The Untold Story: Cynthia Rhodes Reveals Why She Walked Away From Fame at the Pinnacle of Her Career.

When Cynthia Rhodes wasn’t dazzling on the dance floor with John Travolta in “Staying Alive,” she was showcasing her moves alongside Patrick Swayze in “Dirty Dancing.”

With an impressive legacy of roles in iconic dance dramas of the 1980s, Rhodes, who will be turning 67 in November 2023, gracefully stepped away from the spotlight at the zenith of her career.

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Cynthia Rhodes, a singer and dancer, ventured into acting with a small role in the 1980 musical fantasy film “Xanadu,” alongside the late Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly.

Her portrayal of dancer Tina Tech in the 1983 film “Flashdance” paved the way for a more significant role later that year. She became John Travolta’s love interest, a Broadway dancer, in “Staying Alive,” the sequel to “Saturday Night Fever,” directed by Sylvester Stallone.

The pinnacle of her career came in 1987 when she took on her most memorable role as Penny Johnson, a resort hotel dance instructor, in the beloved film “Dirty Dancing.”

In her iconic role, Cynthia Rhodes showcases her rhythmic prowess, executing graceful and flashy Mambo-style moves alongside the late Patrick Swayze. Their on-screen chemistry extends beyond dance, as they also share heartbreaking and emotionally charged dramatic scenes.

Describing her character Penny as possessing an “edge,” Rhodes captivates and surprises viewers with the portrayal of a character who undergoes a botched illegal abortion. The film not only explores social relevance through this subplot on reproductive rights, with Rhodes at the center, but also propels the three lead characters—Swayze as Johnny, Jennifer Grey as Baby, and Rhodes—toward super stardom.

Speaking about Penny, Rhodes explained, “She’s from South Philly and she’s had a rough life… She’s got a sweetness about her but it’s put back because she’s had a hard time, and she has sort of put up a wall.” Rhodes continued, “And, in the end, I think she finally realizes that life does go on.”

Life did go on for the actor, but not in the direction fans had hoped.

Despite the intense 10-hour daily training for the role of Penny, Cynthia Rhodes revealed that dancing became “really hard.” She expressed fatigue, stating, “That’s why I keep saying I’m never going to dance again. I’m tired of dancing… My bones are hurting, my back hurts all the time.” Rhodes emphasized her desire to explore different avenues in her career, saying, “It seems like every time I say, ‘That’s it, I don’t want to dance anymore,’ I get another film. I’m not going to turn down work! I feel very fortunate to be in films that are dancing. But it’s like, give me a chance to do some dramatic work without dancing… Just give me a straight acting part.”

In the same year Dirty Dancing was released, the talented 31-year-old blonde—who had her pick of roles and admirers—appeared in the music video for “Don’t Mean Nothing” by Richard Marx, the singer of “Right Here Waiting” (the 1989 song famously written for Rhodes).

In 1989, Cynthia Rhodes married Grammy Award-winning singer Richard Marx, and they welcomed their first child, Brandon, in 1990. The family expanded with the addition of Lucas in 1992 and Jesse in 1994.

Marx shared insights into Rhodes’ decision to retire in 1990, attributing it to her dedication to caring for their children and the “intense physical pain” demanded by her dance moves. Despite initial skepticism about the longevity of her retirement, Marx noted that Rhodes found fulfillment in being a mother that surpassed any feelings she had about making movies.

“I thought, ‘This won’t last, she’s definitely going to want to come back to work and do films. But she found a fulfillment in being a mom that completely dominated any feelings she ever had making a movie,” Marx, now 59, continued, “Even if you’re her biggest fan, as good as you think she was as a dancer or singer or actress, man, you should see her as a mom.”

It appears that Rhodes, who embarked on her dance journey at the tender age of three, found greater happiness in being a mother and allowing her body the rest and recovery it needed.

“The thing was, I used to never be sore. In fact, I was a gymnast. And now it’s sort of frustrating…I never used to stretch. Now I have to stretch before I dance. I love to dance, but if I never did it again, I wouldn’t be sorry,” Rhodes expressed.

Rhodes has embraced this new chapter and has not looked back. Her last appearance on screen was in the 1991 film, “Curse of the Crystal Eye.”

The former Hollywood starlet, Cynthia Rhodes, divorced Richard Marx in 2014. Marx went on to marry MTV’s first Latina host, Daisy Fuentes, the following year.

As for her sons, all three are following in the footsteps of their famous parents. Brandon has become a music producer and singer, Lucas is pursuing a career as a singer and actor with appearances in TV series like The Chicago Code, The Mob Doctor, Chicago P.D, and Parenthood. The youngest, Jesse, joined a metal band and is working on his music.

While the entertainment industry often demands a high degree of athleticism, it seems that dancing is now a cherished memory for Rhodes. Despite missing her presence on screen, fans understand and respect her decision to step away from Hollywood.

What are your favorite films that she’s appeared?

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