All isn’t always fair on the dance floor. Melissa Rycroft, Jordan Fisher, Heather Morris and more Dancing With the Stars contestants have sparked backlash for having an unfair advantage on the ABC competition.
Pro dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy made waves during season 8 when he told TVGuide that it was “unfair” that Rycroft, who has a background in ballet and as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, was on the show.
“Let me be that voice of everybody who thinks [it] but won’t say it,” Chmerkovskiy, who was paired with Denise Richards during the 2009 season, told Access at the time. “I mean, I can’t compete next to someone that’s had a lot of dance training.”
Fellow pro dancer and future DWTS judge Julianne Hough added at the time, “I’m not going to say anything about it being unfair, but compared to everybody else, there is a huge difference in ability.”
Rycroft and partner Tony Dovolani defended themselves at the time.“
“I’m not the only person that has ever come in here with dance experience,” the former Bachelor contestant told Access Hollywood. “There have definitely been people that have more [experience] than me. But it’s not benefiting me at all, believe me. It’s not like we practice for a day and have six off!”
Dovolani, for his part, called out Chmerkovskiy’s season 5 partner Mel B.: “Well, I would love to say to Maks, ‘How about Mel?’ That’s all I’m going to say.”
More recently, season 29 winner Kaitlyn Bristowe and runner-up Nev Schulman raised eyebrows with their dancing pasts. After the November 2020 finale, third-place finisher Nelly admitted to Entertainment Tonight that he “probably [would] not” have joined the show if he knew ahead of time that his fellow castmates had so much experience.
“Because you don’t stack yourself up against that. Why would I get in a boxing match with someone who’s been boxing since they were 12? Why would I go play basketball with somebody who played in college? There are certain things that you’re basically setting yourself up for,” the rapper said. “Obviously, it’s still a competition and you use whatever you have to win. So it’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing. So you want to work that much harder because the odds are stacked up against you.”
Nelly added at the time that he was happy for Bristowe, who worked as a dance teacher before she was the season 11 Bachelorette in 2015.
“Kaitlyn’s beautiful, she’s a sweet person, she really wanted it. She won! You can’t say anything about that … I just would have liked to have known that coming into it. That’s all. You don’t want to get sideswiped once you get in,” Nelly said. “But that being said, she deserves to win, because she won. She danced beautifully. She’s a sweet person, she did her thing. Me and my partner, we did our best and the experience was great.”
Scroll through for a list of past competitors who weren’t strangers to the spotlight: