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The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Hijabi Ballerina – Young Aspirations

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Stephanie Kurlow, a 14-year-old from Sydney, Australia, pushes against cultural tradition to wear a hijab during ballet. She seeks to raise money to open a dance school for other Muslim girls. 

Who is Stephanie Kurlow?
Months ago, Stephanie was just an ordinary 14-year-old girl from Sydney, Australia, when she decided to launch a crowd-sourcing initiative to help fund a full-time ballet school. But she isn’t any ordinary ballerina. Kurlow aspires to be the first-ever hijabi ballerina.
After gaining some media attention across the globe from The New York Times and USA Today, the young 14-year-old’s story began to go viral. After catching wind of the story, former professional tennis player Björn Borg and his sporting company approached Kurlow, offering her the opportunity to fulfill her dreams of attending ballet school.
“We were genuinely inspired to learn about Stephanie and her story,” said Björn Borg’s managing director Jonas Lindberg Nyvang. ”The power and the courage that it takes for a 14-year-old to not give up in a situation like this, to see possibilities where others see problems, is exceptional.”
Dancing at a ballet school is just the start to the youngster’s master plan. One day Kurlow aspires to take her talents to teaching, opening up her own performing arts school in Sydney, catering to artists and dancers that come from culturally diverse backgrounds.
“This school will have special programs for specific religions, support groups for our youth and people who are from disconnected communities,” Kurlow states on her campaign by LaunchGood. “I will provide for our future generations a chance to express and heal themselves and others through the magnificent art of performing and creativity.”
While her final vision may be far from reach, the aspirations are paving the road for other young Muslim ballerinas, or anyone with a different background. Kurlow’s passion for the sport has enabled her to persevere through adversity and discrimination.
“I’ve gotten those looks or those little whispers from people saying that I can’t do it, and there are some parts of the ballet world that only see me for the clothes I wear or the beliefs I have,” Kurlow said last month. “But this means everything to me. I think I can bring people together through dance and inspire some young people from different races that might be a bit disengaged.”
For a Muslim, dancing is considered to be “haram,” or in other words, forbidden. Even within her own community, Kurlow has received excessively harsh criticism for following her passion and talent. “I think that’s what may have stopped some other Muslims from following a career they want, but I know what I’m doing is right and I’m going to keep doing it,” stated the student.  
Difference is often rejected within the early phases of sports. Whether it was Tiger Woods’ membership to Augusta or Jackie Robinson’s entrance to baseball, change creates controversy. But similar to skin color, the hijab reveals nothing of character or skill; it is just an appearance. Like these two famed athletes, Kurlow will likely endear herself for portraying exactly who she is; being comfortable in her own skin, or hijab.
“The hijab is so important to me because it’s a part of who I am and represents the beautiful religion that I love,” said Kurlow. “If people have the right to dress down then I have the right to dress up and my hijab is my expression of love to my creator and I believe it covers my body but not my mind, heart and talent.”
To learn more about Kurlow’s story, her website is listed below.
http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/stephanie-kurlow-14-offered-scholarship-to-become-first-hijabi-ballerina-20160217-gmx42s.html