Cheryl Burke spent half her life as a pro on Dancing With the Stars, so retirement has been quite a transition.
“This has been the worst divorce because … though it was my choice, it doesn’t matter. This was a part of my life [for] almost half of my life,” Burke, 39, exclusively told Us Weekly while promoting her new podcast, “Sex Lies and Spray Tans.”
Burke — who left DWTS two months after her divorce from her husband of three years, Matthew Lawrence, was finalized — takes a look back at Dancing With the Stars through the years on the iHeartMedia podcast, which debuted on Monday, September 18. The former cast member speaks to several DWTS alums, starting with the very first eliminated star, Trista Sutter.
“I think doing this podcast, though, is helping me grieve in a weird way,” Burke told Us. “I can’t run away from the fact that this has been a part of my life, nor would I want to. I am never going to bite the hand that feeds me still to this day. And also, this is my family — regardless if it’s dysfunctional or not — they saw me grow up in front of their eyes. And same thing with the fans, which is why I do believe, I feel like I owe this to them.”
The upcoming season of DWTS will be the first since Burke retired in November 2022 at the end of season 31. She appeared on 26 seasons of the ABC series.
“This has been one of the absolute hardest decisions of my life & I am also confident that it is the right one,” she wrote via Instagram at the time. “This show has been my 2nd family since I was 21 years old. The cast, crew & fans have seen me through my highest highs & some of my lowest lows, & I honestly don’t know who I would be today without them.”
While speaking with Us recently, Burke explained that while she loves the competition show, she wants to go beyond the ballroom. “I’m not here to bad-mouth the show, by any means,” she explained. “I’ll always be Dancing With the Stars‘ No. 1 fan, but I don’t believe that we’re doing our fans justice by just showing them a minute of that package prior to our live performance, and then we go dark after the season’s over and that’s it. And they want to hear personally from each of us.”
She hopes to dive into the journeys of pros and stars who didn’t get a ton of air time. “If they get eliminated first, you don’t even get a chance to be on their journey,” Burke emphasized.
When a pair is eliminated, competitors are often caught up in the emotions of saying goodbye to the ballroom. Burke wants to make it clear that their stories didn’t end when the cameras turned off.
“We don’t get a chance to talk about the nitty gritty details because everyone gets so emotional. You see us all, blood, sweat and tears, and then you’re like, but why?” she told Us. “No one understands why we love it so much and why we’re all vying for this mirror ball trophy. But really it’s bigger than that and nobody understands. And so I’m here just to honestly talk about it all and my guests have been so far, so open with their experiences.”
Being totally honest doesn’t always come with a G-rating, Burke warned Us.
“Though it may seem catty, it’s not by any means. This is just the truth,” Burke added. “I’ve always said Dancing With the Stars needs a show called Dancing with the Stars After Dark because we have so much to talk about. Whether it be Disney-appropriate — probably not, which is why it would be After Dark. But this is what this podcast is, and I think we do owe it to our loyal fans and to our new fans. Absolutely.”
New episodes of iHeartMedia’s “Sex, Lies and Spray Tans” drop weekly.
Reporting by Christina Garibaldi