Dancing With The Stars: Revelations From Past ContestantsPublished on April 3, 2018. Updated March 26, 2020
Since Dancing With the Stars began airing on ABC in 2005, it changed the landscape of reality competition TV. Its popularity has carried it through more than 25 seasons, which means there have been quite a few celebrities who have come and gone on the dancefloor, but not everyone has had the same experience. Although many of the stars who compete thank the show and their pro partners for their time and move on, others have opened up about their time on the show and revealed some truly surprising details about what goes into the massive show, or how they felt at the time. Check out 12 of the biggest and most shocking revelations from past Dancing With the Stars contestants:
12. Wendy Williams
Beloved TV personality Wendy Williams took her turn on the dancefloor in Dancing With the Stars’ 12th season in 2011. The popular star was matched with pro dancer Tony Dovolani and they were the second pair eliminated from the show that season. Afterward, she didn’t mince words when she accused the show of being scripted. “When they put you in the room and you have to talk to the camera about your experience — you know, the one-on-one with the camera — I was letting people know that they script what you say,” Williams explained to Carson Daly on the TODAY show. The next day she doubled down on her accusations on her own show where she said, “They also script what they want you to say. I know this as a participant, OK. I’m reading, I’m like, ‘Wait, this is not how I’m feeling today, and I wouldn’t say that. I’m not going to say that,’ I would tell the camera.” Williams then said that if she had given them more of what they wanted, she would have lasted longer. “Because that’s how they were writing my script, to be Angry Black Woman,” Williams said.
11. Nyle DiMarco
2015 and 2016 were two big years on reality TV for Nyle DiMarco. In 2015, he became the first deaf winner of America’s Next Top Model when he won cycle 22 of the show, and then in 2016 became the first deaf winner of Dancing with the Stars in season 22. Although he and his partner Peta Murgatroyd would go on to dominate the season, he revealed afterward that they had a rocky start. He told Time that Murgatroyd actually canceled their first rehearsal together because she didn’t know how to teach him, but they soon figured out how great they could work together. “I’m actually very visual,” he said. “Whatever Peta does and shows me how to dance, I’m able to pick up all those small, little details. Peta brings out the performance. She’s a performer. I feel like I can see the music and can see how the character of the music actually flows. For me, that’s music to my eyes.”
10. Terra Jole
In 2016, Terra Jole became the first little person to ever appear on Dancing With the Stars when she competed in season 23 with pro partner Sasha Farber. In her memoir “Fierce at Four Foot Two,” Jole opened up about her experience like never before. “I met my dance partner, Sasha Farber, for the first time when he came to my house for the big reveal. When I opened the door, I could tell from the look on his face that he had never met a little person before. He also had no clue who I was. Not only did he have to ask me my name when we met, he forgot it and then had to ask me again.” She added that it took “a few weeks” for her and Farber to connect, and the day she met all the other contestants for the first time “kicked up a lot of issues for me and chipped away at my confidence going in.” In the end, Jole made it all the way to fourth place and said, “Instead of a trophy I walked away from Dancing With the Stars with three hernias and a ripped diastasis, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat,” she wrote.
While viewers get a good idea about just how difficult and stressful rehearsals are, what they see in the pre-dance packets is nothing compared to how hard it really is. While a lot of stars have had nothing but good things to say about their time on the show, many have spoken out about how grueling the rehearsals are. As a trained dancer who was even a backup dancer for Beyonce, many were angry that season 25 contestant Heather Morris was allowed to compete, but even for her, the rehearsals were tough. “There’s a lot to it, it is very time consuming, but magical and powerful,” Morris said. Meanwhile, Dancing with the Stars Australia contestant Johnny Ruffo agreed, “The hardest thing was the rehearsals. We’d be rehearsing probably six, seven, eight hours a day sometimes, and you’d feel it. Your whole body would be aching sometimes. The best part about it was Sunday night. The performances were so much fun.”
8. Jennifer Grey
As the star of one of the most iconic dancing films of all time, Jennifer Grey knew the expectations were high for her when she signed up for season 11 of Dancing with the Stars. The Dirty Dancing actress revealed after she took home the Mirrorball Trophy with pro partner Derek Hough that she actually discovered she wasn’t as good of a dancer as she thought. “It was hardly a walk in the park. And, I actually thought that I could dance better than I actually could. I had to just swallow it and say, ‘OK, I’m willing to have people think I am better than I am.’ And be disappointed. But I’m willing to do this [show] because I want to do it for myself for fun, you know,” she said in an interview.
7. Emmitt Smith
Much like Wendy Williams accused the show of scripting her, Emmitt Smith also revealed there was some trickery in the show. The season three winner opened up about his time on the series in season 15’s All-Star season in an interview with Esquire where he said because he was not living up to his big, bad football player reputation there was some editing to make him look more competitive and aggressive than he was. “First of all, the show’s producers cut it to make it look like I was going after those guys. If you know anything about me, I’ve never been a trash talker. That’s not even part of my DNA. I have a great deal of respect for their dancing as well as their athleticism and acting abilities. And they didn’t even show the entire clip. That’s the power of cutting and editing,” he said about his time during season 15’s all-star edition when he was asked about fellow competitors Apolo Ohno, Gilles Marini, and Helio Castroneves.
