Cosmopolitan’s Jessica Pels on growing up with ballet, picking up new skills—and Bernie Sanders’ skin care
Jessica Pels is the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, the Hearst-owned women’s magazine and digital brand. In this episode of the “Ad Block” podcast, she talks about growing up as a ballet dancer.
Like many young girls, Pels began dancing at the age of 3, but “much to my parents’ chagrin, I actually liked it,” she says. For the next 15 years, until she left for college, she danced nearly every day, heading to the studio for hours after school and filling her weekends with training and rehearsals.
In high school, she danced the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker” each year and attended American Ballet Theatre’s summer program in New York City. “It’s how you identify,” she says. “You can be smart in school, but you’re the smart bunhead. That’s just sort of who I was.”
In addition to hours invested, it was also a costly pursuit for her parents. For a serious dancer, ballet slippers need to be replaced every week. “A dancer will be handed this $100 pair of shoes and immediately destroy it” to break it in, Pels says. “You literally step on the top of it until it’s totally flat. You bang the shit out of it on the floor until it’s not noisy anymore. It’s always a fun montage in a ballet movie—them beating the hell out of their shoes.”
But eventually she realized she wasn’t going to be a principal dancer at a prestigious company. “You kind of have a choice,” she says. “You either pursue a career in a company or you go to college. And I wanted to go to college.”
Pels also weighs in on the ways her ballet training has made her a better editor (high pain tolerance, for one), the serenity afforded by mass transit and skin-care tips from presidential candidates.