20 December 2019 18:34
Francesca Hayward doesn't get stage fright. Regularly performing for a nightly audience of 2,256 people at the Royal Opera House doesn't faze the Royal Ballet principal dancer. But, she admits that she was shaking with nerves as she took her place on the red carpet at the New York premiere of Cats, the Tom Hooper-directed film in which she makes her acting debut, on 16 December. "I was sandwiched between Taylor Swift and Jennifer Hudson, both red-carpet pros," she recalls. "Bad decision." Read more: Francesca Hayward: "Talent will go wherever you want it to go" Hayward plays Victoria, an elegant white cat, in the Andrew Lloyd Webber production.
Fittingly, she opted for elegant white crystal-encrusted Miu Miu (miaow!) for her first major premiere. "I didn't expect it to be so chaotic," the former Vogue cover star says, speaking over the phone from London having landed back from the US that morning. "People were pushing each other out of the way, screaming to get the shot. It was brutal!" She laughs. "I think I look a bit bored in the pictures but I was having a brilliant time. I just couldn't move my arms very much in the dress." Wearing The Vampire's Wife at the Build series, December 2019. © Dominik Bindl/Getty Images Though fashion-obsessed, over the course of the promotional tour, Hayward, or Frankie to her friends, has learnt to push herself out of her comfort zone thanks to Karla Welch. The Hollywood stylist and the ballet dancer hit it off immediately when they first met several months ago. "I send her screenshots of looks I like, and she puts together rails for me to pick from. It's my dream situation," says Hayward. She's been enjoying upping the glamour quotient: for a recent London screening, she went all out in Oscar de la Renta and Miu Miu heels. "Everyone else was going casual but I wanted to wear a full-on gown - you don't get many opportunities to wear Oscar de la Renta in normal life," she says. As for her comfort zone: "Karla has shown me things I would never have thought I could pull off - but the good thing is, they still feel like 'me'. And I've been much braver about going without bras. Freed my nipples!" In Bottega Veneta at the London premiere of Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words in November 2019. © David M. Benett Frankie didn't need much encouragement on the fashion front. An accessories fanatic, she admits that she embarked upon a regular self-gifting programme during punishing 4am starts and long days of filming with a stream of Matchesfashion.com and Net-A-Porter.com boxes arriving at her trailer each morning, usually containing a treat from Bottega Veneta or Loewe. "I am embarrassed to say that I regularly wake up to a message from my Matchesfashion.com personal shopper, saying, 'Hey, it's Charlene, just letting you know about this handbag before everyone else!'" she laughs. In Cecilie Bahnsen for the Cats photocall, 13 December. © Karwai Tang/Getty Images Still, Hayward found the press junkets the hardest to dress for. "You don't want to look really smart or really casual. As a dancer, I am either in something glamorous or I am rocking up to work in a leotard and my pyjamas. Dressing in between is quite difficult." Welch put her on a vintage track, sourcing an Ossie Clark suit for an event in London and a polka dot Ungaro shirt for another photocall. She's also a fan of The Vampire's Wife, Cecilie Bahnsen and Acne Studios. On Jimmy Kimmel Live, 5 December. © Randy Holmes/Getty Images As the Cats frenzy winds down - reviews came out in mid-December, and were largely negative, though Hayward says the cast has taken the critical bewilderment with a sense of humour - she'll head back to the Royal Opera House to resume her day job. "Usually I get a debut of a ballet on Christmas Eve, and then I leg it home with my Nan to do the turkey, but this year we don't have a show, so I'm going to track down a carol service," she says. Is there anything she's hoping to find under the tree on 25 December? "Perhaps a moisturiser from Augustinus Bader - my brilliant make-up lady Talia Sparrow says it's going to change my life. Or a Crème de la Mer lip balm. But then that's another expensive habit on top of my shopping problem. And I've just bought a new Bottega Veneta padded cassette bag. So, really, I don't need anything." More from British Vogue: