The life of a ‘Dancing with the Stars‘ dancer is rewarding–and grueling. Just because another exhausting, first-rate season comes to a close tonight, doesn’t mean the schedule will be any less hectic for the stars.
At least when you’re Karina Smirnoff. What does her week look like?
Rehearsing for the ‘DWTS’ finale. Hosting Century City’s 50th anniversary party. Chilling at a T-Mobile Sidekick party. Attending an animal rescue event. Posing for a photo shoot. Planning a wedding. Working on opening her first dance studio. And preparing for a new reality show. With a little babysitting thrown in.
We spent some time chatting with the world champion professional dancer, who dished on everything from those mouthy ‘Dancing’ judges to her mild obsession with UFC wrestlers.
You’re back to perform on the ‘Dancing’ season finale. Are you excited to dance with ‘The Woz’ again?
“Yeah, all the dancers are back for the finale. Actually, I’m going to see my doctor now. We started practicing with Woz for the finale. He wanted to do the quick step because that’s his favorite. And when we did the trick where he flips me over his back, he did it so hard that I landed on my wrist. Then I slid across the floor and hit my head on the music machine!”
What kind of toll has dancing taken on your body?
“I’ve had more surgeries than some people, for sure. Altogether three surgeries on my knees, surgery on my neck. Besides surgeries I’ve had all the other injuries: sprained wrists and ankles—ankles are the worst! I hate those, they take years to fix itself.”
Is it a good excuse for regular massages and foot rubs?
“You do need to get physical treatments. Massages at least once a week. As often as your body needs. Truly the best thing is to listen to your body. I get massages and Endermologie, and I might take a muscle relaxer to take away a spasm, and Icy/Hot, Tiger Balm, Biofreeze, I own them all and I use them all.”
The demands of the show are intense. How do you handle that?
“The good thing is that my significant other is also on the show, so he understands what it takes and the schedule that is required to be on the show, but it is very demanding. I don’t think celebs realize this when they sign up.”
The bond between dancer and celebrity is strong.
“‘Dancing with the Stars’ is very emotional, and it probably is even more so for the dancers than the celebrities because for us, we get our celeb for that season and we put our heart and soul into every single step, and they literally become our baby.”
You landed the ‘Bad Boy of the Ballroom,’ and it’s become an inside joke that Maksim can make his partners cry. Has he ever made you cry?
“I ALMOST started crying when he was proposing, because he was so cute, he was so nervous but then he was like, ‘You know, I’ve been with a lot of women….’ I didn’t know if I was gonna laugh or cry after that!”
Your wedding is getting a lot of buzz and it’s still a year away.
“I think I’m a little weird, usually women know the kind of wedding they want, the dress…I don’t know, I’m different, I never thought about it. My only concern is that I want to have the longest honeymoon ever! At least a month.”
Where are you going on your honeymoon?
“He wants to go to the Maldives, I want to go to Bora Bora, so we might compromise a week here, a week there.”
Have you heard from your ex Mario [Lopez] since you’ve become engaged?
“No, but I wish him all the best. Ironically, it was Mario who was always jealous of Maks, and at the time I was like, ‘He’s like my brother, that’s just weird,’ but now we are getting married, so I guess Mario had a better eye than I did. And a better wandering eye too….[laughs]”
Yeah, that’s a bummer…
“You know, I actually think he did me a favor, because I have never been as happy as I am right now. And I wouldn’t have that if Mario and I hadn’t gone our separate ways.”
So next season, will you be introduced each episode as Karina Chmerkovskiy?
“Um, [pause] nooo. [laughs] It’s funny you ask, Maks and I were just discussing that. He was like, ‘Baby, you know you are going have to take my name,’ and I’m like, ‘Hell no!’ My name is cool! Karina Smirnoff. I have a vodka name, who changes that?”
Who would be your dream celeb to have on the show?
“Keanu Reeves and Christian Bale. So if I could have the two of them at same time, it would be pretty much ideal.”
Thoughts on Botox?
“I have never done it, but honestly, I am thinking about it because I have such a bad poker face! When I am on the show and I get a nasty comment from the judges, you can see it in my face. [laughs] So maybe I should Botox all over my face so I will be expressionless and then they won’t be like, ‘You are rolling your eyes again, Karina.'”
I find your infamous eye-rolling amusing.
“Okay, here’s the thing. You do a challenging routine, and then the response you and your celeb get is, ‘That was an okay jive but you have pretty ugly big feet.’ What kind of reaction do they think I’m gonna have? Am I supposed to say, ‘Oh my God, Len Goodman, you are hilarious. Have you considered going into comedy?‘ No, I am going to roll my eyes because it’s inappropriate. It’s rude. And it has no bearing on what a jive or whatever dance it is.”
