Dancing With the Stars pro Peta Murgatroyd will not be winning this season of the reality competition, as she and partner Lamar Odom were eliminated earlier this month. However, she has a hunch about who might be holding the Mirrorball Trophy at the end of the season.
“I have my two front-runners, that I think are Hannah [Brown] and James [Van Der Beek], but there are a lot of other people that can sneak up,” Murgatroyd tells Yahoo Entertainment. “It really depends on the last three weeks of the competition: How you handle the stress? How is your partnership standing up and your friendship? Can you go the full ride together? It is all about how close you can connect and stay connected with your partner and not get distracted by all the craziness that is surrounding you.”
Murgatroyd, who first danced on the show in 2011, insists that she’s pulling for everyone. She’s just a little more excited about Brown, the most recent star of The Bachelorette.
“I definitely have a special friendship with Hannah that started from the very beginning,” Murgatroyd says. “I think she’s a great girl. She’s such a hard worker. It’s insane the amount of hours that she is putting in and also coming from a reality show, The Bachelorette, and coming on to another one, I think she has handled that so well. I’m rooting for her, because she’s got everything it takes to be the winner of Dancing with the Stars.”
Murgatroyd has continued to dance on DWTS, alongside the other dancing pros, after she and Odom were eliminated on Oct. 7. But she’s still in touch with the former NBA star.
“We’ve been texting each other, saying ‘Miss you, miss you,’ and I can’t wait to see him again,” says Murgatroyd, who’s married to former DWTS pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy. “And next time he’s in L.A. we’re gonna do, like, a double date sort of situation. So we haven’t been able to catch up again, because he moved back to Atlanta, but I’ll see him for the finale.”
The veteran performer explains that, while she always grows close to her dancing partners, working with Odom was “special.” For one thing, he struggles with short-term memory loss and balance issues due to a 2015 drug overdose. Dealing with the memory loss, especially, taught Murgatroyd to be more patient, she says.
She found Odom to be big-hearted, too.
“He was such a gentle giant, so kind to me always, never raised his voice, never stormed out of the room, was always polite, always kind,” Murgatroyd says. “He was a pleasure to be with. I had no issues with him whatsoever, and because of his circumstances, what had happened to him with his coma, I felt like, yeah, I was a little more protective of him, because I felt like he was a little fragile sometimes and sensitive to some comments and people, which made me want to become momma bear and sort of protect him.”
His height was yet another issue.
“I feel like Lamar was unlike any partner I’d had before. In particular, his height was the first big issue for us,” Murgatroyd says. “And that took a lot of getting used to, it took me changing my teaching habits and ways that I had been teaching for years. I think the tallest guy that I’ve danced with was 6’2” so to dance with 6’10”, 6’11” was extremely difficult.”
She had to adjust the way she’s worked with her celebrity partners for years.
“It just taught me to be a better teacher,” says Murgatroyd, who’s launching two additional products for her skincare line, Peta Jane, next month. The new body scrub and body butter join her bronzing oil and tanning mist.
You know, the stuff you need in order to look like a dancing pro.
Watch Murgatroyd in action on Dancing With the Stars at 8 p.m. ET/PT Monday on ABC.
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