We don't know about you, but if we were a ballerina pirouetting our way through a performance, the first thing we'd want to put on afterwards would be a pair of slippers — but not for Joffrey star Jeraldine Mendoza. One good foot rub from her S.O. (and dancing partner!) and she's ready to rock a killer pair of stems. In fact, this petite (sugar plum) fairy enjoys making a statement wherever she goes by showing her personality through her clothes. To prove it, Mendoza ditched the tutu to show us four killer inspirational looks she wears off the stage.
Without dedication to any particular designer or shop, this little lady seamlessly blends pieces from spots like Louis Vuitton, Free People, Forever 21, and Topshop to create ensembles that make her "feel good and ready to have some fun." Our opinion? We say this ballerina's sartorial style is right on pointe.
Photographed by Heather Talbert
Even though you started practicing ballet at 5, did you ever picture yourself where you’re at today?
"Ever since I got my first major role in the Nutcracker at age 13, I really did picture myself becoming a ballerina. But I can't say that I predicted being given huge opportunities and dancing the major roles I've danced so far at such an early age…I have Ashley Wheater and the Joffrey Ballet to thank for that."
What was your most exciting performance so far?
"I've gotten to dance amazing roles in the short amount of time I've been with Joffrey. But I'd have to say my most exciting, most gratifying role would be when I danced the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker this past December. The days leading up to my debut as the lead, I was a wreck because my nerves were uncontrollable. But as soon as my partner Rory Hohenstein and I stepped out on stage, my nerves went away."
"It was just us out there, and I enjoyed every second of it. I had never danced a role more difficult, more demanding than that of the Sugar Plum, so bowing on stage with Rory felt that much more surreal. I was so overwhelmed by how the performance was received that I started to cry while the curtain went down…and the love and support I received from my fellow co-workers made the night that much more special. Hands down, the best time I had on stage so far."
You obviously must have been really dedicated to get where you are today. How did that affect your childhood — or did it?
"I went to a Catholic elementary school and high school, and ballet was one of many of my extra-curricular activities. I didn't always want to be ballet dancer; in fact I hated it because it consumed most of my time, other than school. I missed many friends' parties, school events, and family outings because of ballet. But once I realized that this is what I wanted to do, I knew all the sacrifices would be worth it."
Do any pieces in your wardrobe have a little ballet inspiration, or do you leave that in the costume room?
"Ha ha, other than my ballerina necklace my mommy gave me, I usually leave the ballet-inspired pieces up to wardrobe."
How would you describe your style?
"If I had to describe my personal style, I'd say that I'm a 'comfortable, San Fran girl with classy spontaneity.' I always like to make a statement wherever I go by showing my personality through my clothes. I'm not just this dainty ballerina that is completely consumed by her work. I like to feel good and have fun, and the first step in doing that is choosing what you're gonna wear."
Jeraldine is wearing a jacket from a flea market in London, Urban Outfitters shirt, Walgreens leggings (a gift from her mom for the Chicago winter), Steve Madden boots, Prada satchel, and Ray-Ban glasses.
Let’s talk accessories. Do you have any go-to essentials?
"I always have to wear my two rings, a gold ring with a J on it and a green/silver ring from Belmont Army Vintage shop. I switch my main purse maybe two or three times a year. My purse at the moment is a hand-me-down Prada satchel from my sister. I love it!"
How long does it take you to get ready for a performance?
"It really depends on what ballet I'm performing in that night. But usually on a good day, it takes me about 30 minutes."
Are you a makeup gal off stage? If so, what products do you like?
"Off stage, I'm not big on the makeup — but I always want to look presentable. A little bit of MAC eyeliner with Maybelline mascara from Walgreens and a touch of blush from Bare Escentuals are some of my go-to products."
Whose style do you admire and why?
"There's no one I particularly admire for their fashion sense. But for fashion inspiration, I love browsing on LookBook.nu
. It showcases individual style from real people around the world. I can be on this site for hours; I love it!"
