Why ‘DWTS’ Star Cheryl Burke Spoke Out After the Tabloids ‘Fixated on My Weight’
When tabloids began running body shaming headlines about her, Burke took matters into her own hands and publicly addressed the negative press.
Cheryl Burke gets real in ‘Dancing Lessons’
In her 2011 memoir, Dancing Lessons, Burke revealed she struggled with body image from a young age. Sharing that she had “some serious curves” since she was 18 years old, the pro dancer sometimes “wished that my legs were longer and leaner, and that my hips were just a bit narrower.”
“When I started Dancing With the Stars in 2006, my body image issues intensified,” she wrote in her book. “I was ever more aware of how I looked, especially dancing on television.”
Going on vacation in the summer of 2008, Burke took a break from her rigorous dance schedule and allowed herself to enjoy some foods that she tended to avoid. Though she revealed she “gained a few pounds” yet was a slim size 4, the tabloids pounced.
“Star magazine ran a paparazzi photo of me walking on the beach in Malibu,” the DWTS star recalled. “They printed it alongside a photo of me dancing when I was at my thinnest, and made fun of me for having gained weight. … What really burned me up was that people were saying I was ‘fat as a size four’ – a size four! They were perpetuating the age-old message in Hollywood that you have to be super-thin to be beautiful.”
‘DWTS’ star had a strong motivation for speaking out
After the body shaming from the media, coupled with negative online comments from viewers, Burke had had enough.
“When the gossip magazines fixated on my weight, I eventually moved past being hurt just for myself,” she explained. “I started to get angry for every 15-year-old girl who wants to try out for the cheerleading squad, but is afraid because she worries she won’t look good in the uniform. I wanted to fight back for every wife whose husband has told her that she has to lose weight, or he won’t love her anymore.”
Burke decided to publicly take the media to task on the unhealthy message consistently being sent to women.
“I wanted to stick up for every woman who has ever starved herself in order to try to be something she thought she should be,” the DWTS pro shared in Dancing Lessons, “because that’s what the fashion industry and the media dictate.”
‘I am proud of my curves’
The dancing pro reached out to People magazine to voice her frustration at the media’s messaging.
“I wanted to turn what I initially thought was a negative into a positive,” Burke wrote. “I had fallen into the trap of believing that in order to be on television, you have to be emaciated. … I knew that I needed to make sure that I sent out the right message: I am proud of my curves.”
Burke also spoke with Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America in the hopes of changing the paparazzi’s narrative to women.
“Curvy women in the entertainment industry are constantly teased about their voluptuous figures,” she commented. “I was ready to face head-on the challenge from the tabloids and defend the obvious truth that women should celebrate their bodies, not hate or abuse them.”
Burke has not yet confirmed her status for next season of Dancing With the Stars.
[Correction: An earlier version mistakenly said Burke was a three-time champ.]