Celeb Andie MacDowell’s youngest daughter is kicking off a serious dance career and leaving us (for now) for New York.
by Jess McCuan . photos by Jeff Cravotta
So how did you spend your summer vacation? VERVE was lucky enough to sit down with one of actress Andie MacDowell’s daughters, 16-year-old Sarah Margaret Qualley, before she jetted off to intensive ballet programs in New York City. She spent June and July at a summer program of American Ballet Theatre, one of the most prestigious dance academies in the world. After that, she spent time at the French Academy (actually in New York City), training with an instructor from the Paris Opera Ballet School, Francois Perron. This spring, she finished 10th grade at North Carolina School of the Arts high school in Winston-Salem. But now, according to MacDowell, Qualley might get to make up her school schedule as she goes, studying at a private school in New York City this fall that allows students to take academic classes while they focus on artistic pursuits. “She took an online English course this summer and decided she likes having teachers,” says MacDowell, 53, the star of movies like Groundhog Day, Three Weddings and a Funeral and Sex, Lies and Videotape.
Still, Qualley clearly hasn’t forgotten her roots. She’s been training with Michelle Lee of Asheville’s Center Stage Dance Studio and Heather Maloy, the artistic director of Terpsicorps Theatre of Dance, since she was a child. She credits Maloy, a choreographer whose work has won awards in national dance contests, with introducing her to the world of serious dance. “I started dancing with Heather when I was eight or nine, and then I realized ballet was what I wanted to do,” says Qualley, who has delicate features, a diamond-shaped face and a lean, strong 5’9” frame.
The teenager went to elementary school at Carolina Day in South Asheville, where she was known as a fashionista who flaunted the private school’s uniform policies, wearing pink shoelaces and suspenders with skirts. Occasionally, she dipped into her mother’s closet for saucy heels. MacDowell, who lives in Biltmore Forest, is one of Asheville’s most famous residents. The longtime L’Oreal model and spokeswoman says that, luckily, she and her youngest daughter wear the same size shoe. Once, when Sarah Margaret was prepping for a music concert, she snuck out of the house in a pair of outrageous French high heels. “I remember her saying—Can I borrow some shoes?” MacDowell recalls. “When I got there, she was in these Christian Louboutins—with heels so high. I had to just sit there and laugh.” Her other two children are the 22-year-old singer and actress Rainey Qualley, who lives in Los Angeles, and 24-year-old Justin Qualley, who lives in Montana and runs the family ranch.
Sarah Margaret’s chic vintage clothes and dainty manners may give her the air of a retro movie star, but she can still be quite shy. She likes to sit for hours quietly sketching and painting, she says. MacDowell says she’s a diligent student, of dance in particular, but doesn’t necessarily hobnob well. “She sat next to Patricia McBride and could barely speak,” MacDowell says of the former New York City Ballet star who’s now director of North Carolina Dance Theatre in Charlotte. Still, having a famous mom means Qualley has been traveling the world for years. “I’m looking into moving to Paris eventually,” she said nonchalantly during our June interview. MacDowell, who grew up in Gaffney, South Carolina, moved to Paris herself at age 20. She insists her daughter is more mature than she was and has, so far, made a convincing pitch. “This has been the case her whole life,” MacDowell says. “Me trying to keep up with her. If I had listened to her, it would have kept me out of trouble.”