Cheryl Burke Talks Giving ‘DWTS’ Closure With Podcast & Being ‘Hurt’ to Not Be Part of Show Now

Cheryl Burke
Laretta Houston/ABC

You can take the dance pro out of the ballroom but not the ballroom out of the dance pro.

Cheryl Burke, a two-time mirror ball champion, whose name is synonymous with Dancing With the Stars, left the reality-based competition series at the end of Season 31 last year. However, she’s still got plenty to say about her experience having coached celebs including Emmitt Smith, Drew Lachey, Gilles Marini, Ian Ziering, and many others how to Tango and do the Paso Doble. She’s doing so on a new iHeartRadio podcast, Sex, Lies, and Spray Tans.

Sure, the series may have a provocative title and Burke is already digging deep with the interviews she’s done, but she’s approaching her interviews with a deep sense of gratitude for how DWTS changed her life. Read on to get the scoop on how the idea for the show came about and a preview of upcoming guests.

Why did you decide to do a podcast series about Dancing With the Stars?

Cheryl Burke: iHeartRadio and I have a great relationship. This is my third podcast with them. Dancing With the Stars has been a part of my life for 17 years. Fans are always coming up to me and asking what happened about things that went on at the show. I don’t feel that the celebrities or the dancers have a platform [like this] to speak their feelings or talk about their emotional journey. Dancing With the Stars is very much a part of your life even if you’re intimidated after a week. When people leave, they get a hug and they do a few interviews, but do they ever talk about it again? I offer people a chance to really talk at length about their experience on the show.

You recently did an episode with Maks Chmerkovskiy.

Yes. We caught up. I was recently going through some old photos from early seasons with our different hairstyles. In the last half of the interview, we go through a rapid fire, and I think you’ll find some of his answers quite shocking. We talk about where the show was and where it is today.

What else is keeping you busy?

I have my dance program, which is called ‘Body Language.’ Since I’ve been open with my mental health, I’ve been passionate about how dancing saved my life and why I have been proactive with getting a trauma-based therapist who focuses on the body. This is going to be available to people in January and there will be more information on my website.

Cheryl Burke DWTS

ABC/Eric McCandless

Did you think about doing non-DWTS related ventures after leaving the show?

This podcast is only a fraction of what I’m doing now. It doesn’t take a lot of my time. iHeart books the guests, and they do the editing. I’m not doing this from scratch or putting hours and hours each week into it. Doing this is actually very therapeutic.

ABC does a great job with the post-show press line and then couples, winners, runner-up pairs, etc. go to New York to do a round of talk shows.

This is about having guests on for more than a few minutes. I’m also meeting people for the first time like Trisha Sutter (The Bachelorette).

She was the first celebrity eliminated from DWTS’s first season. Did she have a lot to say about her experience?

Yes. We could have kept going. This is an outlet for people. When we talk, they’ve let things simmer and digest. The number of celebrities who have DM’ed me about coming on is amazing. I got a message from Melissa Gilbert [Little House on the Prairie]. She was Maks’s partner. She said that I gave her something when she was on the show that she’s taken with her. She couldn’t relate to some of Maks’s teaching. Sometimes you have to hear it from another woman. We were talking about getting into a dance and I said something like, “Arrogance and nipples to the sky.” She said that changed her whole perception on both her performance and her life.

I’m sure all kinds of great stories are coming out.

Yes. And I want to be clear – by no means do I want to badmouth the show. I am forever grateful to Dancing With the Stars. We are paying homage to the show in these interviews. The show has given ballroom dance a platform. I’ve been so lucky to have been a part of it for so many years. I think anyone who thinks this podcast [is negative] really needs to listen to it. It’s about sharing fun memories.

Who’s on your dream list to have on as a guest?

I have Tom Bergeron coming on in a few weeks. There’s so much to say. I’m also talking to Brooke Burke [former co-host and mirror ball champion]. She told me, “Thank God, I did Dancing With the Stars.” I don’t think we ever thought the show was going to last this long. I’ve always said, “Dancing With the Stars needs a companion show – DWTS After Dark.” This is so important to have. It’s for the fans. They have been so loyal to us.

'Sex, Lies, and Spray Tans' podcast poster


Kelly Monaco (the first mirror ball champion) said something once about how the show isn’t necessarily about dancing – it’s about the journey two people go on. Thoughts?

Absolutely. This is a TV show. I think people who watch the show get invested in it. When we had the results show, viewers would invest three hours a week. They get behind their favorites with voting. You always want to root for the underdog. I don’t think anyone really understood what football players were like under their helmets until they met Emmitt Smith.

How important is the pre-dance video package in terms of getting votes and becoming popular?

I make this very clear in one of my episodes – along with the dancing and the scores, of course, it’s the packages, the quick 30-second interview you’d do with [the host after you do your dance], and the body language the audience sees between the star and the pro. I never won with a partner where we didn’t genuinely get along. Viewers can see that.

I was surprised that there wasn’t a role for you at the show this season as a judge or a coach…or something. Were there talks?

They have known about my interest in being a part of the show in any capacity other than being a pro. To say I’m not hurt [that nothing transpired] would be a lie. I get it. I understand. [Beat. Laughs.] Well, actually, I don’t! I know spots are limited. But I can be two things at the same time. I can be hurt and grateful. I can still love the show and be its No. 1 fan. But to say I don’t think about it a lot would be a lie.

When did it first hit you that the dance pros were becoming the stars of the show?

I don’t think about that. My intention is it’s about my celebrity I’m paired with – not me.

But when you started to hit all the magazines?

That started early. I was with Drew Lachey when [his brother] Nick and Jessica [Simpson] were breaking up. There were rumors about Nick and me. From then on, it was non-stop.

Do you think another All-Stars season could work?

What I think could work would be to take all the stars who got injured early on or before they ever went on – like Jewel – and give them another chance. But that might be hard to do. I talked to Adam Rippon [who won the athletes season] if he’d do the show again. He said, “No. Why would I put myself through that again?”

What have you learned about being an interviewer by doing your podcast?

I’ve learned so much. I’m still learning. I try to be a better listener. I don’t ever mean to interrupt my guests, but I get so excited. When I hear a moment I can relate to, I jump in. I need to just let my guests finish their thought. It’s not about me. It’s about my guest. There’s a lot of people who need closure. This is what the podcast is. We’re going down memory lane. This podcast is for the fans. It’s not for people who don’t watch Dancing With the Stars.

Sex, Lies, and Spray Tan, iHeartRadio