‘DWTS’: The One Thing Cheryl Burke Learned From AJ McLean in Season 29

Backstreet Boy AJ McLean and Cheryl Burke were partners on season 29 of Dancing With the Stars. Though they’re no longer in the competition, Burke considers McLean a friend for life. Showbiz Cheat Sheet spoke with the DWTS pro over the phone about her experience in season 29 and the one thing she learned from McLean throughout their time together. 

AJ McLean and Cheryl Burke
AJ McLean and Cheryl Burke | Kelsey McNeal via Getty Images

Cheryl Burke and AJ McLean are out of the running for the Mirror Ball 

The Backstreet Boy and his partner fought valiantly throughout season 29Burke and McLean had a rough start in their Viennese Waltz to Queen’s “Somebody To Love” on “Icons Night.” But when they returned for a second dance, all bets appeared to be off. 

McLean and Burke performed a perfect Jive. They may have won the dance-off against Johnny Weir and his partner, Britt Stewart, but it wasn’t enough to keep them in the competition. 

Carrie Ann Inaba’s initial score of a seven ultimately landed Burke and McLean in the bottom two. In the end, the judges advanced Johnny Weir and his partner Britt Stewart to the semi-finals.

Many fans were sad to see McLean go. According to he and his partner, the elimination wasn’t totally his fault

Cheryl Burke and AJ McLean continue to work together outside of ‘DWTS’

They may be done on Dancing With the Stars, but that doesn’t mean Burke and McLean’s friendship is over. Together, they host the Pretty Messed Up podcast. McLean’s mentor of 15-plus years, Rene Elizondo, is also a co-host. 

Together, the group discusses their sobriety, mental health, and of course, Dancing With the Stars. So far, the show has had Burke’s husband Matthew Lawrence and fellow competitors like Kaitlyn Bristowe as guests. During our conversation, Burke said the plan is to continue with the podcast for the foreseeable future. 

As partners on ‘DWTS,’ AJ McLean taught Cheryl Burke that vulnerability is strength 

Burke has been sober for two years. McLean is in his first year of sobriety — something they have celebrated extensively on the podcast, as well as his time competing on Dancing With the Stars

During our call, Burke explained how inspiring McLean’s vulnerability has been to her. 

“[He taught me] being vulnerable equals strength,” she said. “I’ve definitely worked through all of this in therapy, but to see somebody actually practice it and to be so vulnerable, especially during his first year of sobriety, is very encouraging.” 

RELATED: ‘DWTS’: Why Britt Stewart Couldn’t Stop Crying When She and Johnny Weir Were Eliminated

Burke hopes McLean has inspired their fans, too. “[For] a lot of people who may go through addiction or whatever it may be — I think it’s important that once you put it out there, it’s like you’re holding yourself accountable in a way,” she added. “I think it’s also important to share your story in general, because even if it just helped one person, [it’s worth it].” 

That’s why Burke participates in the podcast and why she continues to do Dancing With the Stars. “I think that’s the reason my path crossed with the show and also with AJ,” she concluded. 

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357.