Or, for example, the time when Len or maybe it was Bruno compared someone to Britney Spears’ private parts when she gets out of the car? What kind of reaction do you think I should have? Should I smile back and say thank you for a really stupid, inappropriate comment?”
And remember when Bruno said to Lil’ Kim, who honestly is such a sweetheart, he goes, ‘You want to be a lady but you’re much better at being a tramp.’ And I’m like, ‘Really?’ That’s your comment after the girl comes out here and tries her best? It’s inappropriate. So if I was still there I would roll my eyes again!”
Do the judges ever feel bad? Have any of them ever come up to dancers backstage and apologized?
“No, they totally think that whatever they say is entertaining and funny. One time Bruno came up to Billy Ray Cyrus after they had trashed him and said, ‘You know, it’s just a show, don’t worry about it.’ And Billy Ray said to him, ‘You are rude and you are crude.'”
Who are you closest with on the show?
“We’re all a very big family, but the person we are closest with is Tony [Dovolani]. I’ve known him since I was 16 years old, and Maks too—so Tony is definitely going to be in the wedding. As far as the girls, I’m close with Edyta and Julianne. And we go over to Derek [Hough] and Shannon Elizabeth’s house and hang out sometimes.”
Why did you become a dancer?
“I took everything, figure skating, gymnastics, my ADD was highly developed at an early age. But around ten years old, dancing became not only something I loved to do, but I also loved what was beyond the dance itself–the costumes, the hair, the makeup–you got to be a girl more than anything else, and that’s what made it special.”
Who is higher maintenance: you or Maks?
“Maks will definitely tell you that it’s me. I love my showers and my make up and girls get to play with hair more than guys. He gets ready quickly, he knows what to put together, but he does like to go to the sauna and the gym, and he likes to take care of himself. I love that he likes that, so I’m not complaining!”
You’ve said in the press recently that Maks is ready to have a baby but you want to wait a bit. Can you get him a puppy instead?
“Isn’t that a great idea! I found a rescue puppy, a nine-month-old pit bull-lab mix named Tinker Bell. I really wanted to bring her home and Maks was like, “It’s not the same, he’s not budging at all!”
“I have a pit bull already actually. He is the cutest thing ever. His name is Randy. I called him after Randy Couture, because I used to be a huge UFC fan. My first dog, Randy’s brother, was named Tyson after Mike Tyson. He got hit by a car and died. It was horrible. It was in the middle of the season I danced with Billy Ray Cyrus and my mom didn’t tell me for a month; she waited until after we got voted off, so I wouldn’t go to pieces.”
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
“I am totally a night owl, I am very cranky in the morning. Maks is not to talk to me too much until I wake up and have my cup of coffee because mornings are tough. He’ll be like, ‘Are you mad at me? Is something wrong?’ And I’m like, ‘No baby, it’s just that it’s early and I’m pissed that I’m already up.'”
Are we going to see a Karina and Maks reality show at some point?
“We are working on it right now actually. We’re in discussions with our producers. They are ready to start filming as soon as we settle the contract. We have to do it in a way that it won’t conflict with ‘Dancing with the Stars.’
We are both very stubborn and very proud. You’ll see us in a completely different light than what you are used to and it’s hilarious. I think that’s why our docusoap will be successful–because we laugh at ourselves so much.”
So I hear you are getting naked.
[laughs] “Yes, I am shooting a PETA ad June 4th and I am so excited. I love animals. You know the slogan, right, ‘I’d rather go naked than wear fur.'”
Is Maks getting naked too by any chance?
“Well, no, guys rarely wear fur. Unless you are Dennis Rodman, you usually wouldn’t wear a fur coat.”
Who is your workout inspiration?
“Madonna! Her body is sick. She’s not in her teens, you know, and she has one of the sickest bodies in the world. I’m a huge fan of The Material Girl.”
‘DWTS’ Season 8 Champion: Can we get your prediction?
“Well, obviously I want Tony and Melissa to win because Tony is our boy. But I don’t really think that’s going to happen…at the moment it seems like Gilles is miles ahead of everyone else. I’m keeping my fingers crossed because Tony really deserves it and works so hard; it would be nice to see him walk away with the mirror ball trophy.”
So you think Gilles and Cheryl are going to come out on top. That would be Cheryl Burke’s third win. How does she get so lucky with getting good partners?
“That’s a wonderful question for ABC executives. We’ve been asking this question for years, but they have their ways of pairing people up. How does Cheryl get great partners every season? I would really love to find out and do whatever she does so I could get great partners too.”
What will you do when you can no longer dance?
“I want to host…I want to be as ripped as Kelly Ripa and I want to have cute little babies like Kelly Ripa. And I want to act!”
Famous last words.
Watch Karina Smirnoff and partner Steve Wozniak reunite on the dance floor Tuesday night for the big ‘Dancing with the Stars‘ finale, where the champion will be crowned.