7 Celebrities Who Made It Big Thanks To Soul Train

Watching old episodes of Soul Train is always a good time. The outrageous outfits, the wonderful and wacky dance moves, the cool music acts and the sweet, soulful voice of Mr. Don Cornelius make up one excellent hour of television. If you start watching the reruns though, you may occasionally find yourself exclaiming “I recognize that person,” and you just might be right. A number of celebrities danced on the show before and after they made it big. Here are a few stars you might recognize if you keep your eyes peeled while watching.

Rosie Perez

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After graduating high school, Rosie Perez moved to Los Angeles and started attending LA City College with hopes of becoming a marine biologist. She was a killer dancer though and soon found herself working on Soul Train in the late 80s. After a few seasons, she went on to perform at the club Funky Reggae, which is where she was spotted by Spike Lee who soon cast her in his film Do The Right Thing.

She continued working in the dance field and earned three Emmy nominations for her choreography on In Living Color and she choreographed music videos for Janet Jackson, Bobby Brown, Diana Ross and LL Cool J. Of course, Rosie is best know for her acting, starring in White Men Can’t Jump, Untamed Heart, Fearless and more. She’s even appeared on Broadway, where she was able to combine her dancing and acting talents.

These days, she focuses most of her energies on activism and President Obama even appointed her to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS this year.

Sources: Star Pulse, Biography.com, Wikipedia

Carmen Electra

Born Tara Leigh Patrick, Carmen’s parents knew she was destined for fame and they enrolled her in creative and performing arts classes since she was a youngster. Before she was even 18, she had already moved to LA and started dancing on Soul Train in 1991. Her big break came when she snuck into a nightclub and was spotted by Prince, who asked her to audition for a new female singing group he was forming. While she failed that the audition, she soon met Prince a second time and he asked her to be a solo artist on his record label. He also asked her to change her name to something more exotic, suggesting Carmen Electra after Bizet’s opera, Carmen, and the Greek princess Electra.

Her music career failed, but she was able to land a job on Nickelodeon’s All That, and she soon posed in Playboy, which helped her land a role on Baywatch and in MTV’s Singled Out. Since then she’s starred in a number of TV shows and movies, although these days her biggest roles seem to be in parody films like Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans.

Sources: Wikipedia, Hot Carmen Electra

Image via Rafael Amado Deras [Flickr]

Nick Cannon

Nick Cannon started young. He was only eight when he started doing comedy acts and at 11, he was performing his act on public access. At only 15, he moved to Hollywood and joined the cast of Soul Train while performing his comedy routine at night. Like Carmen Electra, he was also recruited for Nickelodeon’s All That and he served as the warm up stand up comedian before the sketches were underway. Soon enough, he was added to the cast and the writing crew, making him the youngest staff writer in the history of television at age 17.

In 2002, he starred alongside Will Smith in Men in Black II and was soon cast as the lead in Drumline. The same year, he also released his debut album. These days, while still working on movies, music and  his marriage to Mariah Carey, he is also the host on America’s Got Talent.

Sources: Star Pulse, NickCannon.com

Image via Loren Javier [Flickr]

Jody Watley and Jeffery Daniel

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Jody Watley was a Soul Train dancer since she was 14 and was immediately recognized as a trend setter in both fashions and dance styles. Jeffery was a little older when he started on the show, but also was a featured dancer at the very beginning of the show.

Dick Griffey, and Don Cornelius wanted to start a disco trio and the two dancers were selected to be part of the new group Shalamar. While the group had a string of hits throughout the seventies and eighties, many of which sold over a million copies, they are best remembered for inspiring Michael Jackson. Michael was a huge fan of Soul Train and of Shalamar and eventually hired Jeffery to teach him some choreography. Jeffery was actually the person who created the moonwalk and you can see the dance move in their 1982 performance on BBC’s Top of the Pops, a year before Michael stunned the world by performing it on television.

Sources: Wikipedia #1, #2, #3

Jermaine Stewart

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Before releasing hits like “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off,” Jermaine Stewart started his career off as a dancer on Soul Train. He was on the first generation of Soul Train shows from the early seventies, when the show was still filmed in Chicago instead of LA.

Stewart soon started doing backing vocals and acting as a dancer for Shalamar and then moved on to doing the backing vocals for Culture Club’s Colour by Numbers. He did such a great job that Boy George and the rest of the group helped him land a recording contract with Arista Records.

Stewart had a string of hits throughout the eighties, but he slowed down in the nineties, and his last album was never released after the title track single sold poorly. He passed away from AIDs in 1997.

Source: Wikipedia

Fred “Rerun” Berry

You may remember Rerun and his catchphrase “hey hey hey” from the show What’s Happening!!, but before he played the iconic seventies TV character, Fred Berry was another dancers on the early Soul Train episodes in Chicago. His excellent dance moves eventually got him a spot in a Los Angeles break-dancing crew called the Lockers, who once appeared on Saturday Night Live. Within a year, he found himself cast on What’s Happening!! Berry’s character ended up being one of the most popular on the show, which led him to be typecast eternally as Rerun.

While the success of Rerun prevented Berry from being able to find other acting gigs, he eventually embraced the character and started wearing his classic red beret and suspenders in public and even legally changed his middle name to Rerun. Since then, he’s been hired to do a number of cameos as Rerun in various movies and TV shows.

Sources: Answers.com, Wikipedia

Do you watch Soul Train? If so, what’s your favorite part of the show? I personally love the outfits and some of the outrageous couples dances, but it is always fun to see people you recognize dancing like crazy.

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You left out, regarding Fred Barry, that he passed away back in 2003 due to complications from a stroke. I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news. I was folding clothes in my grandmother's laundry room.

I wept.

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