“When I was 18,” Hough, 34, clarified during a Thursday, April 20, appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show. “Because, I was like, ‘You know, I want to be a respected actress and singer. I don’t want to be on a competition show, you know, dancing.’ I was like, you know, this is what I want to do. This is my path. And then I was like, ‘Well I guess it’s kind of a good thing to be able to have that as my day job and then it blew up.”
The Safe Haven actress, who grew up ballroom dancing alongside brother Derek Hough and family friend Mark Ballas, initially was cast as a pro dancer on season 4 of the ballroom hit. During her first season, Julianne was tasked with teaching Apolo Anton Ohno how to groove, which proved successful as they went on to take home the mirrorball trophy. She returned to the series for the following four seasons, partnering with Hélio Castroneves — with whom she won season 5 — as well as Adam Carolla, Cody Linley and Chuck Wicks.
“It was so wild. I mean, like overnight, I had just finished high school, basically, and then I got on the show,” Hough recalled to host Kelly Clarkson of the show’s rapid popularity.
The Utah native —who competed against Derek, 37, and Ballas, 36, on the ABC broadcast — left the show in 2009. Julianne eventually returned to the ballroom five years later as a judge alongside Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli, where she stayed until 2017. After the Footloose star’s second departure from the reality TV program, Derek eventually joined the judging panel.
“I just have to say, from being on the show to now, I had the most support and the most loyal fans from that show,” she gushed on Thursday. “So, to be able to come back in a way, I’m so full of gratitude and love, like, I cannot begin to share how excited I am to be back. … This is just going to be like coming back home.”
“Tyra was just unbelievably gracious — like really, truly, gracious, and I just have to give her absolute props,” Derek exclusively told Us Weekly earlier this month about the supermodel, 49, passing the baton to his younger sister. “She just sent Julianne the most beautiful message, and I’m just really grateful to her for her grace.”
The former World of Dance judge, for his part, also noted that there is “no question” that Julianne is the “right choice” for the role.
“She’s a great host,” Derek gushed to Us. “We hosted Disney specials together and she’s fantastic. She also happens to be an amazing dancer and singer and everything else, but … she was part of the show and she knows the show and she’s part of the [DWTS] family.”
A premiere date for Dancing With the Stars season 32, which will air live on Disney+, has yet to be announced.