Cheryl Burke shares her story. The professional dancer, who competed on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ for 25 seasons before retiring earlier this year, just launched a new podcast.
On iHeartRadio’s “Sex, Lies and Spray Tans” podcast, Burke shares secrets and behind-the-scenes stories from her time on the hit ABC series, as well as interviews with former and current pros and contestants. The first two episodes are available now.
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While promoting her new project, Burke opened up Varyon the cast of Season 32 of ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ shared her thoughts on the show airing during the ongoing strikes and responded to Sharna Burgess’ recent comments criticizing the show for casting Adrian Peterson, who was accused of child abuse.
Your new podcast is called ‘Sex, Lies and Spray Tans’. As an avid “Dancing With the Stars” viewer, I understand the spray tans part! Can you explain the part about sex and lies?
With the closeness of ballroom dancing between two people and the body contact… I’ve always said that ‘Dancing with the Stars’ should have an after show called ‘Dancing With the Stars: After Dark’ because so much happens in the movie. these rehearsal rooms, during dress rehearsals, during the live show that the fans who have been a part of this show for so many decades now have no idea what is going on. So I feel like it’s almost my duty now that I’m not on the show to let them in on some little innocent secrets.
The last time we spoke was when you announced your retirement after last season. At the time you were trying to become a judge. What happened there?
I’m not the person to ask. I know they wanted to go back to three judges, and fair enough. Ultimately, people would probably prefer to see more interaction between the couples rather than the judges speaking. I will always be a fan of the show. This is by no means a dig for show. I know where I come from, I would never bite the hand that fed me and I still am. I’ll be the biggest fan they know I am. This podcast is more just because we don’t get a chance to talk to the other celebrities in depth like this. I spoke with Heather Morris, who I wasn’t with that season, but got her thoughts and her conspiracy theory on why she thinks she was eliminated… This was also part of my grieving process with this show, because what a shame It would have been wont to keep all these things to myself.
As you brought up, Heather Morris explained in her episode that she felt like she was being eliminated when all she wanted to do was create drama on the show – not because she was voted off. Is there a possibility that sometimes shocking moves in the show aren’t just based on fan votes?
I mean, do we really know this? There are norms and practices there: it’s 50% the judges’ votes and 50% the fans’ votes, but if we dig deep: who convinces the judges? If you push it back even further, let’s say this is a television show. I’m still bothered by the departure of me and Juan Pablo Di Pace, which was not so graceful. I’m still angry about it. We got 60 out of 60. Didn’t even one person vote? At the end of the day, it’s a show… What’s such a shame and where this formula is quite genius is where they get to us because we put everything into the show.
You also spoke to Morris about being fat-shamed by pros Louis van Amstel and Maksim Chmerkovskiy in the past – and Maks will be an upcoming guest on the podcast. How could you move forward in those friendships?
Ultimately, I have to move on, because no matter what happens, we will always remain colleagues. The dance world is a small world. I believe they have grown up since then. At least I like to think of it that way. I think indirectly – especially with Louis, we spent a lot of time together last season – [said], “Be careful with the words”, in general. We are now, as a collective, a little more aware. But that really scarred me… I understand their personalities. I don’t make excuses for them. Would I want them to actually come up to me today and say, “I’m so sorry” – actually look at me and say that? Yes, but that my expectations versus theirs – maybe they don’t even remember, to be completely honest, but I do and I will never forget, but I forgive. For me.
Let’s talk about season 32. Sharna Burgess recently spoke out about the casting of Adrian Peterson, stating that she would have walked away if he was her partner due to his past abuse allegations. How do you feel about that?
We’ve had a lot of controversial characters on the show. I think I danced with Ray Lewis, which was a bit controversial. When it comes to abuse, I agree with Sharna. However, you sign up to be part of the show. And honestly, as a professional dancer, whoever walks through that door, you don’t turn around and walk out. You register for this. It’s not like you can ask, but if you say certain things that trigger you, you would hope that doesn’t happen. But this is showbiz. I respect her, of course. I came from abuse as a little girl. Ultimately, I don’t promote it. But my job is: I am an employee. You can’t just turn around and walk out and say I’m sorry. That is not part of the contract. It’s a fine line.
There are people online who also mention Britt Stewart, who works with him.
Let me clarify this: we have no say in who we dance with. Honestly, most of these professional dancers are counting their blessings to be asked back. Think about most jobs in America. Most people don’t want to be there. We are fortunate that we can do what we love and get paid for it on national television. You must divorce; not every workplace you agree with their morals, values and beliefs, but you signed up for it. We all have bills to pay.
Okay, so there are some actors in the show And technically it’s a WGA show, but it’s moving forward. How do you feel about that?
Well, after the Drew Barrymore thing, I have mixed feelings. Even during the pandemic, people can say, “Why would you do this?” When you talk about the entertainment industry, this is a sensitive topic. To change things, we have to stick together, point blank, because if a show decides to think about the show on its own, it won’t bring about major changes. It’s not going to change the way these other people – the other team – think. Ultimately, we have to stick together because that’s the only way we’ll ever make significant change. Even the cast of ‘Friends’ stuck together when they asked for more money. The problem is that if we don’t do that, we’re setting a precedent and I don’t think it’s going to be good for the show, to be honest, in the long run. I understand what they’re thinking and I get it. It’s a business, but there’s no business without the rest of the business.
So you’re not okay with them coming back now?
I think they need to hold on tight. I think we should stand as one. We really need to unite and not just say we are united.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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