As first dancer at the Paris Opera ballet, Sicilian-born Eleonora Abbagnato spends up to seven hours a day exercising yet also finds time to nurture a fledgling film career, having scooped her first acting role in the Italian comedy, 7 el’8, II last year (she’s currently considering her follow-up). Here, the 29-year-old star opens up about beating stage fright and keeping a work/life balance.
This story first appeared in the April 11, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR ENERGY?
Since I was a child, I’ve always been hyperactive….I love to move, I love life, it’s in my Italian blood!
WHAT’S THE MOST CHALLENGING ROLE YOU’VE PLAYED?
The role of Marguerite in Dame aux Camélias is a character who’s very feminine and complicated. Playing her was really challenging because she’s a consumptive, passionate woman who sacrifices herself for love.
HOW DO YOU OVERCOME STAGE FRIGHT?
Even now, I get stage fright before going onstage. To calm my stress, I go to a quiet place and concentrate on my inner self for a few minutes. As soon as I’m on stage, I become the character of the role and the stress melts away.
IF YOU WEREN’T A DANCER, WHAT WOULD YOU BE?
I would be the proud mother of many children and I would work for humanitarian causes.
HOW DOES ACTING COMPARE TO DANCING?
For me, the focus is not at all the same. It’s much more difficult to perform a character in dance than it is a scene of a film. On stage, you cannot make a mistake—everything must be perfect. That’s the big difference.
WHO HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST INSPIRATION?
My greatest dancing inspiration is Mikhail Baryshnikov. However, music was very inspirational for me such as Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky.
WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE?
From Sicily to Rome and in between is where I feel the most at home.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO BUDDING BALLERINAS?
To be passionate and always reach for your goals and greatest ambitions. You have to want it! Also what is very important is not to listen to others. You must listen to yourself first.
WHAT ARE YOUR BEAUTY SECRETS?
First of all, I do seven hours per day of dance training. I really think that my best beauty secret is a lot of sleep. Then, I get body and facial massages at least once a week in order to look relaxed and healthy. I use natural and organic beauty products such as Dr. Hauschka, Aesop, ModelCo and Kiehl’s. Last, I can’t live without Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream. I also eat lots of fruits and vegetables (for vitamin C) and seafood.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE YOUR STYLE?
My style is a mix of graphic basics and cutting-edge pieces. My favorite brands are Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Martin Margiela and Costume National.
HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE A WORK/LIFE BALANCE?
I’m a very well-organized woman and it’s important for me to balance my career and my personal life. If you really want it you can achieve it easily, no matter what!
WHERE WILL YOU BE IN 20 YEARS’ TIME?
I see myself having a very big family, in Italy, and enjoying life.