‘DWTS’ Star Derek Hough Revealed How Jennifer Grey Helped Him Out of His ‘Emotional Rut’: ‘She Had To Blindside Me’

Derek Hough of Dancing With the Stars took home one of his six Mirrorball trophies in season 11 with actor Jennifer Grey. During their time together, Grey took Hough on a field trip under false pretenses, where he soon discovered the Dirty Dancing star had his best interests at heart.

Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough of 'Dancing with the Stars'
Jennifer Grey and Derek Hough of ‘Dancing with the Stars’ | Adam Larkey/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Derek Hough’s childhood was impacted by his parents’ divorce

Growing up in Utah, Hough shared how the breakup of his parents’ marriage had a profound effect on him as a child.

“In a matter of weeks after my parents announced their divorce, I underwent a total personality transformation,” Hough wrote in his 2015 book, Taking the Lead: Lessons from a Life in Motion. “I was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A new Derek took over. I assumed I was bad news – the boy from the broken family – so that is who I became.”

After being recruited by Shirley and Corky Ballas to join their dance company in London, Hough relocated overseas at just 11 years old and lived with the Ballas family.


“I spent the majority of my life running away from Utah, from the life I led there, from the memories I associated with those early years,” he explained. “It felt very someone-else-ago to me. London changed me profoundly.”

Jennifer Grey had a surprise for her ‘DWTS’ partner

During season 11, Grey told Hough she was having back trouble and needed to see a physiotherapist. She wanted Hough to accompany her.

“We pulled into a house with a shed out back,” Hough recalled. “Oddly, it didn’t look like a doctor’s office. There was a couch and incense burning. … I looked at Jen and she winked at me. This was no physical therapy. She’d signed us up for some bizarre couples therapy!”

The therapist spoke to Hough and Grey together for a while, and then asked Grey to leave so he could speak to the DWTS star privately. At that point, Hough still had his reservations. Once the therapist asked about Hough’s childhood, the floodgates opened.

“I laid it all out for him – I talked for almost two hours – and he nodded,” Hough remembered. “‘You can go pick him up now.’ I raised an eyebrow. ‘Pick who up?’ The therapist smiled. ‘That younger boy, that self you left in Utah. You left him there while you’ve been on a mission moving forward so vigorously. Now you can go get him back.'”

Derek Hough’s breakthrough

Through his conversation with the therapist, the Mirrorball champ was able to reconnect with the child he once was without associating with a difficult past.

“It was beyond powerful and enlightening,” Hough shared. “Had I really left that part of me behind? Had I lost that fun-loving, wide-eyed kid and all his creative exuberance? … I associated my early years with painful memories. I wanted to keep young Derek at a distance. But what I forgot was all the good I experienced with him as well. … It was the kick in the butt I needed.”

Apparently, Grey picked up on Hough’s inner turmoil but was hesitant to suggest therapy. Hence, she devised her plan of getting help for her “back problem.”


‘DWTS’: Why Derek Hough and Mark Ballas ‘Hated Each Other’ When They First Met

“When I came out of my therapy session, Jennifer was waiting for me,” Hough recalled. “‘If I’d told you this was where we were going, you wouldn’t have come,’ she said. She was right. She had to blindside me to get me to grapple with this … she saw how I was struggling, how I seemed to be in some kind of emotional rut.”

The two finished season 11 as DWTS Mirrorball champs.