15 Facts About Dancing With the Stars
Grab the popcorn and put on your dancing shoes, because Dancing With the Stars is back for a 23rd season. Before you see whether Ryan Lochte can out-dance Marcia Brady, here are 15 facts about the beloved reality series.
1. IT’S BASED ON A BRITISH REALITY SERIES.
Though Dancing With the Stars is an American obsession, its roots are based in England. It’s based on the British series Strictly Come Dancing (known simply as Strictly to its fans), which has been airing on BBC One since 2004—a year before the U.S. version made its dancing debut.
2. ITS POPULARITY WAS A SURPRISE TO EVERYONE.
Since its debut, DWTS has been a ratings juggernaut—much to the surprise of those involved. “The thing I will always take away from this experience is how unpredictable it was,” host Tom Bergeron told Boston Magazine earlier this year. “Even those of us in the midst of getting it ready to go on the air in 2005, while we all believed we had an entertaining show, that in and of itself is no guarantee. A lot of people have entertaining shows and they get canceled. The fact that we have a celebrity ballroom competition that is now in its 11th year is something none of us could have predicted.”
3. GYMNAST SHAWN JOHNSON IS THE YOUNGEST PERSON TO TAKE HOME THE MIRROR BALL TROPHY.
In the spring of 2009, 17-year-old Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson became DWTS's youngest ever winner when she and partner Mark Ballas took home the competition’s Mirror Ball trophy. Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno was just 25 years old when he and Julianne Hough won in the spring of 2007 (he won the trophy on his birthday).
In terms of non-winning competitors: At 14 years old, Hunger Games star Willow Shields was the youngest competitor, while fan favorite Cloris Leachman was the oldest; she was 82 years old when she competed in 2008.
4. DONNY OSMOND IS THE OLDEST CELEBRITY TO TAKE HOME THE TOP PRIZE.
Legendary entertainer Donny Osmond was two weeks shy of his 52nd birthday when he and Kym Johnson won the competition in the fall of 2009, making him the show’s oldest champion. Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey was 50 years old when she and Derek Hough took home the top prize in the fall of 2010.
5. KATE GOSSELIN CREATED A BIT OF CONTROVERSY IN 2010.
Former reality star Kate Gosselin created some drama behind the scenes when she competed on DWTS in 2010. Though the audience was only allowed to vote a maximum five times per performance, she allegedly sent out emails asking friends and family to forward her email to another 10 people, and asked that everyone vote for her 10 times (which is a no-no).
6. GOSSELIN’S DANCING PARTNER CLAIMED HE NEEDED THERAPY AFTER THEIR PAIRING.
While appearing on Anderson in 2012, Anderson Cooper told Gosselin’s dancing partner, Tony Dovolani, that he had always felt bad for him "because you got stuck with Kate Gosselin. I remember watching her dance. I'm still traumatized by that experience." To which Dovolani responded, "Wait, wait—Anderson, did you just call it 'dance?' We didn't dance!" Dovolani also joked that there was "a lot of therapy was involved" in the wake of their pairing. Gosselin was not amused.
7. FOOTBALL PLAYERS HAVE PROVEN TO BE STIFF COMPETITION.
8. THE CELEBRITIES ARE WELL COMPENSATED.
Win or lose, celebrities have much to gain by appearing on the show, at least in terms of their bank account balances. More than one contestant has cited $125,000 as the base salary for appearing on the show—even if you don't make it past episode one. The longer a contestant sticks around, the more cash he or she stands to earn.
9. BINDI IRWIN’S CONTRACT AND PAYCHECK GOT CAUGHT UP IN THE COURTS.
Because she was just 17 years old when she competed—and won—in 2015, Bindi Irwin was considered a minor, and therefore needed her parents to sign off on her contract, which stipulates they will not touch her money. While Bindi’s mom, Terri Irwin, was quick to sign on the dotted line, a court ended up rejecting Bindi’s contract because it did not have her father’s signature—even though her father, “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, had passed away in 2006. In order to get both her contract settled and her estimated $360,000 paycheck from the show, Bindi had to go to court to prove that her father was dead.
10. KENNY MAYNE WAS THE SHOW’S WORST DANCER.
For the show’s 200th episode, the hosts presented the Dancing With the Stars Awards. ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne was honored with the title of Worst Dancer; his competition included Master P, Billy Ray Cyrus, Kate Gosselin, and Steve Wozniak.
11. MASTER P EARNED THE LOWEST EVER SCORE.
In 2006, rapper Master P earned the show’s lowest score ever when he and partner Ashly DelGrosso earned an eight (out of 30) for their Paso Doble. In Master P’s defense, he wasn’t even supposed to be there; he was a last-minute replacement for his son, Lil Romeo, who was scheduled to compete but had to drop out because of an injury. In 2011, Lil Romeo finally joined the cast.
12. THE SHOW HAS SPARKED SOME LOVE CONNECTIONS.
Over the years, the show has sparked a number of romances—some rumored, some confirmed. Karina Smirnoff dated Mario Lopez, her partner in season three, for two years and later became engaged to fellow dancer Makism Chmerkovsky (though they eventually called it off). Chmerkovsky is now engaged to fellow DWTS dancer Peta Murgatroyd. In July, Shark Tank star Robert Herjavec married his DWTS partner Kym Johnson.
13. THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF INJURIES, TOO.
From torn tendons to rib injuries, the contestants on DWTS have proven—time and again—that dancing can be dangerous. Among the most memorable injuries to occur (not all of them dance-related) are Misty May-Treanor’s torn Achilles tendon, Jackass star Steve-O’s back injury, stress fractures in both of former House Majority Leader’s Tom DeLay’s feet, and Bill Nye’s quad injury.
14. IT BROUGHT BACK “THE CARLTON.”
Alfonso Ribeiro won DWTS’s 19th season, with a little help from his The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air character when he and his partner, Witney Carson, broke into “The Carlton.”
15. YOU CAN LEARN THE DANCES AT HOME.
For viewers who want to get in on the dancing action, the show has released a handful of branded instructional and exercise videos with titles like Cardio Dance, Cardio Dance for Weight Loss, and Dance Off the Pounds.