When Backstreet Boys’ AJ McLean was paired with Cheryl Burke for Season 29 of Dancing with the Stars, it may not have been a match made in heaven, but close enough. The two had something significant in common. They are both sober and it gave them something to bond over.
For AJ, sobriety has not been easy. He has been in and out of sobriety for years and says it is a daily struggle. That’s not the case for Burke, who revealed on the LadyGang podcast that it is a decision she made for herself two years ago at her engagement party to now-husband Matthew Lawrence and just like that, she was done drinking.
Being paired on DWTS is like an arranged marriage
It is DWTS executive producer Deena Katz who decides which celebrities will dance with which professional partners, and she has to get it right because if the partners don’t get along, it’s a long season for everyone. Cheryl compares it to an arranged marriage because no one has any say in the matter.
“I’m not Deena, but I’m assuming Deena is very close to me in my life and she knows everything about it, so I think this is a perfect pairing,” Cheryl told Monsters & Critics after she and AJ danced the quickstep to Prince Ali from Aladdin on Disney night. “She knows I have been sober; she knows AJ’s sober. In the past, she partnered me with Jack Osbourne and Rob Kardashian, she definitely has a formula.”
“Whether you know who the person is or not, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to click personality-wise,” AJ chimed in. “You have no idea.”
Cheryl Burke and AJ McLean are Pretty Messed Up
But the two did click. In fact, they aren’t just dancing together, they also are doing a podcast, called Pretty Messed Up, which premiered the same day that Dancing with the Stars did back on Sept. 14, in which they talk about everything.
“I didn’t know that AJ was going to be doing this show, but this is how it all started,” Cheryl explained. “Basically, I was going to do a podcast on my own, and AJ had his podcast.”
She continued, “But we got paired together in the podcast world because one of the producers from iHeart Radio was like, ‘You guys have to do this podcast together. You’re both living a parallel lifestyle, where you’re both sober, you’re both trying to be the best versions of yourself that you could be.’ Cut to AJ is on Dancing with the Stars. Cut to I’m on Dancing with the Stars. Cut to let’s get jiggy with it. We crossed paths in not just one way, but two ways.”
One dance at a time
When Cheryl and AJ return to the ballroom tonight, they will be dancing the cha cha to Larger Than Life by the Backstreet Boys, taking a page from Nelly, who previously danced to his Ride Wit Me song.
So far, on night one, Cheryl and AJ danced the jive (18 points); on night two, the quickstep (19 points), and on night three, the foxtrot (21 points). So, they are definitely headed in the right direction and that’s the plan.
“Honestly, we’ve got to take it one dance at a time,” Cheryl said. “This show is not about how you start; it’s about how you finish. If you ever get to the freestyle round, you might as well just erase everything you’ve done. It doesn’t matter anymore. You start from scratch and whoever has the best freestyle wins, it’s just the way it is. So, every week, you better just start fresh.”
Dancing with the Stars airs Monday nights at 8/7c on ABC.