Sorry for being MIA last week. It got a bit hectic traveling to and from Australia. I'll try to make it up to you!
Australia was awesome. It's crazy just to go there for a couple of days, not to mention to go there and just dance! I thought our tango went great! I'm really proud of Bethany. The package played up the stress and lack of time, but we weren't dealing with it negatively. The routine was very last-minute, but I feel like when you have less time, you get more done. There's a sense of urgency. You're like, "Let's get it done." When I was competing, I would learn more and get more done in a half-hour than in two hours. There's a focus and intensity that maintains itself throughout the whole time.
We had a breakthrough too. We realized that Bethany was relying on me or Mark as a partner. She could follow us, but she didn't know her steps herself and the count. We discovered it in Australia because when she's on her own, she has to be able to do it herself. I told her, "I need you to know all your moves yourself even when you're dancing with me, as if I weren't there." That was a big epiphany. She was like, "Oh, man!" So that made a big difference. Now, she has this new confidence and new awareness in her body. I think that showed in the tango. I was really impressed with her. She slipped on the floor during the routine, but she covered it so quickly and recovered well. Normally, when that happens, you miss a few steps and you're playing catch-up, but she didn't miss a beat.
This week, we have the paso doble and the team dance. They're going well. I'm really excited for both dances. It's gonna be a fun week. We're Team Itsy Bitsy, which Val came up with. He was like, "Yo, yo. What about Itsy Bitsy?" And I was like, "Yeah, OK. Let's do it." We're not going to be spiders, but it's gonna have a slinky vibe.
Our team is Janel and Val, Mike and Emma, and Lea and Artem. The team captains are the top two with the highest average score as usual, and they are Alfonso and Bethany. Bethany and I weren't the second highest until after Monday night, so it was funny because Alfonso has been strategizing for weeks about what team he's gonna pick and poor Bethany didn't even know what the team dance was! She was like, "What are you talking about?" I felt bad because I hadn't prepped her for it or talked about it. Plus, now, the pros can't be in the room when the celebs pick teams. We can obviously talk together beforehand, but we can't pick with the celebs anymore and we have to watch it from a different room if we want. So I was watching it and I was like, "Crap! I didn't talk to her about this!" But she picked great. We have an awesome team.
The other part of that story is that they always tease and bring up my perfect record in the team dances, so I was joking around with Witney before I knew we would be one of the team captains. I was like, "Hey, pick me. I have a perfect record!" And now that we're on different teams, I'm like, "Too bad!" It's all in good fun.
Hopefully, I'll be all recovered Monday from my facial injury! Kidding! I was dying when Leah kept smacking me with the microphone. It was hilarious! It didn't hurt at first, but there was one time where she hit me with the stick part with the rhinestones instead of the foam part. Then she kept hitting me harder and harder with it, and I was like, "This is actually starting to hurt!" She was literally slapping me in the face with a microphone. It was fun though. She put me on the spot there. I was thinking, "I've gotten plenty of 7s and I've gotten a 5 before!" Leah did a great job. She's such a blast to be around. She's very dry and direct. I love it.
Thanks for all your nice messages about my GLSEN award last week. I mentioned my bullying experiences in my book, but I had never spoken publicly about it before. To speak about it in front of an audience like that was special — and little nerve-wracking! It was an amazing night. My parents and Shirley Ballas were there. And to have Kenny Ortega introduce me was amazing. He's such a wonderful human being and an inspiration to me — just to see what he's accomplished after being a dancer and choreographer. They actually played our dance from the Most Memorable Year week, which meant a lot to me. One of my main messages too was that it's not just about stopping something; it's more about being something — be kind. Be kind to one another. Kind is the new cool.
Thanks for reading! See you Monday!
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)