Time and time again, it's been proven that girls simply do not take no for an answer, believe that nothing is impossible, and are willing to do everything and anything they set their minds to. Muslim women, in particular, have taken it upon themselves to prove they belong anywhere they want to be.
But it doesn't always have to be so clear-cut. Sometimes, it can be as implicit as being the world's first hijabi ballerina.
Meet Stephanie Kurlow, an 18-year-old Russian-Australian dancer who converted to Islam with her family back in 2010 when she was 9 years old. Kurlow drew her inspiration from Zahra Lari, the world's first hijabi ice skater, as she couldn't imagine practicing her profession while wearing the hijab at first.
"I thought if she could do it, why can't I?" Kurlow argued, according to Pointe Magazine. Lari gave her the push she needed to go back into the field and pursue ballet as her professional career, all while wearing the Islamic veil. "I am forever drawn towards the art form of ballet," Kurlow explained. "I feel that my whole self is connected to it."
Here are seven things you should know about the revolutionary ballerina:
1. She started dancing when she was just 2-years-old
When most toddlers were learning to run and skip, Kurlow was already in her tutu at the age of two. She spoke in a video of how she was always dancing around the house to music even before she was able to walk, which motivated her mom to enroll her in a dance class.
She told Haute Hijab she started wearing the veil full time at the age of 11.
Speaking of her faith and belief system with the New York Times, Kurlow didn't hold back from talking about what drew her to Islam. "[E]verything made sense for me in Islam […] I like to be modest and I like to keep my dignity. I like to know the purpose of my life. I like to live a healthy lifestyle and avoid harmful things," she said, according to About Her.
2. Her mom opened a ballet academy for her to practice freely
Mother of the year award, much? When Kurlow was rejected out of every ballet class for wearing the hijab while training, her mother took it upon herself to open a ballet academy for her daughter, seeing how discouraged and isolated she felt.
Even at a young age, Kurlow always felt committed to wearing her headscarf and never backed down.
"The hijab is so important to me because it's a part of who I am and represents the beautiful religion that I love," Kurlow told Mashable Australia last year. "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."
3. She won an international writing competition at 11
Ballet isn't the only field Kurlow has excelled in. When she took a three-year break from dance after she was discouraged from practicing because of her hijab, she put her efforts into other creative and artistic fields.
"I became really interested in painting and creative writing," she told Pointe Magazine, "But I found that nothing could compare to the pure magic that I feel working in the studio and then finally being onstage, where all your efforts come together."
After hearing of Zahra Lari and seeing her do her own magic, Kurlow was inspired to power through and move forward with her passion.
4. She was part of The Wiggles' new TV show and toured all around Australia with the team for five weeks
It was a big deal for Kurlow to be a member of The Wiggles, a well-known Australian children's music group formed in Sydney, New South Wales in 1991.
"This tour has been such an incredible and wonderful experience and I'm so lucky to have shared it with such beautiful and talented people!" she wrote in an Instagram post.
5. Kurlow wants to open her own all-inclusive ballet studio one day
"Once I am a professional I would also like to open my own ballet company and performing arts school that caters towards people of different religions, races or backgrounds," she once told Emirates Woman.
She's also very keen on opening a conversation when it comes to wearing the hijab while being a ballet dancer. "We have come so far in diversity and inclusion, but we still have a long way to go," she argued.
Although she is a hijabi ballet dancer, she wants people to be able to see her work as a ballet dancer and just that.
6. She's worked with Converse, Gaynor Minden, and Tarese Klemens
"It is such an extraordinary thought to know that a young girl is going to pass a shop window, a bus stop or click on a website and see a ballet dancer, in hijab, in a converse campaign, and believe that if she can do it, then I can to," Kurlow wrote, commenting on her Converse campaign being released in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, America, Africa, and the Middle East.
She was also part of the release of Haute Hijab's new heritage collection in 2019 and routinely posts sponsored photos with Gaynor Minden, a global dance apparel line.
Kurlow can also be spotted in a Lenovo campaign along fashion designer Tarese Klemens.
7. She was awarded the Game Changer Scholarship by sports fashion brand Björn Borg
In 2016, sports fashion brand Björn Borg gave then-14-year-old Kurlow a scholarship after being "genuinely inspired" by her story.
"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," Kurlow said at the time, describing what the scholarship meant to her.