SYDNEY – A Sydney young Muslim schoolgirl’s dream to become the world’s first hijabi ballerina has come true after a Swedish clothing company awarded the young girl a scholarship to pursue her dream.
“I never thought people would see me dance across the world and everywhere,” Muslim teenager Stephanie Kurlow told SBS on Wednesday, February 17.
“It’s just been absolutely overwhelming, so many people are messaging me telling me their stories and how I’m inspiring them, and that makes me feel so great.”
The 14-year-old has been dancing ballet since she was two-year-old.
Reverting to Islam in 2010, the young girl stopped dancing after failing to find schools that catered to both her religious beliefs and dance needs.
She decided to pursue her dream after seeing success stories of Muslim women around the world, including Misty Copeland who became the first African-American principal dancer.
Other success stories included Noor Tagouri who became the first American news anchor to wear a hijab and Emirati weightlifter Amna Al Haddad who took to the world stage with her headscarf on.
The girl’s dream sparked the interest of Swedish sport fashion company Bjorn Borg, named after the professional tennis player who pushed boundaries during his career.
The scholarship by Bjorn Borg is the company’s first ever ‘Game Changer’ scholarship.
“We were genuinely inspired to learn about her story and the courage it takes for a 14-year-old to fight for her right to dance ballet against all odds is exceptional,” said Bjorn Borg marketing director, Jonas Lindberg Nyvang.
“She’s a true game changer.”
Fulfilling her dream, Kurlow’s story would inspire people from all backgrounds, regardless of their faith.
“More visibly Muslim women who are proud of their faith, to see them in different arenas and doing things people don’t expect is a positive outcome,” Asma Fahmi volunteers with Islamophobia Register Australia, an organization which records such incidents, said.
“I think after a while this will be normalized.”
The scholarship is for approximately $8400 Australian dollar, and will cover one year’s ballet tuition.
“It means a lot to me, almost everything,” Kurlow.
“This is where I’m going to my career and my path as a dancer.”
Kurlow will now train for up to 30 hours a week, scheduling her ballet commitments around family and school.
“I have to be very hardworking and train intensely,” said Kurlow.
“Now that I have a steady career on my way, I just need to work very, very hard for it.”
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.