Julianne Hough Says She's 'Never Felt More Like a Woman' After Coming Out as 'Not Straight'

Mark Gray

Julianne Hough is officially living her most authentic life.

Last month, the America’s Got Talent judge revealed that she told her husband, Brooks Laich, that she’s “not straight.” And after releasing her first song in nearly a decade last week, titled “Transform,” Hough is on cloud-nine.

“This is the first time I feel like I’m not just trying to push it or perform it,” she told PEOPLE backstage at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas on Friday. “It’s like, no, this is just for me and this is my voice and my truth, and I’m so excited to just speak from that place. And if people like it and resonate with it, then that’s a bonus. But this felt so good, to just like let it out and be me.”

Over the last several years, Hough, 31, said she became more comfortable sharing who she is with people.

Julianne Hough | Steven Taylor

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“I love being 31,” she said. “I have never felt more like a woman in my life, and I’ve always been the girl next door, all-American sweetheart. And that’s a version and a part of me, but it’s not all of who I am, and I didn’t even know that about me. So the last few years have been about me picking up all parts of who I am and the parts that I’ve suppressed over probably 25 years.”

While it wasn’t easy for Hough to finally show herself to the world, she said it was “so liberating to come out the other side and know that like, this is who I am and I’m so freaking proud of who I am.”

In Women’s Health September cover story, Hough admitted that as she was undergoing a personal evolution, she was fearful that her husband, an NHL player and entrepreneur, wouldn’t understand.

“I was connecting to the woman inside that doesn’t need anything, versus the little girl that looked to him to protect me,” she said. “I was like, ‘Is he going to love this version of me?’ But the more I dropped into my most authentic self, the more attracted he was to me.”

Julianne Hough and Brooks Laich | Michael Tran/Getty

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As a result, Hough said they now “have a more intimate relationship.”

Becoming more emotionally and physically intimate allowed Hough to be open with her husband about her sexuality — and reveal that she isn’t straight.

“I [told him], ‘You know I’m not straight, right?’ And he was like, ‘I’m sorry what?’” explained the pro dancer, who created a new dance concept called Kinrgy. “I was like, ‘I’m not. But I choose to be with you.’ “

“I think there’s a safety with my husband now that I’m unpacking all of this,” continued Hough, “and there’s no fear of voicing things that I’ve been afraid to admit or that I’ve had shame or guilt about because of what I’ve been told or how I was raised.”