Nastia Liukin may have gotten a few perfect 10s during her time on Dancing With the Stars, but she’s the first to admit she has her flaws. In fact, she embraces them — which is why she wishes the DWTS audience had gotten to know her a little better before she was sent home during the semifinals on May 12.
“As a gymnast and a competitor, I’m used to competition and not coming out on top, and that’s okay! That’s not what I’m upset about,” she says in the new issue of Us Weekly of her experience on the ABC show. “Of course I would have loved to dance in the finale, but this has nothing to do with that. I wish I had the chance to tell my story the way that everyone else had to tell theirs.”
In fact, letting people see her personality was one of the main reasons she signed up for the competition. “I feel like I’ve been criticized for so many years as being this stone-faced, cold athlete, but as a gymnast, you don’t talk or show emotion. You go out there to compete!” Liukin, 25, explains. “So it was really important for me to open up to America and show them who the real me is. I want people to know that I am not perfect.”
Indeed, her partner, Derek Hough, told Us after their elimination that one of his frustrations this season was that people seemed to perceive Liukin as “unrelatable,” because she made everything look so easy. “People didn’t realize the struggle,” he said, “but it was [there], and it was very difficult, and she just made it look easy because that’s who she is. She’s a champion.”
Liukin’s partnership with Hough was one of the highlights for her, despite what it may have looked like on TV. She worries that she came off as “a brat” and “unlikable” during the segment that aired May 4, which she describes as five minutes at the end of a grueling but good week. “It seemed like I was lashing out at Derek,” she tells Us, but really she was just “lashing out at the situation.”
Of course, the experience wasn’t all bad. Getting to perform again — especially with Hough — was “a dream come true,” she gushes. And she made a lot of “really great friends” in the other dancers, all of whom reached out to her after her elimination. “They’ve been so supportive,” she says. “It’s obviously competitive, but it’s not competitive on a personal level.”
Case in point? Fellow contestant Rumer Willis — who went on to win the Mirrorball with Val Chmerkovskiy on May 19 — stuck around with sister Tallulah Willis and mom Demi Moore for an hour after Liukin was voted off, just to tell her what a great job she’d done.
Next up for the former Olympian? She’s starting her own agency, the Shine Agency, with her best friend Liz Ballard.
“I’ve worked with several agents over my career, none of which represented who I was or brought projects to the table that really reflected me as a person, opportunities that I could be passionate about,” she tells Us, “so we have joined forces and hope to represent people that we really believe have stories to tell and brands to build.”
For more of Nastia Liukin’s thoughts on Dancing With the Stars, pick up the new issue of Us Weekly, on stands now.
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