Francesca Hayward is the English ballerina who will play the role of Victoria in the movie version of “Cats.” Hayward, 27, was announced as having joined the all-star cast of the musical in November 2018. Hayward joins Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, Rebel Wilson, Idris Elba and Jason Derulo, among others in the all-star cast of the hit musical.
The movie is slated to be released on December 20, 2019. After the initial trailer dropped on July 18, many on Twitter reacted negatively with some believing that Hayward had been whitewashed.
Hayward was born in Nairobi, Kenya, to a Kenyan mother and an English father. She moved to Worthing, West Sussex, close to London, at the age of two where she lived with her grandparents. It was there that Hayward says she discovered her love of ballet.
Despite her numerous appearances across the world on stage, Hayward’s appearance in “Cats” will mark her first movie appearance. Hayward tweeted in March 2019 that she was close to finishing filming on the movie.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. While a Student, Hayward Won One of Ballet’s Most Prestigious Awards
In 2009, while still studying at the Royal Ballet School in London, Hayward won the Lynn Seymour Award for Expressive Dance. Around that time, Hayward also won the 2010 Young British Dancer of the Year and the silver medal and the Audience Choice Award at the 2010 Genée International Ballet Competition.
According to Hayward’s official profile at the Royal Opera House website, Hayward never graduated from the Royal Ballet School but did join the company for their 2010/11 season due to her talent. Hayward never graduated due to injuries. Hayward became a First Artist in 2013 and First Solist in 2015. In 2016, Hayward was promoted to Principal.
In 2014, Hayward won Best Emerging Artist at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards while in 2016 Hayward won the Grishko Award for Best Female Dancer.
2. Hayward Was Inspired to Become a Professional Ballet Dancer Thanks to an Old VHS Video of the ‘Nutcracker’
Hayward told Vogue in an October 2018 interview that it was her discovery of an old VHS video of the “Nutcracker” helped to inspire her to become a dancer. Hayward said, “There was never really a moment that I decided that I wanted to be a ballet dancer. It’s always just felt like it’s what I was meant to do.” Hayward has described her grandmother as her mentor.
Hayward said that she would regularly buy VHS tapes of ballet dancing as part of her “full-time vocational training.” Hayward went on in the interview to discuss the demands of being a professional ballet dancer. Hayward said, “I sew my own shoes – I don’t trust anyone else to sew the ribbons exactly how I like them.” She added that it takes 90 minutes each time to complete this task and sometimes she needs two pairs of shoes to get through a particularly demanding performance.
3. Hayward Has Been Talked of as ‘The Royal Ballet’s Next Crown Jewel’
Hayward was the subject of a March 2016 cover feature in Pointe Magazine. In their headline, Hayward was talked of as “The Royal Ballet’s Next Crown Jewel.” The piece mentions a tweet from ballet critic Luke Jennings from October 2015 that read, “Francesca Hayward dances Juliet and British ballet is remade.”
Hayward’s coach Lesley Collier is quoted in the Pointe Magazine article as saying of her charge, “She digests things almost instantly, and she has a special awareness of how to be onstage. She presents almost a finished result, which is very unusual.”
4. Hayward Said She Was Never Treated Differently by the Ballet Community Despite Being One of the Few Mixed Race Dancers
Hayward told Pointe Magazine that despite being one of the few mixed-race dancers in the community, she never felt like an outsider. Hayward said, “It’s only when people ask me what it’s like to be a mixed-race dancer that I realize that I am. I’ve never been made to feel different, or like I shouldn’t be doing it.”
The article concluded with Hayward saying that she was too concentrated on furthering her ballet skills to worry about making history. The feature also made references to the comparisons many have made between Hayward and American dancer Misty Copeland.
5. Hayward Said Her Happiest Place Is Being in the Pub With Her Friends
Hayward told the Financial Times in a 2016 interview that her happiest place is between being on stage performing, being in bed in the morning and “in the pub with my friends. During that same interview, Hayward mentioned that she wasn’t very politically inclined but felt more interested by politics since the 2016 Brexit referendum. Hayward told the Guardian in 2014 that she felt most relaxed while on stage.
In the same interview, Hayward said that felt like she could do more to help the environment, that she had never completed an IQ test, her biggest indulgences were vacations and her goal was to buy a house. Hayward concluded the interview by saying of her life, “I’m happy but there’s still more I want to do.”