From its local debut in Chicago in 1970 to its national roll out in 1971, all the way to its finale in 2006, Soul Train has made a huge impact in music and pop culture, especially with the performers and dancers who appeared during different parts of the television show’s run.
One person that stood out in particular is future actress and choreographer Rosie Perez.
For two years in 1986 until 1988, Perez was one of the show’s most popular dancers, always making an impression every time she appeared in the famous “Soul Train Line.”
Esquire details how she first got to appear on the show:
Perez’s Soul Train career began, like so many others, at a Los Angeles nightclub. The nineteen-year-old had initially come west to help a struggling cousin with her two young children. When that arrangement proved too stressful, Rosie began working part-time jobs while attending classes in three different LA-area universities as a biochemistry major. She got some stability when she landed a job working as secretary and babysitter for the family behind Golden Bird fried chicken.
Along with some girlfriends, Rosie was at a club called Florentine Gardens when Chuck Johnson inquired if she’d like to be on the show. Skeptical New Yorker to her core, Rosie replied, “Yeah, right.” Johnson said, “No, really,” and handed her his card. She remembers standing on the floor at Florentine Gardens “screaming my head off. I was like, Ahhh! To be so young and being a teenager, being asked to go on Soul Train, it was just — it was mind-blowing. He said, Will you come, will you show up on Saturday? I said, Can my girlfriends come? And he said, What do they look like? I thought that was so rude. Thank God they were hot. So we all got to go, and that’s how I got on Soul Train.”
Despite the good times on camera, there was a lot of struggle for Perez off-air from her dance moves (host Don Cornelius did not want her to do hip-hop moves on the show) to how she ultimately left the show.
Here, in the video below, she reveals to Wendy Williams an incident involving her and Cornelius (starting at 8:17):
Luckily for Perez, she moved on to bigger and better things from being a choreographer for Janet Jackson, LL Cool J, Bobby Brown, Diana Ross, and the Fly Girls for In Living Color, to becoming an actress, starting with her debut in Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do The Right Thing as Lee’s girlfriend and the mother of his son. Most recently, she spent a year as a co-host on The View and wrote a memoir of her life and career titled Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling.
More on Perez’s time on Soul Train is revealed here. Also, check out this video below highlights of her going down that line!
Do you have any memories of Rosie or anyone from Soul Train? Comment below!!
Article Courtesy of Esquire and 93.1 WZAK-FM Cleveland
Picture Courtesy of Rosie Perez, Soul Train, and Esquire
First Video Courtesy of The Wendy Williams Show and YouTube
Second Video Courtesy of Soul Train and YouTube