Kidsday reporters Julia Jassey and Jessica Felber from Candlewood Middle...

Kidsday reporters Julia Jassey and Jessica Felber from Candlewood Middle School in Dix Hills with Dancing with the Stars Contestant Zendaya at the AP offices in Manhattan. (May 24, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

We talked with Zendaya while she was in Manhattan recently. She plays Rocky Blue on "Shake It Up!" and was just great last season on "Dancing With the Stars." We thought she should have won it all!

You're a successful young woman at only 17 years old and have the world at your finger tips. If you had to live your life over again, would you do anything differently and if so, what would it be?

I wouldn't because I'm very young in my life, and I think I've made some pretty good decisions so far, and I feel I have a lot more to do. So I think things are going really good, so I probably wouldn't change anything.

What was your favorite move in "DWTS"?

That's a tough one. I think I learned a lot of new moves being on that show. But there's this one called the New Yorker, and it's a ballroom dancing move, and it's pretty tough, but I did them in the cha-cha a lot, and we did them over and over and over again, and I think it looks really cool when you do it right.

What is more demanding to prepare for, episodes for "Shake It Up!" or episodes of "DWTS"?

"DWTS." "DWTS" makes "Shake It Up!" seem like the easiest thing ever. "Shake It Up!" is like school. It's like going to school. Sometimes it hard, and [sometimes] it's easy. But it's pretty much pretty smooth. This is like "DWTS," not like other stuff. It was super hard.

What was your favorite show on the Disney Channel when you were a kid growing up?

"That's So Raven," for sure. I think it's one of the funniest . . . shows that's ever been on the Disney Channel.

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

I would say sleeping -- I'm really, really good at it. I like to do it on my days off. I think it requires a lot of dedication; you have to really take time to do it. So anytime I do get, I definitely try to do it. I can be an Olympic sleeper, actually.

What do you enjoy most about acting on "Shake It Up!"?

I think the fact that we have a really cool chemistry, and I think it really comes through on the screen. You can kind of see that we really work well together, and I think we really understand our characters very well, and you can definitely tell.

What inspired you to become a dancer?

I think Michael Jackson was definitely a big influence in my dancing. I think because obviously he is the best pop artist ever. So I mean there's that factor of him being such an amazing artist; but I think he kind of created a new way of dancing as well, which we use a lot today. "Pop-a-Lock" stuff. I think he was one of those originators of some really original things and moves that we really think are cool now.

So Hannah Montana or Alex Russo?

Oh, man, that's tough because sometimes I wish I was Alex Russo and could just like snap my fingers and make stuff appear. And other times, I wish I was Hannah Montana and I can like take off a wig and be two different people. So I don't know, honestly. I think I would be a little bit of both.

What do you like better, dancing, singing or acting?

I think I like them equally because they're all equally parts of myself . . . without them, I wouldn't really be who I am.

Between us, who are you dating right now?

I'm not dating anybody; I'm very focused on my career right now. And recently this year, I was technically allowed to date, but just because you're allowed to date doesn't mean you could be like "I'm going to date everybody." So I'm . . . just cruising.

Has there ever been a time where you wanted to be just a regular kid?

There isn't, because I am a regular kid. I think a lot of people like to think that -- because I'm a regular kid with a regular lifestyle. So I don't wish, because I am. I don't have to wish for anything that already is here.

How was dancing with Valentin [Chmerkovskiy] on "Dancing With the Stars"?

It was awesome. He is a really great inspiration, and he's a very hard worker, and I definitely consider him family now.

When you leave the Disney Channel and branch out like so many other successful people before you, would you rather be known as an amazing dancer, actress or singer?

I want to be known as just a general lady of the arts. I want people to associate me with all things positive and all things that have to do with just entertainment in general. I want to be a Renaissance woman.

Do you have a special relationship with anybody else in the Disney Channel or any other shows?

Everyone from obviously "Shake It Up!" I'm very close with, and I consider them my family, and I think that's a really awesome thing. There's Debbie Ryan and some from other shows. So I think they're really awesome, very sweet. I think all the Disney kids are really awesome.

If you could invite any celebrity, dead or alive, to dinner, who would they be and why?

Michael Jackson. I would cut off a toe to meet him. If there was any kind of way to do that, because I think he's such an inspiration to me and many people, and I would just want five minutes just to say that I love him and talk to him and just hear his voice, and I just want him to say "Zendaya" and everything would be happy in my world.

What is your favorite type of dancing?

My favorite type of dancing is probably hip-hop, for sure, because it's what I know. Even though I've learned lots of ballroom, I think I definitely could learn to love it, but it's my first love.

Have you ever gotten stage fright, and if so, why?

I get stage fright sometimes. I don't really get stage fright that much anymore. I did like the first few episodes of "DWTS," and toward the end because it was really stressful, and I really wanted it to be good.

What's the untold story that people may not know about the real Zendaya, and what is something that would completely blow us away?

I think that's the thing: I don't really have like any crazy inside thing. I try to be very open, especially with my fans, and I'm basically like this all the time, and I try to keep pretty real so that people can understand who I am as a person. So there's nothing really too crazy. Everybody knows I'm obsessed with ice cream; everybody knows that I don't eat very healthy. Everybody knows that kind of stuff. I'm pretty open.

What advice would you give to kids who like to dance and act?

I would say if you really, really truly love it, I think you should do it and do it bit by bit. Get some experience and just start off small. Maybe it's like little things in your community, little things in your school, just little stuff just to get you started and work on from there.

OK, so you're this big teenage superstar actress, and you probably have a chance to date almost anyone you want. Are your parents letting you go out with any of these famous guys, and do you still have a curfew?

Well, first of all, Zendaya doesn't go out with anyone, because I'm really boring. When I have time off, I would rather spend the day in my room eating ice cream than doing anything with anybody because that's just who I am. I think that's not something that's a priority to me, and I think, I wish I could pick whoever I wanted, and I wish I could just date whoever, but it doesn't really happen. Obviously Channing Tatum is not available at the moment. But it's OK.


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