A 14-year-old Muslim girl from Sydney, Australia, is working hard to become the first hijab-wearing ballerina in the world.
Stephanie Kurlow, who had been performing on stage since she was two-years-old, quit ballet after she and her family converted to Islam six years ago. Kurlow said that she couldn’t find a school who would accept her wearing a hijab to class.
However, now she aims to start ballet practice again with the aim to use her expertise to eventually open a diverse performing arts academy that caters to children and teenagers of different religions, races and backgrounds.
Kurlow has created a LaunchGood campaign with the hopes of raising enough money to pay for tuition and fees associated with one year of ballet school.
“This school will have special programmes for specific religions, support groups for our youth and people who are from disconnected communities,” she outlined in her LaunchGood campaign.
“I will provide for our future generations a chance to express and heal themselves and others through the magnificent art of performing and creativity,” she added.
While she has encountered some negative feedback online, particularly from strict followers of Islam who believe dancing is haram or forbidden, she remains committed to her goals. By succeeding as the first Muslim ballerina, she aims to “inspire so many other people to believe in themselves and pursue their dreams.”
Speaking about her hijab, the 14-year-old said, “The hijab is so important to me because it’s a part of who I am and represents the beautiful religion that I love.”
“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.”
She draws inspiration from African-American ballerinas Michaela De Prince and Misty Copeland, as well as hijabi Emirati lifter Amna Al Haddad and hijabi American television news anchor Noor Tagour — other “firsts” in their field. Not to mention Kurlow’s mother, Alsu, who has already opened a performing arts academy in the Sydney suburb of Bankstown, teaching ballet, martial arts and aboriginal art classes to the local community.
This article originally appeared on Huffington Post.