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Cynthia Rhodes: A Nashvillian dancer with real self-respect

For most artists, joining the big leagues of Hollywood is equivalent to handing over control of their lives to directors and agents, who often pressure them into doing things for their public images that they would never have done otherwise. Not so Cynthia Rhodes! This native of Nashville, known for her roles in Dirty Dancing and Staying Alive, decided in her short career to keep her life on track with her Christian beliefs.

Cynthia Rhodes with Richard Marx, her husband since 1989
Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images

Rhodes, who was born in Nashville in 1956, started her career as a singer and dancer at Opryland while still in high school. She grew up in a Baptist family and was devoted to her beliefs, to the point that she flatly turned down any scripts that required nudity. She stated that she wanted to live up to her moral standards, and Sylvester Stallone (who cast her in the 1983 film Staying Alive) is quoted as saying, "This girl would quit the business before doing anything to embarrass her parents."

Early on, her dancing was notable for its athletic power, due to her years of gymnastic training, but she went on to succeed in the areas of singing and acting as well. She performed in music videos as well as movies, and with such stars as John Travolta and Tom Selleck. Although the film Staying Alive (a sequel to Saturday Night Fever) has been regarded as unnecessary and essentially a failure, Rhodes went on to play a role in the iconic movie Dirty Dancing and several other movies, spanning genres from musical to science fiction. Through it all, she refused to play any role that contradicted her upbringing, and kept an attitude of being wholesome and down-to-earth in comparison to the stereotypically risque lifestyle of most movie stars.

Perhaps the crowning achievement in her life of swimming against the current has been to retire from showbiz. In 1989, she married soundtrack composer and actor Richard Marx, and decided to become a stay-at-home mother to their three sons. Although some may frown upon this move, her decision is a markedly level-headed one. Most in the showbiz world would probably agree that leaving while you're near the top is better than waiting until you're forced to leave, and that's exactly what Cynthia did. She did something truly beautiful in devoting herself to her family, an art that is often forgotten in today's entertainment world. Cynthia Rhodes proved that she's a down-to-earth, Southern, Bible-Belt gal, and doesn't need her picture in Playboy to prove that she's beautiful.

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