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Here’s Everything We Know About Francesca Hayward, The Black Female Lead In ‘Cats’

The first trailer for the feature film version of the reimagined Broadway musical Cats dropped and it stars a Black woman.
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Francesca Hayward attends the h100 Awards dinner at The Hospital Club on October 1, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
By Kimberly Wilson · July 19, 2019

The first trailer for the feature film version of the reimagined Broadway musical Cats dropped yesterday, and it features a star-studded cast that includes Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson and Taylor Swift, and in the lead role, a Black woman we can’t stop talking about — Francesca Hayward.

Hayward – who was named principal dancer in 2016 to the British Royal Ballet – plays Victoria, the shy white kitten, in director Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical. Holding the highest rank in British Royal Ballet — which is Britain’s largest ballet company–makes her the perfect fit for the role, having performed in roles such as Clara and The Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Princess Aurora and Princess Florine in Sleeping Beauty

The African-born dancer spent the early part of her life in Kenya before establishing her roots in England (her mother is Kenyan, and her father English), where her dance career soon blossomed at the age of 11. Two years later, she moved in with her grandparents in West Sussex, which is located in the south of England.

This is her first feature film debut and it will also be the dancer’s first singing role. Hayward explained that the experience has been “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 for her.

And just because you may have not heard of her work just yet, that doesn’t mean she’s not out here making moves. Hayward designed a collaboration with lululemon last year, which was a dancer-friendly collection with the popular activewear brand.

“Cats” is in theaters nationwide December 20. We can’t wait to see all the #BlackGirlMagic that Hayward brings to our screens!