When Cheryl Burke was given the opportunity to join Dancing with the Stars beginning season two of the popular show, her major concerns were shyness and cameras. Since 2006, Ms. Burke has come a long way professionally. She has also been making efforts to overcome tough events in her life like being molested as a child, dealing with abusive relationships, suffering from low self-esteem, as well as struggling with her weight.
Light is shed on those things and more in her new book entitled Dancing Lessons. At 26 years old, the two time Dancing with the Stars champion sees a therapist weekly, even though she says she’s experienced growth and now understands the things that happened to her.
Unfortunately, many people deal with the issue of having been molested as a child. And those individuals come from all walks of life. U.S. Senator Scott Brown, for example, recently revealed on 60 Minutes that he was molested as a child. Ms. Burke says people need to talk about the issue so they can move on. Cheryl has spent the last year without a serious boyfriend in order to figure herself out. She says that’s really helped her.
While on Dancing with the Stars, she has received ongoing media coverage for weight issues. There have also been reports over the years that she was dating some of her not-spoken-for, as well as married celebrity dance partners. Burke states in her book that none of those reports are true. She says being labeled a home wrecker is the worst of the made up stories some of the tabloid and entertainment press have published about her.
In her book, Cheryl Burke courageously discusses some very dark and personal events in her life. Through it all, she says dancing is the one thing she feels comfortable doing. You can read or listen to the entire interview, from arguably the most famous dancer on the hit ABC show, starting below.
Listen to the Cheryl Burke CYInterview:
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Chris Yandek: How are things going?
Cheryl Burke: “Great. Things are going good. Busy with the book tour and starting the season very shortly.”
CY: I think what’s most interesting when we start off the book is that you didn’t like cameras, you’re very shy at the time that you were offered the opportunity to be on Dancing with the Stars. Looking back on that, what comes to mind?
CB: “You know, honestly, I’ve just been really shy as a kid growing up and it was something that my mom thought, what was wrong? Because I didn’t talk a lot. So she brought me to a hearing specialist because she felt that at a certain age I should’ve been able to talk. I was really quiet and I think a lot of had to do with my parents divorcing at age two to having a nanny, who was from the Philippines, who only spoke that language and only communicated to me in the language and I would understand obviously what she was saying. So a lot of it had to do with the way I was brought up as a kid.”
CY: Considering the fact that Dancing with the Stars is a show where people go on to show a different side of them like Steve Wozniak for example, I like to use from past years. I wonder why Tom Delay in some ways was difficult with you if his goal was to show a different side of him, a different image of him, a different personality of him? I didn’t understand that when I was reading that.
CB: “I think he did show a different side. I think at the end of the day, I don’t think it was, he wasn’t able to be on the show long enough because he had fractured feet. I think as he started the show, he became more and more open I feel with the costumes or with the dance itself. I think he really started really getting into it.”
CY: One of the stories in the book about you and Ian Ziering, another one of your partners, getting a perfect score on one of the semi final performances, but you don’t advance to the finals even with that performance. Over the years many fans on the show feel the best dancer hasn’t always won. Should the overall scoring system be changed in any way?
CB: “I don’t think so. I think that’s what makes the show so appealing is that the audience is involved with 50 percent of it, which is, I think makes it a little bit more fair. I think the judges, yes of course, they have their say, but I think ultimately what makes our show the way it is, the reason the ratings I think are really high is cause people have a voice.”
CY: You talk about kid confusion and not understanding at a young age why your parents were separated. Your mother on top of it, very successful in the healthcare field, wasn’t around as much as you’d hoped. I feel like the ongoing message in the book is for you trying to discover your identity.
CY: and overcome things you experience in your earlier years. What would you say are the things today you are still trying to find out about yourself, let go of or still trying to overcome if anything?
CB: “The whole thing, the whole book that I wrote it has been my journey. It’s been the different lessons I’ve learned in life and how dancing has helped me through the rough times, but I’ve also you know, made me who I am today. I feel like I’m still a work in progress. I constantly see my therapist every week and it’s very important for me to have that communication with her to really help me understand or help me grow now as a woman. I think I now understand everything that’s happened to me in the past. I think now it’s time for me to continue and grow. I’ve taken this past year just to be alone, not be involved with really anybody, just not to have a serious boyfriend, just to really figure out who I am. I think it’s really helped me.”
