Jenna Johnson is back for her fifth season as a pro dancer on Dancing with the Stars — and is partnered with Queer Eye‘s Karamo Brown. Every week, Jenna will give readers an inside look at their journey thus far: the challenges, the laughs they share and what it’s going to take to win!
When I heard the cast that was going to be on DWTS, I was obviously so excited to just meet Karamo and that he was going to be on the show because I’m obsessed with Queer Eye. So when I was meeting all the guys in our cast, obviously there are some amazing males this season, but I REALLY wanted Karamo. When he walked in that first day and was standing there, I was just ecstatic, fangirling a little bit and just blushing because leading up to us meeting for Good Morning America, he was on a full campaign to get me as his partner. He was in the press, he was saying all these things about how amazing I would be as his partner and we hadn’t even met yet, and so I was really hoping I was going to get him.
Karamo secretly DM’d Adam Rippon, “I hope with all my heart that I get Jenna as my partner this season,” and Adam screenshotted it and sent to me like any great best friend would do, which made me super giddy leading up to the reveal because I was just hoping my dreams were going to come true – and they did. I could not be more excited to be on this journey with him. This whole “keep a secret who your partner is” has been the worst thing ever because little do people know, I was hiding in Philadelphia for 14 days and THEN Karamo was shooting something in Maui, Hawaii and I followed along and we had the best time. We had rehearsals, but him and his fiancé would take me to dinner, we went to the pool one day, it was a lot of fun and really helped us bond right before the premiere. It was a great first time going to Hawaii on DWTS.
Day one of rehearsal was awesome. I feel like I just got to know him and see his personality – how bubbly and bright and full of life he is – and I really want to capture that throughout the season. Karamo is not a dancer, and I think everyone expects him to be because he’s so smooth, stylish and fun – but he’s never had dance training and it does not come naturally for him.
We had to work really hard while he was also filming the last few weeks of Queer Eye, so I was in Philadelphia with him (secretly) for two weeks rehearsing. He would come to the studio after working on set, and he would, of course, be so exhausted after a full day of work, but he would show up for me every day and try his hardest and I think the progression from day one to night one of Dancing With The Stars was immense. I’m so proud of what he was able to produce last tonight and I think it’s a great set up for us to work hard and really take what the judges said in their critiques and grow; this show is all about growth and I think he is going to soar this season.
One of my absolute favorite things about Karamo is that when he shows up to rehearsal, I have his undivided attention; he doesn’t look at his phone, he isn’t distracted by things, he is in there and he is in it to win it. He wants to nail the routine and the steps, he’s a perfectionist like me so we understand each other in that sense. Another thing is that I knew he was funny and witty but in-person he was even funnier. He makes me feel like a queen every day, and he has the BIGGEST heart. I feel supported, I think we already have good chemistry and that connection will only grow stronger on this journey.
I would also like to point out that there were three salsas tonight and we were the only one that attempted lifts, and he CRUSHED them. It was funny because on one of the first days, I told him, “We have salsa, and in salsa there are big lifts.” And he was like, “Sorry girl, but I don’t think I can lift you.” And all I could say is, “Get ready, she’s coming!” So we were by ourselves in some tiny Philadelphia studio attempting these tricks with him, and it turns out he is really strong. He doesn’t go to the gym, he doesn’t workout, but somehow he has this perfectly sculpted body and it turned out he was able to do all the lifts! I was really happy that we scored this lavender look, I’ve never wore this color on the show before. I was totally going for J Lo vibes with my hair and a little fringe pant never hurt nobody – I think our look was perfect for the salsa.
I don’t think people fully understand how busy Karamo is, but we are flying three times this week in a matter of six days. We are really going to push, and I think if anything this first night will really inspire him. Often with the celebs there is so much anticipation leading up to the premiere, and once it happens, they see how fun it is but they also get this competitive nature about them and they really want to bring it and win it. I think if anything tonight just inspired him and ignited the fire that we’re going to work really hard and he wants to come back and do even better next week. And yes, we are going to give full hip action for Len. We’ll let the hips do the talking!
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.