• Aly Leia Wein

Meet Lilah Fear



What do you get when you combine the elegance of Great Britain, the kindness of Canada, and the ambition of America with a pint-sized beauty who has deep edges and an even deeper soul? Well, you get Lilah Fear, transatlantic ice dancer extraordinaire. Along with her partner, Lewis Gibson, the pair (who just became British national champs for the second time) have made quite the impression this season. But not only is Lilah a fearless skater (fear pun count: 2), she is a true woman of the world: fluent in several languages, creator of her own podcast, and psychology student at university. She approaches everything with joy and passion, and it was such a pleasure to speak with her about her upbringing, career goals, and that truly *lit* disco free dance!


(Cover photo by Jamie Squire, ISU)


QUICK FACTS


Birthday: June 11th, 1999 (19 years old)

Born: Greenwich, Connecticut, USA

Hometown: London, England

Currently: Montreal, Quebec, Canada / London, England


Skating Club: Alexandra Palace London

Country Represented: Great Britain

Discipline: Ice Dance

Partner: Lewis Gibson

Level: Senior


Training Location: Montreal International Skating School @ Centre Gadbois in Montreal, Quebec, Canada / Alexandra Palace Ice Rink in London, England

Coaches: Romain Haguenauer, Patrice Lauzon, Marie-France Dubreuil / Karen Quinn

Boots: Edea

Blades: MK


Lilah was a joy to interview! She's got big things coming her way.


QUESTIONS


Q: You were born in America to Canadian parents then moved to Great Britain (a true triple threat) - what was it like growing up in several different cultures, and do you prefer one country more than the others?

A: I feel very lucky to have had such an interesting and varied upbringing and to have the corresponding perspectives. We moved to Great Britain when I was one, and I went to British schools, so I am very connected with the culture and am proud to represent GB. I have spent almost all of my holidays in Canada - where we have most of our family - and I feel very rooted there too. I also have a lot of family in the USA. I love things about all three places. In the UK, I love the tradition, the focus on education, and the cultural diversity. In Canada, I really appreciate the warmth of the people and the quality of life. When we go to the USA, I am taken by the energy and excitement of the culture and always love to visit the amazing cities.


Q: What were your earliest experiences like on the ice, and when did it become apparent that this was more than just a hobby for you?

A: My first time on the ice was at the local rink in my mom’s tiny hometown of Fernie in the Canadian Rockies. As I was only 2 years old, I don’t remember this event but I have photos of my chubby young self in a green one-piece snowsuit and a gigantic helmet! In London, I began more frequent lessons at Queens Ice Rink, near my primary school in Notting Hill. It was all very much a fun pastime for me until I did my first British Solo Ice Dance Championships at age 8, where I realized my love for competing. I finished dead last in this event, but I remember feeling the excitement at the prospect of improving and one day hopefully being on the podium!


Is baby Lilah not the most adorable thing in the world?!


Q: After competing with your former partner, Jacob Payne, you teamed up with Scottish-born Lewis Gibson in 2016. How did the new partnership come about?

A: After my partnership with Jacob ended, our skating federation suggested I have a tryout with Lewis. I knew of Lewis because he and I both skated at the Toronto Cricket Club in the summers, but he was only just switching to dance and I was only a junior. We had a tryout and it went very well; we really connected and felt, most importantly, that we had a similar approach to work and similar goals. I feel very lucky to have found a partner like Lewis.


Q: You split your time training in both Montreal and London - what is it like training at Centre Gadbois among the best of the best in ice dance, and who were some of your skating inspirations growing up?

A: We feel very fortunate to be a part of the training school at Centre Gadbois and are inspired by the amazing coaching team and our training mates on a daily basis. We are also thankful to have had a strong base at Alexandra Palace in London, and we still work with the team there as often as possible. Lewis and I are fortunate to have this team approach and the benefit of diverse expertise. Growing up in the UK (and also in the summers in Canada), Lewis and I were taught and influenced by so many amazing coaches. It has all contributed to where we are today, and we still have so much to learn.


Strutting their stuff of the streets of Montreal (Photo by Hamza Mejri)


Q: You guys won the British national title back in your first season together (legends only), and just reclaimed it at this year's Nationals - congratulations, by the way! How does it feel to carry on the legacy of British ice dance greats like Torvill and Dean?

A: Lewis and I are in awe of all that was achieved by Torvill and Dean and have had the honour of working with them in the past. There is a great tradition of ice dance in the UK, and we hope to contribute to this legacy in the coming years.


Q: Let's talk about The Lilah Jo Show! What inspired you to create your own podcast (which I am a huge fan of by the way), and where do you see it going in the future?

A: I was inspired to create the podcast during my gap year after graduating from high school; I absolutely love meeting people and am a huge advocate for the importance of human connection. I am intrigued by each person’s unique and inspiring story. My love of psychology is linked to the choices made by my guests and helping to unlock their secrets. Specifically, I explore the journey to excellence, which starts with the pursuit of passion. I hope to motivate my listeners to live in a way that fulfills them and gives them a sense of meaning. I think there is something to be said for waking up each morning excited about the journey ahead.


Y'all have to check out Lilah's amazing podcast! (Cover art by Lewis Gibson)


Q: Okay, so I am SO in love with your disco free dance this season - it's innovative, entertaining, and such a breath of fresh air! Can you share with us what went into creating your program?

