Dirty Dancing Keeps Her In Awards Shape
By Rita Zekas
"What do you think of this dress?" asks Ashley Leggat, coming out of the dressing room at Marciano on Bloor Street in a sweater-fabric leopard mini with deep V-neck.
"It looks great on you but it's too Pussycat Dolls," we tell her.
She is shopping for a dress for the Gemini Awards next month. She is nominated for Best Performance in a Children's or Youth Program or Series for Life with Derek, which airs on the Family Channel and on the Disney Channel in the U.S.
She has a great body - curvy with a bodacious booty, and just size 2.
Leggat, 21, has taken over the role of Baby in Dirty Dancing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre and has been dancing since she was a baby. She started baby ballet at age 2 1/2. It is completely demoralizing every time Leggat comes out of the dressing room: She's too sexy for her clothes. She decides on a black number, the Ealing corset dress with a D&G bodice - and it's only $200, which means she can buy the black stilettos too. Leggat is a shopper. She loves Bebe and Marciano. She is wearing Marciano jeans and her purse is a real Louis Vuitton.
"I was in France for MIPCOM (an audio visual conference which tracks changes in the TV industry) for Life with Derek and got it," she says. "I got my big Louis in Hawaii and my small ones in L.A. and Nice."
Shoes and bags are her passions.
"I honestly don't know how many pairs of shoes I have - about 100 in use. It sounds so bad. I splurge when I work hard."
Shoes are Store Gazing's substance abuse, as well. We'll both be in shoe support groups one day.
Leggat was born in Hamilton and, as well as dancing and acting, also sings. "As a little girl, I was athletic: `Oh, mom, look at me. I can do cartwheels.' I was one of those annoying kids. I craved the spotlight. I had the feeling since I was little that the stage was my home."
She was a competitive dancer until age 16 or 17.
"It was hard-core dancing: tap, ballet, jazz, en pointe, Acro (gymnastics). I did all that my whole life. I was also taking acting lessons and shooting various shows while I went to school."
She did her first play at age 8 in the role of Maria in The Sound of Music. Her TV credits include Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Darcy's Wild Life and I Was a Sixth Grade Alien. Her theatrical credits include Cinderella, The Wizard of Oz, Anne of Green Gables and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
She describes her Life with Derek character, Casey McDonald, as "a very organized, studious girl who can't get the guys. She is a keener but she's interested in guys. Derek (her stepbrother) would call her geeky. She is organized and smart and not concerned being cool."
Leggat and her character Casey would not be raiding each other's closets. "Casey likes pink, is very buttoned-up and doesn't reveal skin," Leggat says. "Her clothes are cute but motherly and she's only 16. She wears flats. I have a much different style. I like my heels as high as we can get them. I show skin where it is appropriate. Casey wouldn't be caught dead in my stuff. My style is chic, streamlined and original. I don't like to wear the same things as other people - I push boundaries. Growing up, I was really excited about costumes."
She especially loved the sparkles.
"I had a bedazzler, a staple toy that put diamonds on clothes," Leggat recalls. "I bedazzled everything. I have five older brothers and I was always, 'Can I bedazzle your socks?' They'd tell me, 'Stay away from me.'"
Thrilled to be in Dirty Dancing, Leggat is on contract for a year.
"I loved the movie," she says. "I had the biggest crush on Patrick Swayze. It came out the year I was born (1987).
"The best part is seeing the faces in the audience at the end of the night," she says. "It's a feel-good thing and I'm honoured to play this character. Nobody puts Baby in a corner. She evolves from child to woman - I lose my virginity."
And to think, Leggat wasn't even going to audition for the role. Stephanie Gorin was casting and encouraged her to go for it.
"Stephanie is so smart," she says. "When I was first starting out, my hair was bleached blond and she said, `Dye your hair dark' and I got Life with Derek."
After that, all Leggat had to do was get back on the dance floor.
"I hadn't danced in years," she says. "I had goose bumps - I need to do this. Now I'm thinking I'd love to go to Broadway."
When she received the news that she got the gig, Leggat called her mom and they drove to Wendy's in Hamilton to celebrate. "My favourite foods are pizza, fries and chicken fingers," she says.
"I didn't dance; I don't run on the treadmill," she says. "The show is a three-hour workout now."
Leggat has a huge Life with Derek Internet fan base, and her fans are happy with her Dirty Dancing.
"I'll be doing the show and Johnny will be taking off my shirt and I do a back bend," she says. "I hear kids saying, 'Mom, what is Casey doing?' It's acting, it's not really me."
Julie Hay, a former principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, is the new Penny, whose pregnancy puts Baby in the arms of Johnny. Penny gets all the cool clothes; Baby runs around in cut-offs and formless outfits.
Leggat swears she doesn't mind. Besides, she could always bedazzle the jean shorts.