“Vanderpump Rules” star Ariana Madix hit “Dancing With the Stars” with a lot of support, thanks to Bravo fans rallying around the reality star, who discovered her boyfriend Tom Sandoval was cheating on her last season.
But it’s not just the fans who keep her in the ABC dance competition: Madix won over the judges with her dance – and this “seamless” Britney Spears routine “I’m a Slave 4 U”. She has been at or near the top of the leaderboard for most of Season 32 so far and was informed by the judges that she could be the one to take home the Mirrorball Trophy.
The reality star insisted she was “nothing special” because she got her heart broken or worked around the clock, even though both have endeared her to viewers. TheWrap spoke with Madix ahead of Tuesday’s Taylor Swift Night performance, where she will dance to the 2019 hit “Cruel Summer.”
TheWrap: Did you expect that you would consistently be at the top of the leaderboard?
Ariana Madix: I just hoped for the best and prepared as best I could. You just go out there and do your best. And just hope that someone else sees something in your performance.
What has been your dance experience so far?
In high school I was the worst guy on the dance team. Sure, if you want to call it experience. (Laughs)
You were also at BravoCon in Las Vegas, where you were busy all day and then rehearsed the Britney Spears routine in the evening. What was it like for you to receive such a great reception after all this?
Oh my god, it felt amazing. We worked so hard. It was so important to me to do this dance well, not just because of the competition, but because it was Britney. I was so excited that it worked out well because it was incredibly difficult. I couldn’t believe my body could do all this on so little sleep.
Many of the other contestants have put everything else on hold for the show, but you still run your side businesses, the sandwich shop and a cocktail line.
Yes, [my publicist] can attest to that. I don’t really sleep. I don’t have a life outside of rehearsals and work at the moment. But that’s another thing that’s not special. So many people have two or three jobs. I’m lucky to be able to work and do things that I really love and enjoy.
Can you tell us how emotional it was to dance the “Most Memorable Year” dance? Carrie Ann Inaba said it was so empowering to watch and that many women could relate.
There are so many people who have gone through exactly what I went through. I am nothing special. I hope that I can somehow pass on this love or a little courage or something to the people who need it too.
What has this show brought you so far that you didn’t expect?
It gave me a new appreciation for my body and its capabilities. And the feeling that I deserve to be here, which I don’t think I had before. There have been moments in the past where people have said, “You have no talent,” “You’re a stupid reality star,” and things like that. Now when someone says I don’t have talent, I can point them to videos of some of the dances I’ve done in the last nine weeks. And maybe they’ll keep their mouths shut.
What attitude do you have going into the next dance?
My mindset is just to keep pushing. From the beginning, Pasha and I had the philosophy of keeping an eye on our own paper. Keep working hard, stay in our own lane and just do our thing.
What is it like when you do the show live? Do you feel the energy of the audience or do you try to block it out?
Sometimes on the floor [just before my dance], I’ll scream just because I’m nervous. I always feel like I might shit my pants. And Pasha will say, “Okay, go ahead.” And I’m like, “Okay, maybe not really.” I do a few things, like I make sure my shoes aren’t too slippery. And sometimes I scream a little.
The judges have told you that you could be the winner. How is this pressure?
I don’t want to think about it because I don’t want to jinx myself. I am a truly amazing thought. But you don’t want to be overrated. They want to be underestimated, if that makes sense.
Have you spoken to the other people at Bravo who have already been on the show?
I met Teresa Giudice [“The Real Housewives of”] New Jersey at BravoCon. Pasha was her partner and she said, “Isn’t he just the nicest?” I was really lucky to get Pasha. Maybe I’m biased, but I’m also right.
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.” That’s why I’m proud to represent Bravo in the dance world. And hopefully I can go far for Bravo fans.