The Inspiring Reason Zoe Saldana Left Her Old Life for Hollywood

Zoe Saldana is a well-known name in Hollywood these days. She has had a career spanning almost 20 years and appeared in popular film franchises such as Avatar, Star Trek, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

While Saldana seems to be a fixture in the movie industry, fans might be surprised to learn the 41-year-old actress originally wanted to pursue a different career path. Read on below to find out why she eventually decided to act in Hollywood instead.

Zoe Saldana used to be a dancer

Zoe Saldana attends the "Guardians of the Galacy" photocall on July 25, 2014 in London.
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Although Saldana was born in the U.S., she lived much of her childhood in the Dominican Republic. Here, she attended the ECOS Espacio de Danza Academy in Santo Domingo.

At the school, Saldana studied various forms of dance, such as jazz and Latin dance. However, she considered ballet to be her “first passion.” She once shared that, at the time, she “wanted [to be a ballerina] so bad.”

Why Zoe Saldana quit dance and focused on acting

While Saldana was very passionate about ballet for many years, she eventually decided to quit dance. In an interview with Cosmopolitan for Latinas in 2012, Saldana explained that she quit because “a part of me was dying inside.”

For Saldana, she realized that ballet did not allow her to utilize something that she felt was important — her voice.

“In dance you use every part of your body except your voice,” she said. “I wanted to start acting because I wanted to use my voice.”

Additionally, Saldana revealed that she “didn’t have the feet” for ballet and that she also wasn’t interested in being one of the many dancers in the corps de ballet because she had “way too much pride and ambition.”

When Saldana was in high school, her family relocated back to the U.S., and she joined a theater group in New York City.

Zoe Saldana’s dance background has helped her in Hollywood

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Just because Saldana is no longer a dancer does not mean that she regrets all those years of dance training. If anything, her dance history has given her a leg up in Hollywood.

For example, one of her first main roles was in the 2000 movie Center Stage, which was about a group of dancers from a ballet academy. Thanks to Saldana’s real-life experience as a ballet dancer, she was able to show off impressive movies in the film.

Additionally, dance training has also taught Saldana a lot about discipline at a young age. She once told TIME: “You’re able to kind of discover all the things that you can do if you commit to it, if you practice enough. You go, ‘Oh my God, I can do this.’ It makes you feel really empowered and encouraged.”

Moreover, as many fans know, Saldana does not shy away from physically-demanding movie roles.

“With my dance background, if I’m taught well, I think I’m pretty much able to do anything,” she said in 2010 during a promotion for the action film The Losers. “I did full weaponry training and learned how to plant a pretty lethal kick, which really paid off. I pretty much pulled off half of my stunts instead of just reading the paper all day.”

What’s next for Zoe Saldana?

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In the past several years, Saldana has been known for playing Gamora in the Marvel franchise, especially in the Guardians of the Galaxy films. She recently appeared in Avengers: Infinity War as well as Avengers: Endgame.

However, it is still not clear if or when fans can see Saldana as Gamora again. After all, her character met her death in Avengers: Infinity War. In Avengers: Endgame, fans saw her character return from the past, only to disappear entirely at the end, leaving her fate up in the air.

Nevertheless, Saldana is reviving her role for another popular franchise: Avatar. She played Neytiri in the 2009 film, and the actress is currently filming Avatar 2 and Avatar 3. As of now, Avatar 2 is expected to be released in 2021 and Avatar 3 should come out in 2023.