Derek Hough of Dancing With the Stars made his debut as a pro in season 5. While he had previously been on the series as a guest instructor, the Mirrorball champ was matched with a well-known TV star in 2007 for his first official venture as a competitor.
The DWTS alum recalled an embarrassing moment when he first met the Beverly Hills, 90210 actor with whom he’d been paired.
Derek Hough’s had to find his footing on ‘DWTS’
In an interview last year with the Salt Lake Tribune, Hough revealed he was a bit out of his element when he first started on Dancing With the Stars.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said in October 2020. “I had no idea. And when somebody first called me a choreographer, I was, like, ‘No, I’m not.’ … I was just a dancer.”
Joining the show as a pro dancer at just 22 years old, Hough’s youthful looks received some unexpected reactions from a few of his partners.
“I’ll never forget it,” Hough said. “My first couple partners were, like, ‘Who is this 12‑year‑old boy I’m dancing with?’ Honestly, I felt like I was just kind of faking it. Trying to prove myself to my partners.”
‘DWTS’ star was paired with Jennie Garth
When Hough learned that he was matched with Jennie Garth, he envisioned her as her ‘Kelly Taylor’ persona rather than a mom of three girls. Apparently, Garth was surprised by her dance teacher as well, where she was perhaps expecting someone older.
“I don’ think I was what she bargained for,” Hough wrote in his book, Taking the Lead: Lessons from a Life in Motion, of his initial meeting with Garth. “I had recently lost some weight and looked waif-thin and much younger than 22. She gave me the once-over, and I could read her mind: ‘Who is this little boy who’s supposed to teach me?’ … But she was polite and shook my hand. ‘Well aren’t you just a cute little thing! You like like you’re 12!’ I was mortified.”
Hough assumed Garth had her doubts about her assigned partner, prompting him to emphasize his commitment to the competition.
“I laid it out for her,” the DWTS pro recalled. “‘Look, I’ve never danced with someone who is a beginner and I’ve never taught someone who didn’t know how to dance. But I’m game if you are. I want to win. Do you?’”
Derek Hough and Jennie Garth made it to the semi-finals
Hough and Garth resolved to enter the season together fully dedicated to the process, despite any lack of experience.
“We made a pact,” Hough explained. “We’d both give it our all. I was concerned right out of the gate that Jennie lacked confidence. … I was still learning a lot at that point, too. … Thankfully, Jenny was a graceful and quick learner. But I know I had a lot to prove.”
The pair had their ups and downs throughout the season, but soon found their stride and came close to the finish line.
“We danced for a total of nine weeks, straight through the the semi-finals – and nabbed a perfect 10 from the judges along the way,” the Mirrorball champ wrote. “When they said our names, the audience gave us a standing ovation. … I knew I would miss Jennie. … She is the most amazing, funny lady, and I wouldn’t have wanted my first experience on Dancing With the Stars to be with anyone else.”
Hough and Garth danced their way to fourth place in season 5 of DWTS.
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