6. Older Contestants
Some of the older contestants have surprised fans on Dancing with the Stars, and as to be expected, the competition is even harder for them. Season seven contestant Cloris Leachman was 82 when she took to the dancefloor with Corky Ballas, and later revealed that she was turned down because of her age at first! “They turned me down twice because I was too old,” she said, but she didn’t give up on her desire to compete and was accepted the third time she asked. Donny Osmond became one of the oldest contestants to win when he took home the Mirrorball Trophy in season nine and revealed the producers wanted his age to be a much bigger story on the show. “We did talk about it,” Donny Osmond told Entertainment Weekly. “It was an interesting story. I am the oldest recipient to receive the mirror ball trophy. I’m almost 52. And I’m not trying to hide it either. It was an angle that the producers were interested in, but it wasn’t the only thing they anchored on.”
Along with grueling rehearsals, a lot of time goes into each contestant and their pro partner’s look for their dance. From incredible costume to hair and makeup makeovers, putting on a show for the dance is a major part of its success, and that includes mandatory spray tans. When Zendaya competed in season 16 of Dancing With the Stars, however, she took offense to the mandatory spray tan. “The only thing I refused to do was get a spray tan,” she revealed to W magazine. “I said, ‘Guys — I’m half-black. I naturally glow from melanin.’”
4. Hope Solo
It is no secret that Hope Solo loathed her time on Dancing With the Stars in season 13 with her pro partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and it has become one of the show’s biggest feuds, but it all started after she made some shocking remarks in her memoir “Solo: A Memoir of Hope” which was released in 2012. One of her Dancing With the Stars revelations was that judges decide who is going to be eliminated, not fans. “Maks later told me that he had argued with the judges because he had been told we were going to be eliminated, that there was some secret memo going around that said who would be ousted each week,” Solo wrote. “He explained that he wanted to cause some drama on the live portion of the show so that they wouldn’t be able to resist keeping us around, hoping for more fireworks. It seems to have worked — we weren’t eliminated that week.” She then accused Maks of “manhandling” her and even slapping her in rehearsals. “He manhandled me in rehearsals from the start, pushing me, whacking my stomach, bending my arms roughly,” she shared. “I thought that was just how it went—how dancers worked with each other. But it kept getting worse. One day, Maks was trying to put me in a certain position and hit my stomach so hard with his open palm that I had a red handprint there for the rest of the day.” She then said that when prepping for the Halloween episode, “he wanted my head in a specific position. To achieve that, he slapped me across the face. Hard.” Chmerkovskiy has denied Solo’s allegations saying she is a “s**tty” person” and said that their feud is over but, “I don’t like her, and that’s the end of it.”
3. Mischa Barton
Fans were ecstatic when former The O.C. star Mischa Barton was ready to step back into the spotlight for season 22 of Dancing with the Stars after a long absence from television, but now she thinks of it as one of her worst experiences. Her time on the show was short-lived as she was only the second to be eliminated, and afterward, she did not mince words when discussing her experience or her pro partner Artem Chigvintsev. “Ugh, I had no idea it would be so bad. I got told off by my dancer,” the actress explained. “I was supposed to control the costumes, I was told that I could do the design aspect of it, that’s kind of the reason why I agreed to do it. That didn’t happen. It wasn’t collaborative like a choreographer on a film set. … I was so confused by it. It was like The Hunger Games. It was all a popularity contest. It was awful. I was so glad to get kicked off.”
2. Alfonso Ribeiro
Former The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor Alfonso Ribeiro is one of the most iconic Dancing with the Stars‘ contestants of all-time after he took home the Mirrorball Trophy with pro partner Witney Carson in season 19, but even he had some secrets to spill after the season wrapped. The actor opened up about there being a lot more to it than just dancing your best, saying a “strategy” is needed, and revealing how much time goes into deciding when a certain dance is going to be done. “There’s a lot of manipulating going on with the producers, about what weeks you’re doing which dances, and are you doing your best dances early or are you saving them for later,” he said, adding, “There’s a lot that goes into pulling out a win on the show versus being the best.” He then revealed that strategy went into planning when he was going to incorporate his iconic “Carlton” dance. “The producers and I went back and forth as to when we were going to do it,” he said, according to People. “We had decided that Week 4 was the best week for it.”
1. Erika Jayne
Over the years of Dancing with the Stars, quite a few stars from the Real Housewives franchise have taken a turn on the dancefloor, including The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Erika Girardi who went by her stage name Erika Jayne. She competed in season 24, and like some of the other contestants really opened up about her time on the show in her memoir “Pretty Mess.” She revealed her creative director advised her not to do it but she wanted to anyway because she always loved dance; unfortunately, it didn’t take long for her to realize she wasn’t really welcome on the show anyway. “Week after week, I could just feel the noose tightening. I told Tom [her husband] not to come to the ballroom to see me dance. I had a bad vibe about what was happening and I didn’t want him to see me like that.” She added that it was no secret that producers were trying to steer her toward getting sent home as much as they could, and saw the tides turn during Disney week. “I wanted to be a villainess or a princess. I couldn’t identify with anything but Dory, the fish who can’t find her way home,” she said. “As soon as we got that assignment, I knew the die was cast. They were going to help me find my way home.”