Following this dream hasn’t been easy. Along the way, Michaela has had to battle racism within the ballet world. “When I was eight, I was cast to play Marie in The Nutcracker, and I prepared hard for it. But right before the show, I was told that someone else would be dancing the part because ‘people aren’t ready for a black Marie,’ ” she recalls. She seriously considered quitting ballet until she got the chance to see black dancer Heidi Cruz perform with The Pennsylvania Ballet. “I was like, Wow, she’s amazing! She inspired me to keep dancing,” Michaela says.