Fans Outraged Over Whitewashing Of 'Cats' Star Francesca Hayward In The Film's Creepy Trailer

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Who Is Francesca Hayward? New Details On Lead Ballerina In 'Cats' And The Controversy Over Her Costume

The official Cats trailer has been released, and almost immediately, the trailer caused a "furry" (see what we did there?) of controversy. Aside from the fact that the anthropomorphic cats were more than a little creepy, fans of the film noticed that the lead cat — which was played by a black British ballerina-turned-actress — was "whitewashed." But who is Francesca Hayward, the lead actress behind the "whitewashed cat" controversy?

Let's look at what we know about this rising star. 

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1. In the original Cats Broadway play, the lead kitten is white — but critics are arguing that this could have been changed. 

According to The New York Post, it's safe to say that Cats is full of fictional characters — which means that the color and the breed of the cats could have been changed at will by the producers of the film. And while in the original Cats Broadway play, the lead kitten (Victoria) is white, critics are arguing that her fur color should have been changed once Francesca Hayward was cast in the role. 

"Hayward’s character, Victoria, is a white kitten in the original Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, but many are complaining that this is arbitrary and could have easily been changed," they wrote, adding that many first-time viewers of the trailer were "horrified" once they realized that Hayward was a black woman being forced to wear white fur. 

Could the color of Victoria's fur be changed?

2. Francesca Hayward is a newcomer to the big screen, but she's an accomplished ballerina. 

According to PopSugar, Francesca Hayward's name doesn't ring any bells in Hollywood, but in the ballet world, she's nothing short of a total superstar. 

"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," reports the outlet.

Critics say that Francesca Hayward's face has been "whitewashed."

3. Even though the movie community freaked out over the Cats trailer, the ballet community sang Hayward's praises.

While the Twitter-verse was all ablaze with snarky comments about the anthropomorphic nature of the cats in the film trailer, Pointe Magazine pointed out that, white fur aside, Francesca Hayward's introduction to the big screen was nothing short of spectacular. 

"We're most excited for the dancing. Hayward makes her feature film debut as the white cat Victoria, and if this trailer is any indication, we'll get to see plenty of her leggy brilliance. The film also features former NYCB principal Robbie Fairchild as Munkustrap, Royal Ballet principal Steven McRae and former soloist Eric Underwood, hip hop duo Les Twins and CATS on Broadway veteran Kolton Krouse," reported the outlet.

Sounds like this is exactly the type of thing that "dance nerds" will absolutely love! 

Francesca Hayward is an accomplished ballerina.

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4. She's a native of Nairobi, Kenya. 

According to Essence Magazine, while Francesca Hayward grew up in England, she's actually a native of Nairobi, Kenya. She spent the first part of her life in the gorgeous African country (as her mother is Kenyan) but returned to England shortly before she joined the ballet. 

Of her casting, Hayward described it as a "whirlwind."

"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," reported the outlet.

Francesca Hayward is a native of Kenya.

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5. Francesca Hayward designed a limited edition sports collection with Lululemon. 

Back in 2018, famed sports clothing company Lululemon announced that Francesca Hayward collaborated with them to create a "dancer-friendly" line of clothing. She also starred in the commercial for the clothing collection, as well. You can check out the full collection of clothing here

Francesca Hayward is also a clothing designer!

6. Although she's been compared to Misty Copeland, Francesca Hayward prefers to stand on her own merits. 

According to Refinery29, Hayward claims that while she is aware that she is biracial, she doesn't feel "different" because of her biracial background. In fact, she said that she only feels different when other people point out that she is. Finally, although parallels have been drawn between her career and Misty Copeland's, Hayward prefers that her career stand on its own merits.

"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," she said, according to the outlet.

Congratulations are in order for the gorgeous Francesca Hayward!

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Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, and photographer whose work has appeared in People, Teen Vogue, Us Weekly, The Source, XXL, HipHopDX, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, and more. She is also the author of The Uprising series. For more information about Bernadette Giacomazzo, click here.