Kym Johnson and Jaleel White
It was clear that something had gone wrong this week for Jaleel White. On Monday night's episode of Dancing With the Stars, the Family Matters alum broke down on camera after dancing a gorgeous rumba with his pro partner, Kym Johnson, scoring 25 out of 30, and, in the words of the judges, showing great confidence and chemistry.
But the two danced in the midst of a tabloid report that surfaced earlier in the day, citing an "insider" saying that White had blown up in rehearsals on Friday and had verbally attacked his partner, calling her "an idiot." The report then suggested that pro Mark Ballas had to step in, getting into a heated exchange with White.
"It was completely and totally exaggerated," says White, moments after the show. "We go to work, and there's an alley full of tabloid reporters. And it's not fair to us, but that's life. And I hope people can see through it."
"It was very stressful for both of us today," says Johnson. "It was horrible. But we had to be there for each other and get through this. And go out there and do a great dance on the floor."
Ballas agrees. "Whoever is the source who loves to sell this stuff to people, loves to exaggerate, because it got severely twisted. These things happen. This show is a competitive show. You see happiness, pain, anger, stress, and pride when people are trying overcome obstacles. Things get heated."
Which is easy when you're feeling the pressure to dance well, and when you're doing a dance that's supposed to tell the story of one of the most important years of your life. For White, it was the year when Family Matters executive producers convinced White, as "Urkel," to also play his alter ego, the sophisticated Stefan Urquelle. White says it was the first time he was seen by the audience, and could see himself, as the man he would become. "I was definitely feeling the pressure to make sure that this tribute went off without a hitch," says White. "This is going to live on YouTube for a long time."
Does this tabloid report make him feel now that he can't express his frustrations in rehearsals? "Sometimes it definitely does," he says. "Kym may want to try a move, and I don't want to drop her. I'm the last guy who needs to be dropping a woman. And people don't consider that. And they literally do not let you rehearse without a camera on you. So [the audience is] watching everything. It's tough."
Is he glad tonight is over? "Yes," says White. "I'm a sitcom generation kid, not used to all this tabloid stuff and the games people play with your life. I just hope that the dance, and me being here with Kym, is reflective of the hard work that went into it. You cannot fake dance. I didn't understand that, coming into this competition. I'm 35 years old. Imagine somebody always coming to you with a picture of you at 14. That's what it feels like."
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