Misty Copeland is empowering aspiring ballerina’s a world away. The strides Misty has made as the first woman of color to be a principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre makes it possible for Stephanie Kurlow to believe in her dreams.
Stephanie, 14, has danced since the age of two. In 2010, she converted to Islam with her two brothers, Australian father and Russian-born mother. “Everything made sense for me in Islam,” she said in an interview with the NY Daily News. “I like to be modest and I like to keep my dignity. I like to know the purpose of my life. I like to live a healthy lifestyle and avoid harmful things” she added.
While the teen was excited to delve further into her faith, she initially gave up her dream of becoming a ballerina in fear it conflicted with her religion; some devout Muslims believe dancing is forbidden.
Stephanie says that the professional strides of black ballerinas Michaela DePrince and Misty Copeland, as well as the first hijabi Emirati weight lifter Amna Al Haddad and the first hijabi news anchor on American television Noor Tagouri reignited her pursuit of her passion.
Stephanie and her family, who reside in Australia, were unable to find any dance studios that were receptive to her wearing her hijab. Her mother opened Nasheed & Arts Academy in 2012. In addition to ballet classes, the family’s studio also teaches martial arts lessons.
Stephanie recently participated in a talent show, wearing her hijab and she was awarded, “Most Inspirational Young Star in Sydney”.
She’s hoping that she can continue to inspire and empower other girls that may feel ostracized by the ballet community because they are Muslim. Stephanie recently launched a campaign to raise $10,000 to train full-time at ballet school to become a certified instructor with her own dance academy in Sydney.
“I believe that one day all children and young people will have an opportunity to perform and create, without sacrificing their values, beliefs or looks, and my campaign is one step closer to achieving this.”
She also adds, “I believe [the hijab] covers my body, but not my mind, heart and talent.” Click here to support Stephanie’s campaign.