Mya Goes for the Gold
By A. Raymond Johnson
Even if you've only caught half of one episode of Dancing With the Stars this season, you know Mya has got natural rhythm and a work ethic like whoa. Despite being exhausted from nine weeks of training -- she easily made it to the final three along with Kelly Osborne and Donny Osmond and is favored by many to win the celebrity dance competition after performing one last time tonight on ABC -- she selflessly sacrificed some valuable practice time to talk with us about how she makes her routines so undeniably good.
Out: Were you aware of the audience and fan base of Dancing With the Stars? Did you watch past seasons?
Mya: Everyone pretty much informed me ahead of time! I've watched the show. If you're going to be before millions of people in America watching you trip and fall on your face, you have to [be prepared].
Who were you past favorites?
I really liked Mel B., I thought she was an incredible dancer. I also enjoyed Marie Osmond, Emmitt Smith and Melissa [Rycroft].
What friends do you want to call up to do next season?
I would really like to see Ellen DeGeneres on Dancing With the Stars.
The show has been going on for awhile -- are there any DWTS backstage superstitions or lore? Any rituals you must perform?
Just in the red room, we have to be there 30 minutes before the show starts. There's no ritual that happens, we just go on!
No ghost stories of DWTS past?
I've never heard one, thank God.
How many hours a day have you been rehearsing?
As many as possible. Sometimes eight, sometimes 12, depending on the workload. We have four dances this week, so I'll be going until like 2 A.M., or even 4 A.M. if we have to -- I don't want to embarrass myself. And it's the finals!
I know! I doubt you'd embarrass yourself. Are you doing any other training to keep in shape? Do you do any strange dietary stuff?
Absolutely not. I would be dead on the floor right now if I did anything else, this is enough. Not one gym I've been to since I started training for Dancing With the Stars in August. I've been eating a lot, but that's it. I started training prior to the show, I did a lot of cardio for two weeks straight so I would be slightly prepared.
You mentioned a couple weeks ago in an interview that the two main competitors you had your eye on were Donny and Kelly --
I sure did!
Good call, since they made it to the finals, I hope you had a bet in Vegas.
I wish I did.
Do you and Dmitry have a strategy for dancing against them specifically?
No. What we try to do for ourselves is learn the routine as quickly as possibly, to have the choreography done ASAP so that I can learn it ASAP -- the earlier I can learn the choreography is the earlier I can put my performance quality on it and bring that to the stage. If I'm still thinking about steps the day before the show, we're going to be in trouble. So we've made out a weekly plan of what should happen, Wednesday through Sunday, so that by Monday, we're ready for showtime.
Any hints on what we'll see in the finals?
We have four dances coming this week, so I hope all of them are up to par since it's such a workload on all of us. Very difficult at this stage in the game and absolutely no time to really learn it, with so much going on with press and other shows. It's kind of non-realistic for all of us, but hopefully we'll pull it through and sleep maybe two hours this week! [Laughs.]
What are your favorite parts of working with Dmitry? Is there a side to his personality we haven't seen yet?
He's very nice, he's not the kind that yells at you. He has a tame personality like myself, but he's very strict which I also need to reach my full potential -- the best of both worlds, personality-wise, I would say. I think [his personality] is just now being highlighted -- he's very goofy and that's coming across in our packages, and people didn't know that about him since he's known to be such a stud. He has a goofy side to him!
Many people watching have said that you're so good that there's not the same drama to the show, but I think the 'problem' is that just because you make it look very easy, doesn't mean it is easy. What are the hardest parts for you, that the audience is not seeing?
Everything is hard. I'm not the most flexible person in the world, but I've been stretching way beforehand so that I would be able to do things as expected. Some people think I'm some trained dancer, which I'm not. I've tap danced and I've been taught in that, I've done hip-hop in my videos. But I have a natural ability to hear music and I would say that is what helps me, it's definitely an advantage. Once I learn a song, or steps like a song, I can begin performing it as I have been on stage, like Donny Osmond. But it's all a hard process. Kelly even mentioned, "Oh, it's not hard for you," and I said, "Yes, it is!" Anyone who leaves that building leaves before me usually -- I'm there until midnight or beyond to make sure that I make it look easy, to make sure that I look great. This competition is not just about winning a trophy -- I'm not even expecting to win a trophy. I just want to reach my full potential and look like a professional as much as possible, 'cause when I see those girls out there on the dance floor? I get jealous, I want to look like that! [Laughs.] So I go overtime and I work really hard to get there. Like I'd do with anything else that I'm going to display in front of America. Sorry to be so critical, but I'm glad that people are saying it looks so easy -- because it's definitely not.
What have been your favorite dances this season?
Hmmmm'that's so hard. My current favorite dance would definitely be the salsa. And my next favorite would probably be the jive.
Last season I was crushed when Lil' Kim got voted off before the aw-shucks cowboy, when she was the better dancer, but it reminded me that there is a significant popularity contest aspect. How do you strategize -- and cope -- with this wild card factor?
Aaron [Carter] and Karina did a great job, he's not the most popular guy in the world -- he had almost perfect scores'
But still ended up in the bottom two more than once! That was rough.
Yeah, so we know that this current position is not just about talent. That's why I work so hard, so that whatever I do on stage is undeniable, because I might not have the biggest fan base. I might be competing with someone who is not as good of a dancer, but they have an entire fan base that could cover the entire show, so that's fine, I understand that. My goal is not to win people over in a couple of weeks by doing crazy things -- it's almost impossible. I just have to display my talent and be who I am, and if that comes across, great, then that's even better. But my goal is to dance, have fun, enjoy myself, and whatever happens, happens. The trophy is a trophy, but putting your best foot forward is even more important.
The show is seen as safe and family-friendly, but then you have Hugh Hefner sitting in the front row of audience and Len very proud of himself for talking about your butt. How is it walking this line of being sexy, but sexy for moms and grandmas?
It's really hard to do Latin dances and be fierce without wearing something scandalous or doing what the traditional moves are -- which require a lot of hip action and foot work which make you look like you're shaking -- and if you have any kind of fringe, it gets even sexier! But I'm also doing very classic elegant dance and displaying all facets of Latin and ballroom, so they get balance. I guess maybe it's a little harder to be a female in the costumes they put us in! But I don't care who you are, and how tall you are, short you are, you're going to be sexy if you're doing any of these dances. You can't avoid that.
Is there a different scrutiny being the female half of the pairing?
I embrace it all the way, I'm having the time of my life! My favorite part of the day is going to wardrobe. Everyone wants to dress up and be someone that you're not -- who doesn't want that?! It's been a blast.
What are your favorite costumes so far?
The mambo costume that's all white. I really loved my tango outfit, it was turquoise. And the foxtrot dress, I love that one too. And then white waltz dress -- those are all my favorites.
Do you get to take any of them home?
You get to purchase them at the end of the show.
You said you're not in it for the trophy, but where would you put that giant disco ball?
I will give my trophy to my mother, if I do get it. She keeps all of my stuff; I would never be able to keep track of things. And it would be a representation of success for our family obviously, but also of all the work she's put into exposing me to music and tap dance, which has definitely helped.
How do you say 'good luck' in ballroom dancing: break a leg? Break a heel?
I don't know what it is!
Well, then I'll say all three to you for Monday night's finals!
Watch to see who will be crowned ABC's Dancing With the Stars champion. The live two-night finale event begins Monday, November 23 at 8/7c on ABC and the grand finale is on Tuesday, November 24 at 9/8c on ABC. For more on Mya and Dancing With the Stars, visit ABC.com/dancing.