Dancing With The Stars: Behind-The-Scenes SecretsPublished on May 3, 2016. Updated August 27, 2020
Dancing with the Stars has become a huge success as a show that features Hollywood stars competing against one another for the coveted mirror ball trophy. These stars range from child actors, to reality stars, to professional athletes and are paired with professional dancers to compete regularly on the show while facing the dangers of being eliminated on a weekly basis. Beginning way back in 2005, over 15 years have passed since the show launched! Such a long running show means whatever producers are doing behind-the-scenes, they are definitely doing something right! But as with every reality television show, there’s a lot that goes into the show to make it enjoyable for viewers at home. We’re offering a sneak peek behind the curtains with these secrets fans might not know about what goes into creating the show:
10. Beauty Regime
Dancing with the Stars has strict rules when it comes to makeup and makeup artists. This applies more to the women, but celebs can’t use their own make-up artists. They have to use the artists who works for the show. Co-executive producer, Deena Katz said in an interview with Glamour that a lot of the celebrities have an extremely hard time with this: “Women have the biggest fear [about makeup on the show], and it’s something we can’t negotiate. We are so specific on what we do. The clothes are all made for them. The hair and makeup is all done for them. But women have had this fear about [wanting] to have their own hair and makeup artists, but you can’t have that here. Our team is award-winning and fantastic.” One celebrity in particular who had the hardest time was Kirstie Alley! According to head makeup artist Zena Shteysel, it takes the team two hours to complete a look and the body makeup is the first thing applied.
9. Costume Crunch
The costumes aren’t made until a few days before the show and usually aren’t finished until the final hour before the show begins! This sounds like a disaster waiting to happen and an extremely stressful case of crunch time, but according to DWTS pro Tony Dovolani, this is completely normal. “People don’t get to wear their costumes until dress rehearsal. There are alterations being made from dress rehearsal until the live show.” Former DWTS pro and judge, Julianne Hough as said that the costumes fit so perfectly because the dancers are literally sewn into them before they go on stage!
8. Casting Process
Fans of the show are always curious how DWTS recruits celebrities to come on the show, especially some of those more well known stars and pro-athletes. As it turns out many of the cast members are recruited for the show, but are constantly getting pitches from fans on celebrities they’d like to see on the show. Katz said the most common celebrity request is for Jennifer Aniston! The process is much more difficult than a simple request or nomination and they rarely take ideas that are pitched by fans, agents, managers, or publicists. There’s a lot more strategy that goes into choosing the 12 contestants for the show and it all happens at the highest executive level. So who has the final say about who joins? According to producer Rob Wade, it’s a collaboration between BBC Worldwide Productions, ABC and the show’s on-deck producers. The network will push their own agendas that have to do with ratings and making money, but they give the producers are given a lot of free reign to decide what will be right for each season and the high up execs rarely intervene with their process.
7. Judges Scoring
When the performances go live, the judges only have about three to four seconds to write down the score they want to present. They write it down on a piece of paper, hand it to Carrie Ann who then passes it along to a producer nearby. Even though the decision needs to be made right away, they typically know what score they are going to give 3/4 through the performance, but they don’t write it down until last minute because anything can happen right up until the end! DWTS judge Bruno Tonioli said, “We don’t score until the dance is over. Somebody could fall down at the very end! Can you imagine we maybe give them a 10 and then plop?!”
6. Unscripted Storylines
Any fan of Dancing with the Stars will know flings and romances are a big part of the show and contribute heavily the shows ratings as viewers want to see when and where the sparks fly between pro dancers or pro dancers and the stars. The producers feed off these rumors to manufacture storylines. As much as the show is a real competition, when it comes to editing there are specific things they want to highlight. Producer Rob Wade said all the producers on the show meet every day to discuss potential storylines for the season. He said, “You go into [a season] with preconceptions of what couples will be like, but things change.” Take Peta Murgatroyd and James Maslow for example, said another producer, Joe Sungkur. “With James and Peta…we saw paparazzi shots of them on a date and that was way before [the show even started], so as a story point, we wanted to follow that up. It was a genuine moment then when he [found out that was his partner]. We don’t script it or do anything in that sense, but we look for what’s really there. You have to train your mind to recognize the story.” In order to keep tabs on what’s happening each week, field producers report on what’s going on week-to-week so new ideas can be generated.
5. Commitment Issues
Getting word from a celebrity to appear on a season of Dancing with the Stars doesn’t mean producers aren’t still worried about any diva behavior or failure to hold up their end of the deal. The show is extremely taxing on an individual, physically and emotionally, and sometimes celebrities bite off more than they can chew. Producers are constantly worried about celebs not showing up when duty calls. Deena Katz told Glamour magazine their biggest worry was Master P. “We prayed that [he] would show up every week! Leah Remini was supposed to do the show about three seasons before she did, so when she signed on eventually, you still had that fear because you’re afraid.” The problem is that most of the time, producers never actually talk to the celebrity, it’s more of a communication line between them and their publicist, manager or agent — it’s hard to tell how serious someone is about a job without ever speaking directly to them. Joe Sungkur revealed that Master P was a worry because of his threats to leave. “He wanted to wear his jacket with a logo on it and threatened to leave because of it, and I was like ‘OK, you can wear the jacket!”
4. Celebrity Drop-Outs
The commitment fears producers have with certain stars are based on real experiences of stars going through with their threats or simply dropping out last minute! There have been a few celebrities who dropped out because the scheduling of the show didn’t work out or health issues. Katz said, “Vincent Pastore was the guy from The Sopranos and was rehearsing with Edyta Sliwinska but had heart issues, so that’s when John Ratzenberger joined. And Mark McGrath dropped out and Rocco DiSpirito came in.”
3. Back-Up Stars
There’s so much fear of a celebrity dropping out, backing out, threatening to leave or not showing up that the producers have to be prepared because in the showbiz world, the show must go on! Producers usually have a “back-up celebrity” who is waiting in the wings in case anything happens that is unplanned or would ruin the show. This was especially the case with Master P. “I don’t think we’ve ever told this. I had another celebrity in a trailer that had been rehearsing for a week. He had wardrobe and everything just in case,” said Kratz. This back-up celebrity was David Carradine.
2. Pairing Stars and Pro Dancers
The professional dancers and celebrities don’t have any say in who they are partnered with, but apparently they try to set themselves up all the time. The producers have 100% control over this and always make the final call. Kratz told Glamour magazine, “There are some celebs that have wishes, and we always say we can’t guarantee it. That’s why we meet all the celebrities and know all the dancers because some celebs think they know better. We are never ever going to try to pair people that we think won’t get along. We always want the best pairing because we know them so well.”
1. Spray Tan Sundays
In an interview with InStyle, Zena Shteysel, the head makeup artist for Dancing with the Stars, said the cast is on a strict weekly routine when it comes to looking their best. “We have what we call spray tan Sundays, where everyone comes in on Sunday to get tanned.” No wonder they always look so fresh! Words of wisdom from former dancing pro, Julianne Hough — being tanned makes them look skinnier!