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What A School Talent Show Taught Goldie Hawn About Perfection

To most people, Goldie Hawn is known as an actress, a mother and a woman who knows who she is. But before the 69-year-old became one of Hollywood’s most famous faces, she was something else: an aspiring dancer.

As a child, Goldie adored dancing. She began taking classes when she was 3 years old and fell in love, dancing several days a week. Soon after she started, Goldie couldn’t envision a future that didn’t include dance, and she had her sights set on it being her chosen profession someday.

“Dancing was the most extraordinary experience of my life,” she tells “Oprah’s Master Class” in the above video. “After school, recitals, performances — it was the very thing that I knew I was going to do when I grew up.”

Goldie’s parents were also supportive of their daughter’s dream to pursue dancing and recognized both her drive and talent. “I’d bring home a C in school, but they weren’t too worried about it because they knew, basically, what my vocation was going to be from early on,” Goldie says with a smile.

So, when Goldie’s third-grade talent show came around, she knew just what she would be doing on the school stage.

“I was going to just dance and arabesque and jump and sauté and twirl,” she says. “You know, I had no routine.”

Goldie was completely comfortable improvising on stage to the music, until her teacher said something that made the blood drain from her face. “Mrs. Toomey said, ‘Now, boys and girls, I want everybody to be perfect!'” Goldie recalls.

Being a child and therefore quite literal, Goldie immediately became concerned. “I went, ‘Oh, Mrs. Toomey, I’m not perfect,'” she says. “Then my brain just went into overdrive. I just lost it.”

Goldie’s mother noticed how upset she was and asked what happened.

“I said, ‘Mom, I’m not perfect… Mrs. Toomey said that I had to be perfect, and I’m not perfect,'” Goldie says. “Mrs. Toomey came in and my mother said to her, basically, ‘What the hell are you talking about, you have to be perfect? We can’t tell our children they have to be perfect because, you know what, nothing’s perfect!'”

Even after her mother had stepped in, Goldie had butterflies in her stomach when she went on stage on the day of the talent show.

“I was so nervous. I still had this idea that perfection was something that I had to achieve,” she says. “But when they played the music, I forgot everything, and I danced. I had the best time. And my mother was sitting out there, giving me the thumbs-up. I knew that I could fly to the beat, to the tone, to what I hear, of my own drum. I wanted to feel the expression of the music, freely, unencumbered.”

The dance didn’t just make Goldie feel free; it also had an impact on her teacher.

“I looked down and Mrs. Toomey was sobbing!” Goldie says.

That moving talent show may have been decades ago, but its lesson is something Goldie continues to carry with her.

“Even today, I don’t like anything perfect. It’s sort of [like] being encaged with a concept,” Goldie says. “Living in fear of not being perfect is something that actually can destabilize us and narrow our scope of life experience. The idea that we walk around with the idea of perfection? Nothing is perfect.”

More: Goldie on the most important thing a parent can do for a child

“Oprah’s Master Class” returns for its fifth season on Sunday, Oct. 25, at 8 p.m. ET. Upcoming masters include Ellen DeGeneres, Robert Duvall, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Smokey Robinson, Jeff Bridges, James Taylor and Patti LaBelle.

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