Jul 16, 2012 08:43 AM EDT
Michaela DePrince, once an orphan in war-torn country in West Africa, has grown up as a top ballerina.
Michaela, who was born into Sierra Leone's civil war and adopted to the U.S. at age 4, is now completing her last year at Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, American Ballet Theatre's prestigious ballet school in New York. The 17-year-old dancer is also preparing for her first professional full ballet performance on July 19.
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"I lost both my parents, so I was there for about a year and I wasn't treated very well because I had vitiligo," she said in an interview with Associated Press.
"It took a long time to get it out of my memory. But my mom helped me a lot and I wrote a lot of stuff down so I could recover from it," Michaela continued. "Dance helped me a lot. I had a lot of nightmares."
Elaine DePrince, who adopted Michaela and two other girls from the orphanage in 1999, said they came "sick and traumatized by the war."
"Michaela arrived with the worst case of tonsillitis, fever, mononucleosis and joints that were swollen," said DePrince.
Now grown up as a ballet star, Michaela has been featured in a documentary film "First Position" and performed on TA show "Dancing With the Stars."
On July 19 performance, Michaela will dance the part of Gulnare in Le Corsaire, as a guest artist of Mzansi Productions and South African Ballet Theatre, two biggest dance companies in South Africa.
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