What is it like dating another Joffrey star (Dylan Gutierrez) and getting the opportunity to be in the opening night of American Legends together?
"Dating one of my co-workers has its positives and its negatives. What's not so great is that we are too comfortable with each other. Sometimes, in rehearsals, we lose our sense of professionalism. What's great about it is that we ARE comfortable with each other. I'm not afraid to be honest with him and let him know what I need and vice versa."
"We are both extremely driven and ambitious, so we are always on the same page. Sharing the stage with someone that I love, I forget about everything. It's just Dylan and I out there, performing something not fake or forced…and how awesome it was to dance with him in a beautifully choreographed piece by Gerald Arpino on opening night."
Jeraldine is wearing a Zara top and pants, Melody Ehsani necklace,
hand-me-down vintage Louis Vuitton clutch, hand-me-down watch from her sister (thrift), and Urban Outfitters shoes.
Where are some of your favorite places to shop in Chicago?
"I'm still fairly new to Chicago and I haven't explored enough yet, but I like shopping at Zara
and Belmont Army
. I also love finding cute treasures at the vintage boutiques in Andersonville and Wicker Park. I actually discovered a unique little store the other day in Logan Square called Wolfbait & B-girls
What’s something you’d never be caught dead wearing and why?
"You'd never catch me wearing something way too revealing. Always classy, never trashy."
What’s one role you’re just dying to do?
"I would love to dance the lead role in the classical story-ballet of La Esmeralda. Everything about that ballet just makes me hungry for that role…the story, the music, the power. I think if I ever get the opportunity to perform that role, I will have reached a career high."
If you weren’t a ballet star, what would you be doing?
"If I wasn't a ballet dancer, I'd probably be a chef or an architect. But honestly, I don't know how or why because I never really looked into it. I can't picture myself being something other than a professional ballet dancer."
Jeraldine is wearing a Francesca's hat, Sway Chic blazer, Urban Outfiters top and pants, Cathy Jean shoes, and a purse from a thrift store in Andersonville.
What has been your biggest career accomplishment?
"I'd say being the first Chicago artist to win the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship of $50,000 was pretty awesome because it allows me to broaden my horizons and travel the world. Again, I couldn't have done it without the help and mentorship of my director, Ashley, and my primary ballet teacher, Galina Alexandrova."
What was your reaction when you found out you won?
"When Ashley told me that I had become a recipient, I was so excited because I knew how prestigious of an award it was…I couldn't stop smiling. I was also overwhelmed thinking about how I had the means to travel the world and expand my knowledge and appreciation for the arts. I mean, it's $50,000! How awesome is that!"
What was the most awesome costume you ever wore?
"During my acting exams at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, my beautiful white dress costume belonged to dancer Nelli Kobakhidze, ballerina of Bolshoi Theatre…probably the coolest costume I've ever worn."
Do you eat anything special to fuel up for a big performance?
"To fuel up for a major role, I like to eat steak and potatoes the night before. But right before the show, I like to eat something light, like a chicken salad or sandwich. Staying hydrated is super important for me, as well."
Jeraldine is wearing a Zara top, Topshop shorts and shoes, and Forever 21 clutch.
Who do you admire career-wise?
"Two dancers I admire the most are the late Ekaterina Maximova and prima ballerina of the century, Svetlana Zakharova. They both were technically amazing and fearless when stepping on stage. Their love and respect for the art was so apparent through their dancing…they are both exceptional and just a dream to watch. YouTube them!"
So, then, what’s your ultimate career goal?
"To be a better ballerina than I ever thought I could be!"
Jeraldine is wearing black earrings that were a gift from her boyfriend (and co-worker!) Dylan.
What’s next for Jeraldine Mendoza?
"Thanks to my Annenberg grant, I have some exciting summer travels approaching. I plan on visiting four countries and exploring differences in the art and culture…the Netherlands, Germany, France, and back to Russia. I've also been wanting to start my own leotard line that combines my fashion sense with comfortable and easy-to-move-in dance wear…but that's still just a thought."