In Sydney, Australia, a young girl named Stephanie Kurlow plans to become the world’s first ballerina in a hijab—despite haters, both within and outside the Muslim community, who say that Muslims shouldn’t dance.
“I believe [the hijab] covers my body, but not my mind, heart and talent,” she says in the New York Daily News.
Kurlow began ballet classes at two years old and showcased her talents at the Riverside Theater until five years ago, when her family—two brothers, an Australian father and Russian-born mother—converted to Islam. Suddenly it was hard to merge ballet with her new religious path; in some Muslim circles, dancing is not allowed, and she felt conspicuous matching her new religious garb with her ballet tights. Still, “everything made sense for me in Islam,” she says. “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.”
Looking to Misty Copeland, another groundbreaking ballerina who became the American Ballet Theatre’s first black Principal Dancer and Noor Tagouri, the first hijabi news anchor on U.S. television, Stephanie wants to be the first ballerina in a hijab.
“When there was nowhere for me to study ballet due to my outfit, [my mom] opened a performing arts academy that taught ballet, martial arts and aboriginal arts classes for girls like me, where no one questions children why they dress or look a certain way,” she says, referring to the Australian Nasheed & Arts Academy that opened in 2012.
Now Stephanie’s begun an online fundraising campaign for a year of training, saying that she eventually aims to open a performing arts institution of her own where everyone is welcome.
“[The hijab] is a part of who I am, and represents the beautiful religion that I love,” she says. “If people have the right to dress down, then I have the right to dress up.”
Contact the author at Hillary@jezebel.com.
Image via NYDN.