Boutella began studying ballet at the age of five but also studied rhythmic gymnastics when she moved to France. At the age of 18, she joined the French national gymnastics team. But she really began to thrive when she discovered street dancing.
Boutella was featured in a series of Nike ads and videos, choreographed by renowned creative director Jamie King. Boutella was happy to leave the rigid world of ballet and gymnastics behind to have the freedom to more fully express herself through hip hop.
Using the skills as a ballet dancer and a gymnast, it’s no suprise that Boutella won the World Championship HipHop Battle with her group called The Vagabond Crew in 2006. That’s when her career as a dancer really took off.
Boutella toured with Madonna for eight years. As much as she loves dancing, she’s ready to pursue acting full time. She talked about her decision to change paths an interview with The Hollywood Reporter saying, “I remember I was doing the Super Bowl and I told Madonna, ‘I think I am not going to keep dancing anymore… Even if it takes two years, I need to stop now. I’m done.” Madonna supported her choice to move in a new direction with her career. The risk seems to have paid off big time.
Here, Boutella is looking cozy with Madonna. She’s extremely protective of the music mogul and sees through Madonna’s critics. “They have a problem with the fact that she’s strong. She’s really honest,” said Boutella to the Montreal Gazette.
Boutella credits Madonna with helping her hone her acting skills. “When I was a dancer, I was acting. Working with Madonna, she always told me the meaning behind the steps and why I was doing these steps — she treated us like actors. So I feel like I’ve always been an actor, truly,” she told News.com.
In 2011, Boutella was asked to go on tour with Michael Jackson. Sadly, he passed away before the tour could begin. She did star in his music video, “Hollywood Tonight,” where she moonwalks and recreates other signature Michael Jackson moves.
You may have seen Boutella as Gazelle in 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, where she had to undergo an intense training schedule that included Thai boxing, Tae Kwon Do and learning how to fly through the air while attached to cables.
In Star Trek Beyond, Boutella plays Jaylah, a strong willed, technologically adept alien who loves hip hop and rap music. We’re not quite sure how late 20th century rap music like Beastie Boys and Public Enemy made it’s way to Jaylah’s planet, Altamid, but we’re glad it did.
Star Trek Beyond screenwriters, Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, were so inspired by Jennifer Lawrence in the 2010 film, Winter’s Bone, they used her as muse to create the new Star Trek heroine played by Sofia Boutella. At first, the writers referred to the character as Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone. “Then we started calling her J.Law, and that became Jaylah,” Pegg told Entertainment Weekly.
Boutella had to undergo a complete physcial makeover every day on set, but she made the most out of it. “There were days where I’d wake up at 12:30 a.m. to get makeup before a morning shoot. It’s a long but fun process. When you’re in the chair for so long, you go into a meditative state that really helps you get into character.”
Star Trek Beyond‘s makeup designer and effects supervisor, Joel Harlow, said he wanted Jaylah to really standout. “I think the white and black lines of her makeup, combined with the ribbing on her hair gives her a completely unforgettable look.”
Star Trek Beyond opened in theaters on July 22 and also stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana and the late Anton Yelchin. The film currently has a 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 27% on the RosieMeter.