It's hard to define star quality. You just know it when you see it. And our March cover girl, Gisele Bethea—now an apprentice with American Ballet Theatre—has had it from the very first time we laid eyes on her. Even as a teeny-tiny bunhead, she just glowed onstage. (Which you noticed as soon as you stopped gawking at those INCREDIBLE FEET.)
But you don't have to take our word for it. Thanks to the internet—specifically, the impressively comprehensive YouTube channel of Gisele's longtime mentor, Slawomir Wozniak—we have a digital record of the budding ballerina's progress. And while you can definitely see her technical polish improve with each year, it's evident even in the earliest clips that she's got something very, very special.
Let's start with this video of Gisele at 12—12!!—in the fiendishly difficult wedding variation from The Sleeping Beauty. She's all sweetness and elegance:
I especially love this clip from the 2013 Youth America Grand Prix, in which she gives us triumphant fire and flash in a variation from Esmeralda:
Here she is channeling the ballet heroine she was named for at the 2014 International Ballet Competition in Moscow. Gisele was the competition's youngest-ever entrant, but her beautiful, musically sensitive performances earned her the silver medal:
And because we just can't get over how gorgeous her cover shoot images are—here's grown-up Gisele in all her glory!
Photos by Nathan Sayers