CY: Speaking of your shyness and you mentioned how you had been talking to a lot of therapists and you’re still in therapy today at this point and time?
CB: “Absolutely. I don’t feel like, I’m still healing. I don’t feel like, I think everything that’s happened to me is gonna take years and years for me to finally I feel overcome what has happened and for me to grow. I feel like, because I went through what I went through, I feel like I have so much more I need to learn about myself.”
CY: Obviously the tragic event of a child molestation that you have dealt with, I look in the book, I see shyness, I see self confidence, abusive relationships of you, you had all mentioned in the book. Do you think there were anything else that contributed to any of those things? Was there anything else in your life at that point and time that contributed to those three things, shyness, self-confidence and the abusive relationships?
CB: “Well, I think because of what I went through is the reason why I was into these abusive relationships. I had no self-esteem. I didn’t really have a voice. It was hard for me to express my feelings. The only way I felt comfortable was through dance, the confidence that I should have as a human being was the confidence I would have on the dance floor instead. It was the one thing that I felt comfortable doing.”
CY: The information game in society and today doesn’t seem like anyone can keep anything to themselves. How did nobody find out? Did nobody know? Did few people know is what I wonder?
CB: “About what exactly?”
CY: The child molestation.
CB: “First of all, I didn’t say anything because I was too scared to and too uncomfortable to. Didn’t want to feel like this person in my life was going to believe in I would feel abandoned again like I felt by my father and he did do it to other people and they did tell. That’s how it all started when I testified at age six.”
CY: This issue seems to be touching all people, walks of life. Earlier this week, US Senator Scott Brown also came out and said he also was a victim of child molestation. Do you think more people need to speak about this on the political and other fronts?
CB: “I think it doesn’t matter who you are. I think you need to talk about it. I think it’s something that needs to be talked about more so that people can grow from this experience and move on and know that these people are not alone. A lot of people go through, whether you are on television or you’re a Senator or you’re just a normal human being walking on the streets.”
CY: I understand the fact you didn’t have the traditional ballet dancer’s body and everything like that, but I truly wonder where do the image issues come from?
CB: “I think it just came because I developed as a young girl. I developed. I fully developed at age 10, which is really young. I grew into my body. I grew up faster than other girls my age. So I was always constantly aware of that.”
CY: Why do you think parts of the entertainment news and tabloid community decided to make you in some ways a target when it came to your weight issues and it came to other things? I really wonder that.
CB: “I can’t speak for them. As far as I’m concerned, they just attacked me for gaming. I think it was 10 pounds during a hiatus between two seasons. They were really harsh on my weight gain, which wasn’t much and they made it a big deal, which I think sends the wrong message out to women.”
CY: People are going to write what they want to write and in many cases today without fact checking or doing the research sadly. Of course in some instances one can take legal actions, however it must’ve been hard to been speculated that you were dating a married man, one of your partners Gilles for example because no one wants to be labeled as a home wrecker. Is that the worst of them? Is that the worst being told you’re having a relationship with someone that’s married and you’re just working on a show with somebody?
CB: “Absolutely. It was. It was really horrible because at the end of the day, I become friends with their loved ones. I become friends with their family and I’m doing my job. My job is to teach this person how to dance and I need to have chemistry with this person on the dance floor or else we won’t achieve our goal and it’s all about that chemistry that the two of you have on the dance floor and I feel like this is what I do for a living. So it doesn’t matter who you are. We need to get along and we need to get the job done.”
CY: Through it all, I believe you had the support of your parents and got the opportunity in your child and teenage years to pursue many of your dance dreams across the states and around the world. I wonder what your message is to people who are possibly 5 to 10 years younger than you at the very least, that don’t have the support of their parents and family the way you did?
