For movie musical fans of the 1980s, Cynthia Rhodes was the complete triple threat package – a versatile dancer, soulful singer, and promising young actress with leading lady charisma. After turning heads as the streetwise Penny in 1987’s Dirty Dancing, Rhodes seemed poised for major stardom with the world as her oyster. Yet not long after, she suddenly stepped away from Hollywood’s glitzy spotlight. So for those wondering “Whatever happened to Cynthia Rhodes?”, the mystery behind her retreat into obscurity runs deep.
Rhodes was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on November 21st, 1956. She had a modest upbringing in a strong Baptist family. Interested in music and dancing from a young age, Rhodes honed her skills enough to work at Opryland USA as a singer and dancer while still attending Glencliff High School.
Cynthia Rhodes started her acting career with a small role in the 1980 musical fantasy film Xanadu. Her big break came in 1983’s Flashdance playing a dancer named Tina Tech.
She went on to appear in other dance-oriented films like Staying Alive opposite John Travolta and the hugely popular Dirty Dancing as Penny, the resort dance instructor and partner to Patrick Swayze’s Johnny.
Rhodes leveraged her dance background to land key parts in these movies that often focused on music, choreography and movement. Her final on-screen acting credit was in the 1991 adventure B-movie Curse of the Crystal Eye.
So while not necessarily landing lead actress roles, Cynthia Rhodes worked steadily throughout the 1980s, becoming known for dance-heavy supporting turns in films that aligned with her skills as a dancer and singer.
While pursuing acting, Rhodes hadn’t given up on her dream of being a singer. During the 1980s, she joined the pop group Animation. They released a single called Room to Move that made it into the Billboard Top Ten, hitting number nine on the charts. Unfortunately, the album peaked at one-hundred-ten, triggering the group’s breakup not long after.
What Happened to Cynthia Rhodes?
Cynthia Rhodes stepped away from Hollywood after marrying singer-songwriter Richard Marx in 1989. The two had met years earlier on the set of Staying Alive but reconnected and started a family together.
Rhodes then made the abrupt decision to leave her acting career to concentrate on raising their three sons – Brandon, Lucas, and Jesse. She sought a quieter, more private life outside the scrutiny of the entertainment industry.
Rhodes and Marx eventually divorced in 2014 after over 20 years of marriage. But she remains out of the public eye, rarely granting interviews or making publicity appearances. In her limited comments, Rhodes expresses no regrets over relinquishing her promising acting trajectory. She treasures the “unparalleled experience of being a mother” away from ever-present cameras.
While Hollywood came calling with enticing parts after her stellar turn in Dirty Dancing, Cynthia Rhodes found fulfillment and purpose in parenting. She seems to have avoided second thoughts or longing for her past fame. Though fans may feel disappointed we never witnessed more of her talent on screen, Rhodes is reportedly living a principled, spiritual, and happy life – no longer in the limelight but now on her own terms.