When we arrive on the Montreal set of RW&Co.'s spring campaign, the shoot is well under way. Tessa Virtue, wrapped in a fluffy white robe, is only too happy to show us around the styling room that has since become command central. Jewelry, accessories and shoes line nearly every surface, yet the ice-dancing superstar is unfazed, slipping into a pair of trendy white boots ahead of her next outfit switch.
For London, Ont.-born Tessa, 30, adapting to change is par for the course. Having announced her retirement from professional skating last fall after more than two decades (and five Olympic medals) on the ice with partner Scott Moir and wrapped their subsequent Stars on Ice tour, she's undaunted by what the future holds.
"It was a decision that, like most things in our career, came naturally," she tells HELLO! Canada of stepping away from competitive ice dancing. "We looked at each other one day and said, 'I really think this is it.' And it was as simple as that."
Perhaps because she made a name for herself as one half of a duo – albeit a gold-medalling one – Tessa (the youngest of four children) is keen to forge a path all her own. Having dipped her toe in fashion and beauty with several collaborations, she's ready to take on new challenges. Chief among these: studying for her MBA and launching her own business.
Modelling pieces from RW&Co.'s spring collection, Tessa says, "There's a refined sense of elegance to their clothing, but there's also this whimsical, fun element that allows people to express themselves in a really unique way. And I love finding that balance." Photo: © Andrew Soule
"I've always had this dream of building something from the ground up," shares the star. Love could be in the cards, too – Tessa reveals that she's taking a date to Scott's wedding this summer!
HELLO! Canada: How has your life changed since your retirement?
Tessa Virtue: I have to say, it feels quite natural to be off skates for extended periods of time now. I think without that singular focus of wanting to be the best, I don't feel such a void. What I might miss is the desire to perform and share in that moment with a crowd, or create something with Scott. It will be a task, to find a creative outlet in a different capacity – maybe business or school.
You're going back to school in September. Tell us about that decision.
I've stayed in school part-time, basically since I entered university when I was 17 – I'm just a few credits shy of my psychology degree. That semblance of normalcy of being on campus was important to me, feeling like I was broadening my horizons outside skating. And I've always known that I wanted to be in business. I have a very fierce entrepreneurial spirit, reinforced by being my own boss as an athlete. I'm so excited to embrace the MBA program. I can't wait – I think it will be just a thrilling challenge academically when I've done something physically for such a long time.
Does this mean you'll be able to put down roots?
It's funny, because in figuring out my schedule, that seems a little limiting already. Mentally, I'm fighting that restlessness because I've become so accustomed to life on the road. But I do think it will be healthy for me to be more grounded. It doesn't mean I have to say no to opportunities, but it will be nice to have my suitcases unpacked for longer than an hour! As it is, I'm home in London about one day a month. And every time I do get home, it's such a respite – it's calm, and as someone who's real-estate-obsessed, I'm always looking. I do look forward to being in Toronto a lot more.
Tessa and Scott at the 2018 Canada's Walk of Fame induction ceremony. The two, who are both from London, Ont., hold honorary Doctor of Law degrees from Western University. Photo: © George Pimentel/Getty Images
Are you hoping for more balance in your life?
Yes – I was so specialized for so long and now I'm trying on different hats, but that's also what's keeping me inspired after 20-some odd years of showing up at the rink and doing the same thing over and over again in the same way. I loved it, but that kind of lifestyle is difficult to maintain. And I realize now that [Scott and I ] did sacrifice a lot. You kind of live a life of depravity when you're training like that, and it's nice to feel somewhat free; it's liberating.
What are you incorporating into your life now that you couldn't before?
The biggest thing is personal relationships and friendships. Everyone in my life has been so supportive for such a long time, but that takes a toll. For me, quality time is the most important thing in any kind of relationship. It will be nice to establish that with the people closest to me, and reconnect and maybe redefine success, because I have to figure out who I am when I'm not in that Moulin Rouge costume.
It's clear you have a passion for fashion.
I come by that pretty honestly; my mom ( Kate) is the most stylish human I've ever met. It's how we express our individuality. I look to my wardrobe to help foster a sense of confidence and self-worth.
Scott and Tessa performing the routine that clinched them the ice-dancing gold medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Photo: © MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images
What will you miss most about not seeing Scott every day?
We'll always have that deep-rooted respect for one another, but I'll miss being so in sync that we didn't even need to speak. I'll miss knowing his sense of humour inside and out and getting to share our fears and vulnerabilities. It builds such trust.
Are you taking a date to Scott's wedding to skater Jackie Mascarin in July?
Yes – I like keeping that part of my life really private. It's always something I've kept to myself and it's nice when you get to just enjoy that part of your life.
In honour of International Women's Day on March 8, 2019, Tessa was one of 20 female role models to be re-imagined as a Barbie doll. The only Canadian in the group, "Tessa, like other honourees, was chosen because through hard work, determination and dedication, she shows girls every day that you can be anything," said Lisa Perry, brand manager at Mattel Canada. Photo: © Mattel, Inc.
You inspire millions of women and girls. Do you have people who inspire you in your own life?
People laugh at me because I'm sort of obsessed with connecting with people who inspire me. [Olympic rower] Marnie McBean has been a mentor right from the beginning... and one of my best friends is [Olympic skier] Jennifer Heil. After the Olympics I thought I was unique, and that maybe because the high was so high, the low inevitably needed to be low, but [now I realize] everyone is facing change and dealing with transition. I'm not alone. And that's reassuring.
This piece was adapted from Issue 704 of HELLO! Canada.