LOS ANGELES -- While ordering at a yogurt shop, the actress Zendaya was approached by a young girl. "Aren't you on 'Shape it Up'?" she asked.

"The show hadn't even aired," she says of "Shake It Up," "and someone had recognized me. She asked if she could take a picture with me. After we were done I said, 'Can I take a picture with you?'"

The Disney newbie wanted to make sure she had a memento from her first fan encounter.

Today, a year later, life is much different. Both she and co-star Bella Thorne can't venture into public without being recognized.

When Thorne tried it -- at an accessories store no less -- the mob got so big mall security suggested closing it down. "It gets scary sometimes," she says.

But both understand that kind of attention is now just part of the gig.

Zendaya (who goes by one name and  plays Rocky on the show) and Thorne (who plays CeCe) started as child models then veered into acting. As much as it's a lot of work, "it's our dream," Thorne says.

"If you choose something, you have to stick with it," she explains. "I chose acting, dancing and singing."

Adds Zendaya: "It's tough. But there's a learning curve."

Because both play dancers on the Disney Channel comedy, they had to step up their dancing skills. Because the show features plenty of choreography, they're not just showing up to spout lines.

"It's non-stop," the 14-year-old Thorne says. "On set we have five hours of school, then dance and rehearsal time. Off set, I feel lost. When I'm home and I have a day off, I don't know what to do."

There's pressure, the two say. But there's also gratitude -- gratitude that they're able to do what they love and reach out to other teens in the process.

Thanks to "Shake It Up," Thorne has been able to address such issues as dyslexia (she was diagnosed in second grade) and bullying.

Zendaya has realized the importance of being a role model.

Growing up, she idolized Miley Cyrus and dreamed of being in a similar position. Now that she's there, Zendaya says "there's a lot of responsiblity. You have to realize people are watching you whether you like it or not. I wanted this job."

Both know other teen actresses haven't had an easy time dealing with the attention.

But, says Zendaya, "you have to remind yourself this is a tough business. When you go into an audition, you have to have confidence. And if you don't get it, you have realize they were just looking for someone else."

Acting, Thorne says, "is not a part-time thing. You're either doing it or you're not. You've got to put your whole self into it. I know kids who want to be actors but they don't want to do all that work. Well, if that's the case, let someone else do it -- somebody who wants to work that hard."

Dancing, she says, is particularly difficult. "I've only been dancing for a year and a half now and I have to push myself." Look at the show's first episodes and compare them to ones in this, the second season, "and you'll see a difference. It's night and day."

Both girls talk about parlaying their TV work into music careers. Both are eager to make films (a "Shake It Up" movie is in the works).

But both know there's a job that has to be done now.

"When the numbers came in for the first episode, they were in the millions," Zendaya says. "I was puzzled. I would have freaked out if I had thought a hundred people had watched the show. But that many? It was unbelievable."

One year later, Thorne and Zendaya are adjusting to life in the public eye.

It's hectic, fluid and surprising.

But, says Zendaya with a smile, "This is my normal now."


Load comments