me to think differently about myself – I always wanted to be a role model and to let people know that it’s OK to dream and to live for something.”

DePrince’s memoir is currently being adapted into a feature-length movie.

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Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images

Sudan Declares State of Emergency, As Military Dissolves Transitional Government

As the North African country edged closer to democracy, Sudan's military has seized power.

Sudan's military has seized power over the North African country, arresting multiple civilian leaders, including the current Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The power-sharing, unstable coalition, called the Sovereign Council, was created as a transitional government after the fall of dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019, in an attempt to move towards a democratic Sudan.

The Sudanese public has been split in recent weeks as groups protested for a military-run state, while others pushed for a civilian lead, democratic nation. Last week, the Prime Minister vocalized his plans towards a full transition to civilian rule, and his plans to have that body in place by November 17, echoing the voices of thousands of Sudanese demonstrators who showed up in hoards to demand that the promise of Sudan's pro-democracy movement be honored. But on Monday the PM and multiple government ministers and officials were placed under arrest, resulting in Sudan's top general's declaring State of Emergency.

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said in a televised statement, "To rectify the revolution's course, we have decided to declare a state of emergency nationwide… dissolve the transitional sovereign council, and dissolve the cabinet." His statement came as soldiers fired live rounds at anti-military protestors, outside of the army headquarters in the capital.

Internet services were cut across the country around dawn and the main roads and bridges into Khartoum shut, before soldiers stormed the headquarters of Sudan's state broadcaster in the capital's twin city of Omdurman, the ministry said. After months of rising tensions in the country, army and paramilitary troops have been deployed across the capital city, Khartoum, with the airports and internet access being shut down. As a result of the coup, hundreds of protestors have taken to the streets, demanding the return of a civilian ruled and the transitional government, the BBC reports.

Demonstrators have spread to a number of Sudanese cities including Atbara, Wad Madani, and Port Sudan, and more are expected to attend the call for action. "We will not leave the streets until the civilian government is back and the transition is back," protest attendee Sawsan Bashir told AFP. While demonstrator Haitham Mohamed says, "We are ready to give our lives for the democratic transition in Sudan."


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