Cheryl Burke Slams Paparazzi, Talks Maks-Karina Breakup and Awful Relationships
By Nicki Gostin Posted Feb 18th 2011 11:00PM
On Cheryl Burke's first year with 'Dancing With the Stars,' she and partner Drew Lachey took home the mirror ball trophy. In that moment, America had discovered a new dancing queen and have adored her ever since. It turns out she's the only professional dancer to appear four times in the finals. However, bubbly Burke's private life has not been festooned with feathers and sequins. She has battled with her confidence and body issues, been involved in abusive relationships and was sexually molested as a child. She talks about all of it in her memoir, 'Dancing Lessons,' and spoke with PopEater about how being assaulted "ruined my self-esteem and confidence" for many years, and she gives her honest take on prying paparazzi.
"I think there's some really nice ones out there," she says. "But I do hate the ones that make it difficult for me, the ones that have criticized my weight, the ones who have called me a party girl and have made my parents worry about me."
Was it hard writing this book?
I just figured if I was going to write a book I needed to tell my story, and there was no way of going around it because what I dealt with is what my story is all about. And I feel like dancing has really shaped who I am today, and I feel like what I've gone through with dancing, it's helped me get through the dark stages of my life.
You never wanted to be on TV.
As a little girl when I started dancing at 4, it was never to be on TV, it was just for the pure love of dancing. I was in New York with my dance partner and things weren't going well between us, we were also romantically involved and that didn't help and things were going downhill. At the time the show was trying to recruit more dancers to be on the show, and they approached me. I'm very shy, and I was terrified to talk on camera. In the beginning I couldn't even put a complete sentence together, but I just thought, you know what? Why not just try it because things aren't working out for me in New York anyway and might as well try and start a new life, and that's how it happened.
You started going to clubs, and you were painted as a party girl.
I was shocked. I never experienced the life I guess you would normally when you're 18, 19, 20. I was just dancing, and that's all I cared about. I never drank a sip of alcohol in my life and then finally it hits and I'm not in a relationship, I go to LA, I'm by myself, and I'm forced to communicate and meet new people and make friends, and I'm having a good time. And what's wrong with that? It's what any other 21-year-old would do, except I had people following me.
Does that mean you can't stand the paparazzi?
Well, I love the nice ones. I think there's some really nice ones out there, but I do hate the ones that make it difficult for me, the ones that have criticized my weight, the ones who have called me a party girl and have made my parents worry about me. It's like I don't think they realize what they are really doing to someone's self-esteem and also to someone's family.
Talking about weight, how upsetting was that bikini photo controversy back in 2008?
It was very upsetting. I didn't know how to deal with it. It came out when I was right in the middle of the season and I'm trying to put on a smile and then having to be in those costumes knowing at the same time that you're on the cover of Star magazine being criticized for my weight. It was the hardest thing for me.
How did you lose the weight?
I started dancing again and eating healthy again! I took a little break. I mean, I'd been going and going, I just needed a little vacation, and like any normal human being, I gained a few pounds. I'm 5'4" and you just notice when I gain weight. I gained about 10 pounds, and it just came off naturally. I tried to take it off in unhealthy ways at first. I tried to starve myself but that clearly didn't work longer than, oh I don't know, a day, I love food too much.
How uncomfortable was it backstage when Maks and Karina broke up? Was it Team Maks and Team Karina?
Oh no, not at all. It wasn't uncomfortable; it was more like I saw it coming. You didn't really expect them to be together anyway. They have very strong personalities, so I think it was bound to happen. I never saw them getting engaged in the first place. It was a shock to me.
They're not speaking now, are they?
I have no idea. I don't want to get involved. I have my own issues.
Is the show like high school with sequins?
It is a little bit, especially when we go out on tour. It's like our little soap opera.
On a more serious note, you write of being sexually abused by someone your parents hired when you were a young girl.
Yeah, that was definitely something in my life that I'm still dealing with. I think it ruined my self-esteem and my confidence and explains how I got into these high school relationships that were physically and emotionally abusive. When someone does that to such a young kid, I was 5 years old, I didn't know what was wrong and right and then you have to deal with that trauma. I think it does affect you. The reason why I talk about it is because I know a lot of people can relate to my story, and I think it's important for people to talk about it and go get help.
You have been in some awful relationships.
Being attracted to these unavailable men, that's where I want to naturally go, but at the end of the day I see red flags everywhere now. When I see jealousy and men who are controlling, that's my red flag, and it should be for any girl, to get out.
When you go to a club, do you laugh at people who dance terribly?
Um yeah, especially if they're off time and they think they're really good. I don't laugh at them. I love the fact that people are going out there and dancing, I just think it's hilarious to watch.
Would you ever date someone who has two left feet?
Oh, I would love to date somebody who couldn't dance. I think that's what makes a relationship interesting, to have someone who's good at something that the other person isn't, so you can learn from each other.
Or you can just spend your time laughing at him.
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