Fans of the comedy series The Office know Phyllis Smith as soft-spoken employee Phyllis Lapin, who's infamously mentioned a colored past in which she was once a cheerleader and a burlesque dancer. Few fans know, however, that Smith did actually do both of those jobs before she was a cast member on a hit TV show. In fact, Smith was never just a career actress; the Missouri native was always a dancer as well, receiving a full scholarship in dance to Kansas University and studying with the San Carlo Opera Company for ballet and tap. She danced ballet with the St. Louis Civic Ballet and the St. Louis Dance Theater, and cheered for the St. Louis Cardinals. She also toured with the vaudeville burlesque show Able's Baggy Pants Burlesque and the Mercer Brothers' show Giggles Galore as a dancer as well as a comedy-skit performer.
Smith also received a degree in elementary education from the University of Missouri and has worked extensively in the casting industry. That was how she found herself at the auditions for The Office, where even though she wasn't auditioning, producers were so impressed with her line readings that they created a part for her.