‘DWTS’: Why Val Chmerkovskiy Changed His Approach After the ‘Romantic Melodrama’ in Season 19

Val Chmerkovskiy of Dancing With the Stars is no stranger to the rumor mill. When he had a romance with Pretty Little Liars star Janel Parrish in season 19, the Mirrorball champ was the subject of many headlines that had nothing to do with dancing.

With most of the attention focused on the pair’s personal relationship rather than their fancy footwork, Chmerkovskiy vowed he would “never again” let the lines between business and pleasure get blurred.

Val Chmerkovskiy of 'Dancing With the Stars'
Val Chmerkovskiy of ‘Dancing With the Stars’ | Rachel Luna/FilmMagic

Val Chmerkovskiy saw a downside to romance during ‘DWTS’ competition

In his 2018 book I’ll Never Change My Name: An Immigrant’s American Dream from Ukraine to the USA to Dancing with the Stars, Chmerkovskiy explained how the romance with Parrish evolved.

“As happens all the time in ballroom, essentially Janel fell in love with her dance teacher,” Chmerkovskiy wrote. “And her dance teacher (that would be me) was too weak, too stupid, and too trophy-hungry to take her aside and tell her, ‘Hey, I’m not really interested in this. I just want to dance.’”

Admitting that he bought into the media hype and put to much value on earning a prize, Chmerkovskiy felt the liaison eclipsed their performances.

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“I was too blinded by the opportunity to play at romance in order to achieve the goal I wanted wanted, which was holding up that Mirrorball trophy at the end of the season,” the DWTS star revealed. “I fell into the trap of letting relationship melodrama get in the way of me sticking to the script, which was to focus on dance. I let the line get blurred – I didn’t separate the personal from the work.”

No more mixing business and pleasure for ‘DWTS’ star

When preparing for season 20, Chmerkovskiy was able to reflect on how rumors of romance can inflate ratings.

“Hollywood loves romance, and in season 19 the romantic melodrama overshadowed all the good performances Janel and I were racking up,” he explained. “Our efforts on the dance floor were getting blown away by the soap opera swirl that seemed to be all the viewers wanted to talk about.”

Resolving to learn from his past errors, Chmerkovskiy was determined to keep things strictly business in the upcoming seasons of DWTS.

“I told myself enough was enough,” he remarked. “Never again would I be weak-minded, never again would I allow a romance that wasn’t entirely there to inflame the imaginations of millions of viewers, never again would I neglect to stand up for my craft. From that point forward, I would strictly separate the personal and the professional.”

Val Chmerkovskiy and Rumer Willis won the Mirrorball trophy in season 20

Chmerkovskiy was all business when he went to meet his season 20 partner. Paired with Rumer Willis, the DWTS star kept his focus on dancing.

“The fans of Dancing With the Stars always liked to mix in a little bit of The Bachelor into the show, playing up the relationship dramas between dancers,” he shared. “Were the dance partners an item? Had love bloomed on the set? Since I’d been caught in that web before, I swore to myself that the new season would be different.”

Motivated by Willis’ authenticity and humble nature, Chmerkovskiy was able to teach her some killer steps and gain her friendship.

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“Arrogance was not in Rumer’s vocabulary,” he raved of Willis. “She was a beautiful person with an impulse to veil her inner light. I wanted the world to see how beautiful and special she was.”

Chmerkovskiy’s strategy paid off, where he and Willis won the season 20 competition.