A: Thank you so much. We really love performing our free dance and have been surprised and delighted by the positive reaction. We didn’t really expect it and were just trying to grow and stretch ourselves as skaters and artists. We must give so much credit to our choreographer, Romain Haguenauer, who created this program. We are just happy to do it justice!


Lilah and Lewis sliding into your DMs (Photo by Harumi Akabane, ice-dance.com)


Q: You really made a splash in your debut on the Grand Prix circuit this year - if there was an award for crowd favorite, you guys definitely would have won it in spades. What have these whirlwind few months taught you both about competing and about yourself?

A: The Grand Prix circuit was such an exciting time for us. When we found out we were assigned Skate America, our first ever Grand Prix assignment, I was walking on the sidewalk in Montreal and started screaming. I was so excited, and it was such an honour. My grandma lives in British Columbia and has friends in the Seattle area, so there was a large group that came to cheer us on. Later in the season, we were assigned NHK, which was so unexpected, and competing in Japan was a dream of ours. Both assignments exceeded our wildest dreams. We learned so much attending these competitions and completely loved the crowds and excitement at each event. At Skate America, we were lucky enough to have Madi and Zach, our training mates, share their experience and lend their support, which was invaluable. There were a number of teams from Gadbois at NHK, which was inspiring, and I feel like we all really worked together to bring out our best performances. I have learned a lot and know there is so much to learn and so much work to be done!


Lilah and Lewis hanging out (Photo by Chuck Arelei, sportspagemagazine.com)


Q: You also just started at McGill University this fall, studying psychology. How has it been balancing school and skating, and what kind of academic goals do you have for yourself?

A: Having grown up in the British educational system, I have always had a very academic approach and was lucky to find a passion for psychology. McGill is a fabulous university and so far, I am finding the balance manageable. I have to work closely with my professors, particularly when I am away for competitions, but most lectures are also available online so I can do the work from afar. I am also passionate about languages, having studied both Spanish and French, and hope to add Italian to the list when I have more time.


Q: Even though you're only 19, you're wise beyond your years and such a mature young woman with a great sense of self - what advice would you give to a younger Lilah? Is it similar to advice you give to your younger sister Sasha (who is also a competitive ice dancer)?

A: Firstly, thank you so much. That is a huge compliment! I would say that younger Lilah cared a little too much about being embarrassed and about the opinions of others. I have since learned that people should live their own truth and refine their individuality and unique curiosities. I would tell my younger self to focus on what makes me happy and the things that I am grateful for and implement those things into my life, despite outside opinions. My younger sister Sasha is an incredibly self-assured young woman, and she is doing very well in this sense. I would encourage young people to try to live their own lives with passion and drive, and to aim to achieve their dreams because, as cheesy as it sounds, anything is possible.


Lilah and her sisters Sasha and Georgia in Milan #GirlPower


LIGHTNING ROUND


Favorite pattern dance to perform?

The Tango Romantica!


How do you relieve stress?

I love going on long walks and there’s nothing a good podcast over a cup of coffee can’t fix!


Brand of boots/blades?

Edea and MK


What is your favorite thing in your closet?

I have this gorgeous pair of pink leather loafers that I found in a thrift shop and I absolutely adore them! I am a fan of a pop of colour in any outfit!


What languages do you speak?

English, French, Spanish and a bit of Italian!


Three words your friends would use to describe you?

I didn’t know what to say so I asked my best friends and they came up with: thoughtful, determined, passionate


Favorite Lilah Jo Show interview from Season 1?

I really loved my very first interview with Natalie McLennan because it was the first time I interviewed anyone! I was so nervous but the feeling that this experience gave me confirmed my passion and I’ve been chasing this feeling of connecting with others ever since! I also loved the casual setting of the interview. We sat cross-legged on the floor of a Pilates studio!


Lilah interviewing Natalie McLennan for the debut episode of The Lilah Jo Show


What is the bravest thing you've ever done?

I try to do something that makes me uncomfortable every day. This often involves speaking to strangers or asking questions in large crowds. An example of this would be when I went to watch a panel interview including a few of my idols and at the end they opened up the floor for questions. I was surrounded by established and accomplished men and women. Despite feeling out of place, I had a burning question to ask, mustered up the courage, and had a wonderful response. I think it is so important to take risks because it makes the reward so much more satisfying!


If you could time travel, where/when would you go to?

I would love to have met my maternal great-grandmother, who grew up in New York City, as she led the most incredible life and I have heard such wild and wonderful stories about her!


Quote to live by?

"Feel the fear and do it anyway."

(pardon the pun)


Living life to the fullest! (Photo by Hamza Mejri)


KEEP UP WITH LILAH


Instagram: @thelilahjoshow

Twitter: @lilah_jo


Team Instagram: @lilahandlewis

Team Facebook: Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson


Listen to Season 1 of The Lilah Jo Show podcast for free on iTunes, Podtail, PodParadise, or SoundCloud and get ready for Season 2 (all figure skating interviews!) coming soon. And don't forget to watch Lilah & Lewis compete at the 2019 European Figure Skating Championships later this month!


Check out our interview with Lilah's younger sis (and junior British national champ) Sasha here, and read our interview with Lilah's partner Lewis here!


All other photos courtesy of Lilah Fear