‘DWTS’: Carrie Ann Inaba Says ‘We Haven’t Seen the Best Yet’ Ahead of Semi-Finals

Carrie Ann Inaba on 'Dancing With the Stars'
ABC/Eric McCandless

Dancing With the Stars has seen changes in routines, dance pros, dance styles, hosts, and platforms since its inception. Three constants on the show from the beginning, however, are judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, and Bruno Tonioli. Now in its 31st season (and first on streaming platform Disney+), the show is as vital as ever and it seems as if nobody can predict who will win the coveted mirror ball trophy!

TV Insider chatted with Inaba on last week’s post-show press line to get her thoughts on this season, the show’s move to Disney+, and her own health challenges, which she’s been very open about. Read on for the scoop from DWTS’s dynamic and cheerful judge!

You recently guested on Tamron Hall to talk about your journey and also your new website Carrie Ann Conversations, a forum where you talk about a variety of lifestyle topics.

Carrie Ann Inaba: I really wanted to do her show. I think after the pandemic, everyone’s been struggling with either mental health or physical health. There are a host of other issues going on like loneliness. There’s a lot to be uncertain about in today’s world. I wanted to get out there and talk about what it’s been like with my health. I have been focused on nothing but my health for the last year and a half.

How are you feeling? You look great and your energy appears boundless.

Thank you. I went from thinking I was doing well to actually taking care of myself. I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned about being proactive with your health and being your own advocate. I wanted to talk about what I’m going through with auto-immune systems. It’s an invisible illness so people don’t always believe them. It’s important to “glow up.” I really wanted to do Tamron’s show because of her journalism background. She is fantastic.

Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Derek Hough, and Bruno Tonioli on 'Dancing With the Stars'

ABC/Eric McCandless

What do you mean by “glow up”?

That can be many things. It’s about a beauty transformation where your inner light can come out. For me, my inner light wasn’t able to shine because I wasn’t well. You can’t be your best self when you’re not well. After I got well – which took a lot of hard work – there’s this adjustment period where you have to reclaim hope and reclaim life as a possibility. Now, I almost feel like a different person but, at the same time, more “me.”

This season is incredibly competitive. What are your thoughts on it in terms of talent and diversity?

I have to say this has been one of the most challenging seasons to judge but by far my favorite season to judge probably because of the cast. I like that our contestants come from such vastly different backgrounds and have such vastly different stories. It’s been so heartwarming to be able to learn so much even after 31 seasons because of the different backgrounds and journeys we’re seeing. We live in a different time. Dancing With the Stars is showing that we are with the times! We are very inclusive with this group. As an Asian-American woman, that makes me feel really proud, so this season has been exceptionally touching for me.

What are your thoughts on DWTS going from ABC to streaming platform Disney+?

It’s exciting because we are part of the future. This is what it is. This is the future and to be a part of it has been exciting. It’s been an exciting season because of what’s happening in the ballroom but also because of what’s happening behind the scenes. In many ways, it’s basically a whole new show — it took time for us to find out footing and I give kudos to the production team. Each episode is like a live concert tour.

How has the return of Conrad Green as executive producer affected the show?

Conrad brought back the heart of the show, but he also allowed what had grown [during his time away] to continue to grow. We’ve moved into the future. He hadn’t been here for a while. Production numbers became bigger and showier. It’s been difficult to both reign it in back to the show’s roots while also letting the show flourish.

The successful chemistry among the judges is a huge component of the show. How has Derek Hough’s addition to the judges’ table enhanced the show?

Derek is perfection. It’s true what you say about chemistry and that’s hard to describe. There is a chemistry on the [judges’] panel. Derek has added so much value to it. He’s just incredible. He knows what he’s talking about. He comes from a dancer’s perspective. He has six mirror ball trophies! He did a post the other day that made me laugh so hard [with his trophies]. He’s like our son, our nephew. He’s been very respectful. There’s a love and a respect on that panel.


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Sometimes we see Len Goodman actually give a higher score than some of the rest of the judges. That’s surprising.

We all come from very different backgrounds. What stands out to me is different from what stands out to Len. Derek and I tend to agree the most. It used to be Bruno and me. We all have different backgrounds. We’re not trying to create the perfect ballroom dancer. We are trying to help people as they go through this journey.

There have been past seasons in which there’s a clear lone favorite from the beginning. Do you have any thoughts on who might win this season?

No. I have no idea! [Laughs] No! I think [the ’90s Night] performances have shown us that we haven’t seen the best yet. Daniel [Durant] and Shangela especially … and Charli [D’Amelio] is always getting high scores. That night was next level.

What’s coming up next for you?

Rest! This season has been intense. I’m also doing a lot of writing. That’s been nice. It’s fun to write. You see me! I write during the show!

Dancing With Stars, Season 31 Semi-Finals, Monday, 8/7c, Disney+