This season of “Dancing With the Stars,” true to its evergreen formula, has a cast of tokens representing each viewer demographic. This includes 16 year-old Zendaya Coleman of Disney channel’s “Shake It Up,” who is a joy to watch and has topped the leaderboard two weeks in a row. Last night’s performance even elicited a “you were fantastic” from notoriously critical judge, Len Goodman. But here’s the thing: fans are kind of pissed that she’s in the competition given that she’s the star of a Disney show about hip-hop dancing. In which she dances. Quite well.
But to these naysayers, I say, give it up already. Maybe she’s going to be a little better at remembering choreography than, say, comedian D.L. Hughley. And she’s definitely more agile than her competitors of the baby boomer generation. But DWTS is largely a popularity contest. Sure, the dancers are scored by professional judges, but the viewer votes are what really matter. And many of the show’s viewers have no idea who Zendaya is.
For the kiddos and parents who do know her, though, she’s in for even a trickier challenge. Come time for her to do the sultrier dances like the rumba (nicknamed “a vertical expression of a horizontal desire”) she can either a.) sacrifice the quality of her dance in order to keep from looking too sexy, or b.) rock that shit, and get chastised by disapproving moms and dads everywhere.
This really taps into the grand dilemma surrounding young lady actresses in the limelight. It’s no secret that female performers, especially those generated from the Disney starlet factory, reach a certain age at which they’re supposed to publicly become women. Cue Miley Cyrus gyrating at the Teen Choice Awards. Or Britney Spears shedding her good girl image back in the day. Some may disapprove of this public metamorphosis, but I fully support that these stars should be able to act/dress/speak however they want as long as it’s empowering to them. I think these girls often get more flack than they deserve, honestly. So very often they’re just playing a part, performing a role.
But I do worry a bit about little Zendaya. I mean, she’s just 16. If she does sex up her dancing on this show, who knows what kind of professional repercussions that might have. I worry that she’s too young to really process the criticism she’d get, and I’d hate to see her go the way of Lindsay Lohan.
But I guess we’ll just have to see how things go. I mean, there’s a possibility she won’t even make it to the sexier dances—like I said, the typical DWTS viewer is way more likely to put in votes for older celebs like Dorothy Hamill or Jacoby Jones.