Cheryl Burke: ‘The nation decided to call me fat about season 7 or 8’

Cheryl Burke was one of the professional dancers on Dancing with the Stars for 23 seasons. She was the first of the female professional dancers to win the show, and the first professional dancer to win twice and in a row. She also placed second and third several times during her participation on the show. When I think of the professional dancers on the show, it’s really her and the Hough siblings that jump to mind. Cheryl was last on Dancing with the Stars in 2021 and now has a podcast called Burke in the Game. She’s also a mental health and recovery advocate and appeared in that capacity on the Hypochondriactor podcast (what a mouthful) to discuss body image and anxiety.

Cheryl Burke revealed her struggle with body dysmorphia while talking about body image as a professional dancer.

The Dancing With the Stars pro opened up about having a complicated relationship with her body while appearing on the Hypochondriactor podcast hosted by Sean Hayes and Dr. Priyanka Wali.

“I suffer from social anxiety now that I’m sober, I have body dysmorphia because I’m a dancer,” she shared. “I mean, tell me one dancer that doesn’t.”

Burke shared a piece of her story on YouTube in November 2020 with a video titled “My Struggles with Body Image,” where she said that she had long had a difficult time feeling comfortable in her skin. While on the podcast, she shared more detail about what that means to her.

“When I look at myself in the mirror and someone says, ‘Oh, you look amazing’ I see someone who is overweight and in my eyes and in my way of judging myself, not amazing. So it’s like no matter what I look like,” she said.

Ultimately, she said it got to the point where she couldn’t stop thinking about it. Her negative thoughts were also reinforced by a conversation happening publicly about her body.

“The nation decided to call me fat about season seven or eight when I actually got off my birth control and I retained 15 pounds of water weight, which I thought was obviously going to be the opposite. And then it was like a big deal, like ‘Cheryl’s too fat for TV’ and then I had a couple of my coworkers blasting my ass too and then I would wake up to like KTLA ‘Cheryl’s too fat.’ I was like, this is crazy.”

Some of the headlines appeared in the 2020 video that Burke had put together, as they are a contributing factor to her feelings. Still, she told Hayes and Wali that body negativity is something she suffered from long before being in the public eye. Her experience on television has only exacerbated it.

Burke said that she believes “it will help when I’m done with Dancing With the Stars,” and no longer on a public stage in tiny outfits alongside gorgeous celebrity dancers. And while she’s “doing the work” to get to a better place in her relationship with her body, she’ll deal with the intrusive thoughts forever.

“I do believe that it will always be a problem,” she said. “Maybe this is why I haven’t frozen my eggs, maybe this is why it’s hard for me to even say that I’m ready for a kid is because the last thing I’d want is to blame my kid for the way I look at myself. That is just not ideal. You have to heal first before we do that.”

[From Yahoo! Life]

Credit to Cheryl for being so open and specific about her struggles with body dysmorphia. I think sometimes, with people who are professionals in very physical fields, it’s assumed that they’re more comfortable with their bodies because of what they’re capable of doing and it’s hard to fathom that people so skilled can fall victim to the same body image issues as everyone else. Or worse, in Cheryl’s case because the way she describes dance it sounds particularly unforgiving. Staring at yourself in the mirror constantly to get the steps right is a necessary hazard of the profession, but combined with weigh-ins and being literally judged/graded — like, of course, dancers have body issues/dysmorphia because of all that. And adding to that the media, audience, and coworker (wtf?!) commentary on Cheryl’s weight sounds absolutely horrible. Those kind of comments hurt and you never forget them, even when you look back at photos or videos of yourself, as she did, and you’re like “wow, I actually looked good then even though I didn’t think so; I wish I knew it then.” I think it’s admirable that Cheryl is self-aware enough to wait until she is in a more accepting space with her body before she has kids because she doesn’t her perception of her body to affect her child and their relationship. But it’s unfortunate she has to delay something she wants because of the insidiousness of body dysmorphia. Hopefully she is able to take the steps she wants to soon.

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10 Responses to “Cheryl Burke: ‘The nation decided to call me fat about season 7 or 8’”

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  1. Emmi says:

    I feel for her, people just suck. I think athletes and models all have these issues because their focus on their bodies is 100x that of the average person. They’re constantly finetuning and it’s not surprising that that would f*ck with your perception.

