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"I want to go into pictures, and I want to skate in them. I want to do with skates what Fred Astaire is doing with dancing."

— Sonja Henie

Ice skates autographed by Henie, about 1945
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White skates were one of the many trends popularized by the first celebrity skater.

Sonja Henie
Silver Skates on the Silver Screen

Sonja Henie parlayed her skill and glamour into a career as one of the world's most famous figure skaters-in the rink and on the screen. Henie, winner of three Olympic gold medals and a Norwegian and European champion, invented a thrillingly theatrical and athletic style of figure skating. She introduced short skirts, white skates, and flirtatious moves. Her spectacular spins and jumps raised the bar for all competitors.

In 1936, Twentieth-Century Fox signed her to star in One in a Million, and she soon became one of Hollywood's leading actresses. In 1941, Sun Valley Serenade received three Academy Award nominations. Although the rest of Henie's films were less acclaimed, she triggered a popular surge in ice skating. In 1938, she launched extravagant touring shows called Hollywood Ice Revues. Her many ventures made her a fortune, but her greatest legacy was inspiring little girls to skate.

Name: Sonja Henie
Born: Oslo, Norway, 1912–1969
  • Gold Medalist, women's figure skating, Saint Moritz Olympics, 1928
  • Gold Medalist, women's figure skating, Lake Placid Olympics, 1932
  • Gold Medalist, women's figure skating, Garmish-Partenkirchen Olympics, 1936
  • 10 World championships, 1927– 1937
  • Hollywood film star, 11 feature films
  • Organizer of Hollywood Ice Revue
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National Museum of American History   Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service