“Vanderpump Rules” star Ariana Madix went into “Dancing With the Stars” with a solid wave of support, thanks to Bravo fans who have rallied around the reality star who discovered her boyfriend Tom Sandoval was cheating on her last season.
But it’s not just fans keeping her in the ABC dancing competition: Madix has won over the judges with her dancing — and that “seamless” Britney Spears “I’m a Slave 4 U” routine. She’s been at or near the top of the leaderboard for most of Season 32 so far and been told by the judges that she could be the one to take home the Mirrorball Trophy.
The reality star insisted she’s “not special” in having had her heart broken or in working around the clock, even if both those things have endeared her to viewers. TheWrap spoke to Madix ahead of Tuesday’s Taylor Swift Night performance, where she’ll be dancing to the 2019 hit “Cruel Summer.”
TheWrap: Did you expect that you would continually be at the top of the leaderboard?
Ariana Madix: I just hoped for the best and prepared as best as I could. You just go out there and do your best. And just hope that somebody else sees something in your performance.
What was your previous dance experience?
In high school I was the worst one on the dance team. Sure, if you want to call that experience. (Laughs)
You also went to BravoCon in Las Vegas, where you busy all day and then rehearsed the Britney Spears routine at night. What was it like to get such a great reception after all that?
Oh, my gosh, it felt amazing. We were working so hard. It was so important to me to do that dance well, not just because of the competition, but because it was Britney. I was so excited that it went well, because it was incredibly difficult. I couldn’t believe that my body was capable of doing all of that on such little sleep.
Many of the other contestants have put everything else on hold for the show, but you are still running your side businesses, the sandwich shop and a cocktail line.
Yeah, [my publicist] can attest to this. I don’t really sleep. I don’t have a life outside of rehearsal and work right now. But that’s another thing that’s not special. So many people work two and three jobs. I’m lucky to be able to work and do things that I really love and enjoy.
Can you talk about how emotional it was doing the “most memorable year” dance? Carrie Ann Inaba said it was so empowering to watch and that a lot of women can sympathize with you.
There are so many people who have been through exactly what I’ve been through. I’m not special. I hope that I’m able to somehow spread that love or any ounce of courage or anything in the direction of people who need it as well.
What has this show given you so far that you didn’t expect?
It’s given me a new appreciation for my body and what it’s capable of. And the feeling that I deserve to be here that I don’t think I had before. There have been moments in the past where people were saying, “You have no talent,” “You’re a dumb reality star,” things like that. Now when somebody says that I have no talent, I can point them to videos of some dances I’ve done the last nine weeks. And maybe they’ll shut their mouth.
What’s your mindset going into the next dance?
My mindset is just to keep pushing. Pasha and I have had this philosophy since the very beginning to keep our eyes on our own paper. Keep working hard and stay in our own lane and just do our thing.
How is it when you’re doing the show live? Are you feeling the energy from the crowd or do you try to tune that out?
Sometimes on the floor [just before my dance], I will yell, just because of my nerves. I always feel like maybe I’m gonna poop my pants. And Pasha will say, “Alright, go ahead, do it.” And I’m like, “Okay, maybe not really.” I do a couple of things, like make sure my shoes aren’t too slippery. And sometimes I give a little yell.
You’ve been told by the judges that you might be the one to win. What’s that pressure like?
I don’t want to think about it because I don’t want to jinx myself. I’s a really amazing thought. But you don’t want to be overhyped. You want to be underrated, if that makes sense.
Did you talk to any of the other people on Bravo who’d already done the show?
I ran into Teresa Giudice from [“The Real Housewives of”] New Jersey at BravoCon. Pasha was her partner and she said, “Isn’t he just the nicest?” I really lucked out with getting Pasha. I might be biased, but I’m also correct.
The Bravo fans are very devoted to you.
Bravo fans are incredible. They are some of the best fans out there. And no one from Bravo has ever won “Dancing with the Stars.” So I’m proud to represent Bravo in the dancing world. And hopefully I can take it far for the Bravo fans.