Born in 1992 near Nairobi, Kenya to a British father and Kenyan mother, Francesca Hayward came to England when she was 2 to live with her paternal grandparents. They exposed her to ballet at a young age and she was hooked. Hayward was accepted to the Royal Ballet School at age 10 and nearly graduated in 2011, but instead she went to work for the Royal Ballet itself. She began to dance major roles in 2012, when she played Clara in "The Nutcracker," and was promoted from the Company to First Artist in 2013. Hayward became a Soloist 2014, First Soloist in 2015, and Principal in 2016, when her first showcase was the short but difficult "Rhapsody." She has performed major roles in over a dozen Royal Ballet productions, including the title role in "Giselle" in 2018. The same year, it was announced that she would play one of the cats in the feature ensemble adaptation of the stage play "Cats" (2019) alongside Taylor Swift, James Corden and Idris Elba.