It’s been a whirlwind for Dancing with the Stars’ Britt Stewart since joining the show in Season 29. Despite graduating from troupe to pro during unprecedented times of COVID, the newcomer made a strong debut with a semi-finals finish alongside her Olympian partner Johnny Weir.
This year, things didn’t go quite as well: Stewart and Karate Kid/Cobra Kai sensei Martin Kove were the first couple eliminated. The trailblazer takes it all in stride, though, appreciating her time with the actor. Here, Stewart opens up about her journey on DWTS as the first Black female pro and what’s next.
How would you describe your transition to Dancing with the Stars pro?
Britt Stewart: I really had the opportunity to get close to the show thanks to my five seasons in the troupe and got to see what it would be like to be a pro without being a pro. I’m happy I got that experience. Not only so the fans can know who I am and recognize a familiar face, but it was almost like training for the show: See the process, see how the show works. It’s a show that has this amazing legacy. I’m glad I had that time to get my feet wet.
And this amazing opportunity comes amid a global pandemic.
Going into it during COVID was almost a blessing in disguise. I didn’t know anything before COVID — what it was fully like to be a pro. I was going into it with super fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. Dancing with the Stars is a huge family where all the pros and celebrities support each other. You give each other advice and encouragement. Last year, I still had that support virtually, but it was also nice not to compare myself to anybody else during the rehearsal process. Just doing my thing.
You and Johnny Weir seem to have bonded well. How do you look back on your time together?
I couldn’t have asked for a better first partner. Johnny Weir was a dream. Not only as a partner but a first partner in general. He was made to do the show. He is competitive and hard-working but has a lot of vulnerability and heart, and passion for anything he does. I feel like I was blessed to have him for the first season.
It looked like you had fun with Martin as well.
What is so funny, this season could not have been any different as a pro. Martin is fantastic and great, but he is 75, has no prior dance experience outside being in the clubs in the 1960s. It really challenged me not only choreographically but as a teacher, dance educator, and as a human too. He was really critical of himself, and he wanted to be perfect. This show is not easy. Being that support for him was really rewarding as well. We got eliminated first, but it was still a great experience with Martin. He is part of my Dancing with the Stars journey for a reason.
As a regular on a popular network TV show, you’re now under a bigger public microscope. How has that been?
People really do pick apart every part of your life: your family, past experience, life experience, even down to relationship status. That was an adjustment. At the end of the day, the advice my peers gave me is we all have to tune it out because you have to continue to live your life and be your authentic self. Johnny really helped me with that last year as well. It’s rewarding because you see so much love as well. That cancels out the negativity that comes with it.
What do you make of the evolution of the show with you last season breaking ground as the first Black female pro and this season where we have the first same-sex couple.
Dancing with the Stars has always celebrated diversity. Now what I love is they are really putting that at the forefront. We’re really breaking down those glass ceilings and those barriers. Being the first Black female professional did add extra pressure. It was an honor and humbling to know I was representing my fellow Black females. So little Black girls who watch me on TV go, “Oh my god! She looks like me. I want to do that one day.” Having a same-sex couple this season: Jenna [Johnson] and JoJo [Siwa] have been crushing it. I love what Jenna has been doing choreographically. It has been empowering to see as a woman. It’s also empowering that you have both these females who are being feminine but strong at the same time.
Unfortunately, this season COVID reared its ugly head with Cheryl Burke and Cody Rigsby testing positive. What was your reaction when you heard the news?
You get so caught up in the day-to-day of being on a TV show. All of us are so laser-focused on doing the job. All of our hearts broke for Cheryl and Cody because we know what that would feel like to test positive for COVID in the middle of the season. I’ve personally been talking to Cheryl and Cody all week. I’m so grateful that they are both okay and their symptoms are mild. They did a first for Dancing with the Stars with a remote performance. It is really amazing that the show has been able to keep them a part of the competition. Morale is high even though we were heartbroken and sad when we found out. We’re all cheering them on to kill it and be back in the ballroom.
What’s your focus on now?
Right now I am in full support fan mode. I’m supporting my peers. Everything with COVID is ever-changing. I know they might be working on some performances, but nothing has been confirmed yet. The hope is I will still be on throughout the season dancing here and there. Dancing with the Stars‘ live winter tour in 2022 is next on my agenda. I’ll be joining the cast and dancing around America. We’re excited to get back on the road.
Who is your early pick to win the Mirror Ball?
Can I tell you I have no idea? This season has been so strong. There are some front-runners, but I really believe it’s anyone’s game. Of course, I would love to see Amanda [Kloots] and Alen [Bersten]. I think if Cody and Cheryl can get past this week, they can have a really good chance, especially because of the journey. Cheryl is a seasoned but fresh pro and Cody is such a great personality. We’ll see what happens.
If you could pick, who would be on your celebrity partner bucket list?
I’m sure everyone says this but Zac Efron would be amazing. We also have history from High School Musical. He would be amazing. I would love to see a football player again on the show.
Dancing with the Stars, Mondays, 8/7c, ABC