CB: “You know, my message is with anybody really, my message is this that you can have dreams and you can have goals. Everyone I’m sure, they do. They do have the dreams and they do have the goals and they may not have the support that I had from my parents, but I believe if you are truly passionate about what you do, you can do anything. My parents, yes were there, but it was me that had the discipline. It was my decision to show up and rehearse. It was my decision to follow my passion in life, which is dance and it doesn’t have to be dance. It can be anything. I feel like if you really follow your dream and not let anything or anyone get in the way of it, you could do anything and I’m living proof of that.”
CY: Many careers in show business have a shelf life for maximum earning potential. How secure do you feel knowing that because of your mother and others that you’re making an effort to fully profit and capitalize off your name and make the most of your earning potential?
CB: “Yeah. I think my mom has a big influence on me because she is a businesswoman and she’s always made me think of my future. But I’m also 26 years old as well. So I make my own decisions in life and I do believe that it’s really up to you where you really want to take your life. I know Dancing with the Stars won’t be on forever and I may not want to be a part of it forever. I really do believe that there’s a future. There’s a future to everything. I feel like I just started my career and I can definitely expand it.”
CY: So your mom is one of the biggest reasons for your success you would imagine?
CB: “She has been the biggest support. I don’t credit her for my whole success obviously. Like I said, I am 26 years old. I took it to the next level. I think when it comes to how I dance and the training part of it, it was my discipline that wanted to get where I am today.”
CY: You talk about how it can be very difficult for young women to take a compliment or maybe even understand their self worth. I just wonder given many great accomplishments from women, including Hillary Clinton for one, why would any woman in this country today no matter her age, feel like they couldn’t do something or feel like they’re not worthy of the best?
CB: “I think maybe it could be because of self-esteem issues, maybe somebody in their past told them you will never be anything or a loved one. You can be in mental abusive relationships, emotional abusive relationships to where whoever is telling you that can make you feel like you have no worth in life.”
CY: I was kind of surprised to find out the partner you kept in touch the most was Wayne Newton. You described him as someone who appreciates every opportunity. What is it about Wayne?
CB: “Wayne is very respectful. He was the only celebrity I’ve ever met that really remembers everyone’s name, no matter who that person is whether that person is on the show or behind the scenes, took the time to get to know every single person, shook everyone’s hand, hugged everybody. He really took the time to get to know who has helped him be where he is today. I will always remember when we were on tour with Dancing with the Stars, he would talk to the crew, he would talk to the people who did all the lighting, talked to the truck drivers. He was just so thankful for the opportunity he’s been given and he knew that he wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the crew helping him.”
CY: I think a lot of people thought that you dated Chad Ochocinco, but that obviously wasn’t the case. Media being the media of course, why do you think it seems that out of all the dancers the media has focused on as well your personal life, it seems to be more so than anybody else?
CB: “I have no idea. I think I’m like any other dancer on the show.”
CB: “I don’t know. At the end of the day, maybe I’m an easy target. I honestly would love to ask that question to the media.”
CY: I don’t know why you’re a target, but perhaps it’s because you’ve been very successful on the show, you have two titles, you’ve been to the finals two other times. You’ve been in the semi finals a lot. I guess it’s just sometimes face time and success and that’s just how it is. Ok, so a few more. Was there anything left out of the book that we should know about you that you did not share?
CB: “I basically, for me that’s the truth. Everything that’s in the book is all about me. I didn’t want to leave anything out. I was debating if I should go as deep as I did, but you know I’m really glad I did. This book was very therapeutic for me and every time I do talk about it, it makes me a stronger woman. I’m also there to talk about it not just for me, but also to help other people out there that have similar situations or have had similar situations. I just want to be able to share the message out there that you can move on from it and that you’re not alone.”
CY: Final question before we go, dead or alive, who’s your dream dance partner?
CB: “Michael Jackson.”
You can find out more information and purchase a copy of Dancing Lessons: How I Found Passion and Potential on the Dance Floor and in Life clicking here
You can find out more about Cheryl Burke at her website http://www.strictlycheryl.com/
Cheryl Burke’s official Twitter is at http://twitter.com/cherylburke