    And it takes a while to correct the images in your head even when you’re better. I lost a lot of weight in the last year due to health issues. It wasn’t fun. Surgery fixed it, thank god and now I’m great. It was a significant amount and I was overweight so people of course comment. And while I’m happy with my looks, I HATE the comments and have to actively try not to yell at people. They mean well but I can’t say “Thanks” and I don’t want to explain. I usually explain to get them off the topic. Because then I get paranoid about gaining it all back. After all, people will notice that too. I also still hate having my picture taken. My bff sent one to me yesterday and my first reaction was “Oh, I look good.” I was surprised. How effin’ sad.

    I cannot imagine what it must be like for someone on TV whose body is their capital. Insane.

    • Moxylady says:

      I know I’ve mentioned him before – but Nile Wilson – British Olympic gymnast with a fun great YouTube channel – really talks about the eating issues /
      Body imagine issues that come with being an athlete. It was completely enlightening. He always had his shirt off so I was like – he’s comfortable with his body. Nope nope nope. It’s been really inspiring watching him come back from a major injury and be active and address his body issues. He and his friends all talk about it. They are also athletes. Just wanted to share.

    • Moxylady says:

      Sorry! Didn’t mean to thread jack
      I’m so thankful to Cheryl for talking about this. It’s such an important topic. I’ve had two kids and things have changed and it’s very strange to be in a body that in the past 3 years has turned into something 100% different than I had lived in for the previous 37. It’s like I don’t know what my current body looks like. At all.

  2. Gah says:

    Wow what a shame that this gorgeous human is struggling with this aided and abetted by coworkers and the media.

    I realized this morning it’s been 20 years since I recovered from an eating disorder (I was a D1 athlete) and how different my life is as a result.

    I hope she has support to heal. It’s possible.

  3. FHMom says:

    My heart hurts for her. I used to watch DWTS in its first few seasons, and she was always my favorite. The dance world is filled with eating disorders. It may even be more toxic than Hollywood. My SIL had a dance scholarship as a teen growing up in New York City. At age 16 the company cut her because they thought she might be getting fat. She’s over 50 now and is naturally thin. My MIL, who is heavy, still blames herself. She thinks the dance instructor looked at her and projected her body type onto my SIL. Perhaps the real reason they cut my SIL from the company is that she didn’t have enough talent, but they went went with the body shaming excuse instead. I swear my MIL still lives with that guilt

    • Moxylady says:

      Oh my gosh that’s horrible. Mama hearts are so ….. fierce and brave Ans strong yet so so fragile. I hope she finds peace.

      • FHMom says:

        That’s very sweet of you to say. It all worked out fine in the end. My MIL’s family is artistic\musical and she probably hoped her daughter would be a famous ballerina.

  4. MtlExPat says:

    Maxim Chmerkovsky was one who made the comments about her (what a surprise, arrogant pr-ck) He said:

    “When I first saw these women this season, I said, ‘Guys, you know the camera adds 10 pounds,’” Chmerkovskiy recalled. “‘You have to do something about this.’”

    Another pro, Louis Van Amstel who said this:
    “ “(People) look at this show to be inspired and think, ‘If I just work hard enough, I can look like that,” Louis Van Amstel told TV Guide, according to “If they watch someone who’s dancing her butt off and she’s still heavy, they can be discouraged. You have to take that responsibility.”

    What idiots

    • BeanieBean says:

      I am not surprised it was these two guys. Cheryl was my favorite & I feel for her. And I agree with others, body dysmorphia is really tough in the dance world. You’re looking in the mirror all day, people are constantly talking about your body. Gelsey Kirkland, an absolutely wonderful dancer back in the day (late-1960s-70s), developed severe anorexia (among other issues). I remember when the NYC Ballet dancers went on strike in the 70s, Gelsey (or another dancer) said you get paid barely enough to afford the essentials–potatoes, milk, apples. Potatoes, milk, apples! And they’re dancing several hours a day! Seven days a week! Class, performances, then there’s physical therapy, massages, gym memberships. All those toe shoes to buy. It’s very expensive to be a dancer. Hard on your body, hard on your mental health. I don’t know if I’d want a loved one becoming a professional dancer.

  5. J Ferber says:

    Of course it’s the men. They can just eff off.