Learning hot dance moves while on a moving bus to perform "Tainted Love" on stage at the Las Vegas Pussycat Doll Lounge? No problem for Mariela Arteaga. Hitting all the notes in Christina Aguilera's "I Turn to You" for the judges, however, proved to be an issue, forcing Mariela to hang up her boa on the CW's Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll (Tuesdays at 9 pm/ET). TVGuide.com spoke with the slinky feline dancer to find out how she mastered the moves for her partner dance and what she really thought of her rendition of the X-tina hit.
TVGuide.com: The sexy "partners" dance challenge you won, that dance was hot! What was your inspiration?
Mariela Arteaga: Thank you! I didn't have an inspiration. I just saw the hot guy in front of me and I was like, "I want to have an excuse to be all up on you." [Laughs] I've danced since the age of 4, and I've taken plenty of partner classes, but in the past when I danced with a partner I've always had pointe shoes on and was in a tutu. I know how to communicate with a partner.
TVGuide.com: Do you consider yourself more of a dancer than a singer?
Mariela: Of course, just because of the training. That's not to say that I can't sing, I just need to train. I have a voice and I need to learn how to use it. That was my main problem on this show, that I didn't know what the heck I was doing. They were giving me corrections and I'm thinking, "What are you saying? You are talking a foreign language." They'd say, "Sing on A, on B, on C," and I'm like, "Those are letters of the alphabet. What does that mean?"
TVGuide.com: At least you got nice compliments from judge Ron Fair when you worked with him in the recording studio.
Mariela: Honestly, the judges were not that bad to me. They could have ripped me to shreds, but they were good.
TVGuide.com: How was it watching it on TV?
Mariela: I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the episode. I thought I was going to sound like total crap and when I heard it, I thought, "That's not bad." Hello, I'm singing Christina Aguilera! It was a very hard song, but I did it without complaining and without any excuses. I'm proud of it.
TVGuide.com: Did you get to enjoy Vegas at all?
Mariela: Not really. I enjoyed the experience of going out there and being on the bus, though. I love road trips.
TVGuide.com: What about learning the choreography while on the bus?
Mariela: It was fun! It was crazy, yeah, but it wasn't hard. The dancing we do is not hard.
TVGuide.com: Right, but you are well-trained!
Mariela: You are completely right. But I enjoyed it. I would do it all over again.
TVGuide.com: Generally, the show sounds like it has a crazy schedule.
Mariela: America has no idea how grueling the schedule is. You are just going nonstop. We do not have a lot of time to prepare. We all should get credit.
TVGuide.com: Are you a fan of the Dolls? I imagine they have that crazy schedule, too.
Mariela: I'm sure they don't have as crazy a schedule as we had on that show. There is no way you are going to get me to believe that these girls go on any awards show and perform with only 45 minutes of prep time. TV or no TV, I'm not going to buy that. I think the group is great, and they are so funky. It was cool meeting them.
TVGuide.com: Were they the reason for your wanting to go on the show?
Mariela: Because of the style of the group, yeah. It wasn't like I was dying to be a Pussycat Doll — I'd never say that — but it would be cool to join the group. I'm glad that I [tried]. But I think that's why I'm taking elimination so well, because it isn't like my heart is broken, or I'm crushed, or my dream is over.
TVGuide.com: So this isn't the end for you.
Mariela: No! You just wait and see.
TVGuide.com: Are you keeping the straight hair from the makeover?
Mariela: Actually, [Blow Out's] Jonathan [Antin, brother of Pussycat Dolls founder Robin Antin] hooked it up again! I don't know how to do my hair like this at all. If I'm in Miami walking down the street, I'm going to have my hair curly, because I'm such a low-maintenance girl. But I love the straight hair as far as performing and being on camera. It is so presentable and clean and it makes me look so sophisticated, like a supermodel. If you see my hair right now, it is looking really cute. Jonathan worked it out.
TVGuide.com: You are the same age as Sisely, who kept saying that she felt out of place. Did you feel that way, too?
Mariela: I didn't feel out of place, but did I feel more mature? Yes. That's the reason you don't see me in the drama. I'm not going to stoop down to the level of an 18-year-old. I'm a woman. I've had more life experience than these girls. A lot of these girls still have a very high-school mentality. There was no way I was getting into that. It is petty and childish, and I'm not a child.
TVGuide.com: You managed to stay out of all the house fights.
Mariela: Yeah. It is not worth it. I don't want America to see me get into a fight because I'm not wearing the cutest dress. Are you kidding me? No way.
TVGuide.com: They did have some cute clothes....
Mariela: Oh yeah, but I'm not going to get into a damned catfight about it. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: In all the posters, they have you posing with your leg straight up in the air. What did you think when you saw that?
Mariela: I was like, "Why do I always have to have my legs spread in all these pictures?" What is up with this? My leg is always up! But it was cool. I'm very, very flexible. It was something that the other girls can't touch or do, so they wanted to show that off. Everyone is always asking if that is really my leg. Yes, that's my leg. I can do that.
TVGuide.com: What's next?
Mariela: I don't even know. I have a couple of prospects. I am definitely going to pursue singing and dancing. I want to perform and be on stage and in front of the camera, even if it is by hosting a show. I know I can do it. I have a personality, I'm educated, I'm talented and I'm beautiful, so I can do it. Sorry to sound so conceited.
TVGuide.com: No, that's just being confident! Wasn't that one of your challenges?
Mariela: [Laughs] I'm confident, but not arrogant.