Meet Francesca Hayward, the Principal Ballerina Who's Playing Victoria in Cats

On Thursday, Universal Pictures finally released the trailer for Cats, giving us the first look at the live-action adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Broadway musical, which hits cinemas on Dec. 20. It's fair to say that we had a lot of feelings — seeing stars like Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift, and Idris Elba (among other stars) in cat form was a little bit unsettling. But one star, er cat, who was front and center throughout the trailer is Francesca Hayward; playing the role of Victoria, a shy white kitten known for her feline beauty.

To find out more about Francesca Hayward — a Kenyan-born ballet dancer with the Royal Ballet in London — keep on reading.

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Hayward Is a Principal Dancer With the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden in London

Hayward was admitted to the Royal Ballet School when she was 11-years-old, then joined the Royal Ballet company in 2010, at the age of 18. Over the next six years, she was promoted through the ranks — first as a First Artist in 2013, then to Soloist in 2014, to First Soloist in 2015, and finally, as a Principal dancer in 2016. The role of Victoria in Cats typically doesn't have any solo singing parts but requires extensive ballet training, which of course, Hayward is well trained for.

She Was Born In Nairobi, Kenya

With an English father and Kenyan mother, Hayward was born in Nairobi and lived in Kenya until the age of 2, before the entire family moved to Worthing in West Sussex, England.

She Was Inspired by a VHS Tape of the Nutcracker Gifted From Her Grandparents

When Hayward was 2 years old, her grandparents bought her of a VHS tape of The Nutcracker, she told British Vogue in 2018. It was this tape, inspired by the fairies and fantastical, otherworldly scenarios that inexplicably made her "just want to do it myself." And she did — dancing the part of Clara in 2012, and The Sugar Plum Fairy in 2016. Hayward still has the original VHS tape from her, complete with £9.99 price tag from WH Smith, today.

Dancing as the Sugar Plum Fairy Was a Dream Come True

After realizing her dream of dancing in The Nutcracker in 2018, Hayward wrote on Instagram, "Second & last show of Sugar Plum tonight. Obviously a huge thank you to my prince @acampbell_1 but a special thank you to my coach Lesley Collier. Lesley was the first Sugar Plum I ever watched (on a video of The Royal Ballet's Nutcracker [sic]) when I was two years old so I can't believe she taught me this role and rehearses [sic] me for my performances of it".

This Was the First Time Hayward Has Sung in Public

This is Hayward's first feature film debut, as well as her first singing role, saying that it felt "like a whirlwind journey in shooting this film, Cats." To suddenly be singing alongside talent like Jennifer Hudson — when she had always considered her career in ballet to be "living the dream" — has been an "extraordinary" experience.