In the last couple of weeks, professional ballroom dancer Cheryl Burke has been all over the airwaves, from syndication’s “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” promoting her new autobiography “Dancing Lessons: How I Found Passion and Potential on the Dance Floor and in Life.”
While the book is a lot about her life as a dancer from the age of four and the behind-the-scenes of it all at ABC’s reality-competition show “Dancing With the Stars,” on which she is a two-time champion, it’s also about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child, and her issues with body image, relationships and the media.
No doubt it’s a challenge to dredge up difficulties for the printed page, but selling a book means talking about them over and over and over again, on camera and for print articles.
“It is different,” Burke tells Zap2it, “but you know what, every time I talk about it, it gets easier and easier to talk about it. It doesn’t get harder. It is emotionally a little bit exhausting, because every time I talk about it, I have to start from the beginning again.
“My very first interview, I was very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, but now, it’s so much easier for me.”
Asked how she keeps from becoming emotional while discussing these things, Burke says, “Because I’m healing, and I’ve been working on myself in the past year. I’ve been single. I’ve been constantly seeing my therapist every single week, owing that to me, just focusing on my well-being and putting myself first for once.
“I found someone I could really talk to. It’s amazing.”
Therapy is one thing, but relating your problems in front of millions of people is another thing entirely.
Burke claims her therapist approves, saying, “She thinks it’s great. She thinks I’ll be helping — and I know I have been, because I’m getting so much feedback so far — so many women out there, so many people, that have struggled with the same issues, whether it was body image or the abuse I got as a young girl, to the abusive-boyfriend experience in high school, and the separation of my parents.
“They’re common things, maybe not happening all to one person, but someone can relate to something that I’ve put in the book.”
Speaking of boyfriends, there was a lot of skepticism surrounding Burke’s on-air denials at the time of a relationship last spring with her then-“Dancing With the Stars” partner, NFL player Chad Ochocinco.
He presented Burke with several presents, including a diamond necklace, and also a sizable platinum and diamond ring. Burke now admits to a “fling” with Ochocinco, but says, “There were mixed feelings. I’m always attracted to the unavailable guy.”
As for the bling, she says, “No, I did not keep the ring. I gave the ring back. What am I going to do with it? I did keep the necklace, because it was a gift for my birthday, and I understood it was a gift. We had spent so many weeks together by that time, but the ring … I didn’t really understand what that was.
“That was a big old fancy-schmancy ring that my ring hand could not handle.”
Of course, now that there has been a book about Burke’s life, is a movie to follow?
“Oh, my God,” says Burke, “I never thought about that. That would be awesome. I wonder who would play me.”
Obviously, the actress would have to be able to dance (or at least fake it) and be a brunette.
“And not too tall,” says Burke, “[and] curvy. Hmmm, I would say Kim Kardashian, but she wouldn’t do it. Maybe J-Lo? That would be awesome.”
Burke may now be a reality-TV star, a dance-studio owner, an author and a designer of a ballroom-inspired footwear line — it’s due out in April, and Burke says negotiations are underway with Home Shopping Network — but has no intention to take off her dancing shoes.
“Dancing has been the one loyal thing that I’ve kept, no matter what,” she says. “I feel like dancing has always been there for me, in a strange way. Dancing’s never hurt me; dancing’s never abandoned me; dancing will never do that. It’s like an escape away from reality.
“Every time I would dance, or be called to travel and compete, it was like I was living in a whole other world, a whole other life, and I loved that. I loved actually feeling confident while dancing.
“When I dance, I know what I’m doing, and I feel so confident, and that feeling is something that I’m still working to have in everyday life.”