Beloved by ballet fans for her lucid technique and onstage effervescence, by her Instagram followers for the deftly curated photos and videos she shares of her glamorous life, and by fangirl Jennifer Garner for all of the above, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston is one of the rare ballet stars who's achieved mainstream fame. A native of Sun Valley, ID, Boylston trained at the Academy of Colorado Ballet and the Harid Conservatory before joining the ABT Studio Company in 2005. She entered the main company as an apprentice in 2006, and attained principal status in 2014. In addition to her successes with ABT, where she dances nearly every major ballerina role, Boylston has served as artistic director of the annual Ballet Sun Valley Festival, which brings high-level performances and classes to her hometown. And speaking of famous Jennifers: Boylston recently appeared as Jennifer Lawrence's dance double in the film Red Sparrow. Catch her onstage with ABT as Manon, Odette/Odile, and Princess Aurora during the company's Metropolitan Opera House season this summer in NYC. —Margaret Fuhrer
At age 17 in American Ballet Theatre's summer intensive performance (Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy ABT)
Dear teenage Isabella,
I'm proud of you for working so hard and following your dreams, even when it isn't easy. I know you feel like an outsider at school, but it's all going to pay off. Soon you'll find your people, your other family, your niche.
One thing I've noticed is that you spend too much time comparing yourself to others. Remember, everyone has their own journeys, struggles, and insecurities. Not to worry—you're unique, and there's plenty of room for everyone.
I know you want badly to fit in and for people to like you, but being yourself is actually the coolest thing of all. And remember, you have a right to respectfully voice your opinions and stand up for yourself.
Speaking of standing up for yourself, I want you to start working towards being financially independent. I know it seems like the distant future, but being able to support yourself will give you all the freedom you desire!
By the way, remember how much you loved to make plays and draw and choreograph when you were little? Keep those creative juices flowing. Watch movies. Make a movie! Go to museums. Read everything. Choreograph! Feel the fear and do it anyway. And, most importantly, always put your dreams out into the universe, because that is in part how they become realized.
Although you'll face obstacles and disappointments, don't dwell too much on what went wrong. The path ahead is curvy and unexpected, but just keep moving forward. Failure is a step on the way to success. It always is. And even though you take your art seriously, you don't always have to take yourself seriously.
You're in for a hell of an adventure, kid!
A version of this story appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Letter to my Teenage Self: Isabella Boylston."