Stephanie Kurlow: Young Muslim student awarded scholarship by Björn Borg in aim to become world’s first-ever hijab-wearing ballerina

Company says the power and courage it takes for a 14-year-old to not give up in a situation like this 'is exceptional'

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Tuesday 16 February 2016 10:47 GMT
Stephanie Kurlow awarded Bjorn Borg scholarship

A teenage schoolgirl who said she dreamed of bringing the world together by becoming the first-ever hijab-wearing ballerina looks set to achieve her goal after being awarded a life-changing scholarship.

Sports fashion brand Björn Borg - named after the former number one Swedish tennis player - has announced it was moved to help 14-year-old Australian student Stephanie Kurlow after being “genuinely inspired” by the teen’s story.

Describing how the scholarship will bring her closer to her goal, Miss Kurlow said: “I plan on bringing the world together by becoming the very first hijab-wearing ballerina so that I can inspire so many other people to believe in themselves and pursue their dreams.

“I want to encourage everyone to join together, no matter what faith, race or colour and I hope to live in a world with greater acceptance.”

Girl hopes to be the first hijab-wearing ballerina

Miss Kurlow’s story first came to light after she recently launched a crowdfunding campaign in which she described how she converted to Islam in 2010 which, despite bringing “many positive aspects,” stopped her from performing because she thought there would “be no way” for her to become a professional ballerina, due to there not being any services targeted at Muslim girls.

She also added: “However, so many inspiring changes are happening to the world. Like one of the first female African-American ballerinas, Michaela DePrince and Misty Copeland, the first hijabi Emirati weightlifter Amna Al Haddad, and the first hijabi news anchor on American television, Noor Tagouri. [They] have motivated me to pursue my passion against the odds of the world.”

The Game Changer Scholarship was created to support athletes with “extraordinary visions and dreams,” said the company, adding: “People who, not only dream about a better future, but also have a plan to get there. People who can change the game.”

Marketing director at Björn Borg, Jonas Lindberg Nyvang, described how the team behind the brand was “genuinely inspired” to learn about the young student and her story. He said: “She is a true game changer and an extraordinary human being. The power and the courage 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.”

Miss Kurlow’s crowdfunding campaign is also ongoing. On her LaunchGood page - which has, so far, raised close to $5,000 (£2,474) - she says all money raised will go towards ballet and tutoring tuition, dance supplies, and competitions.

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