“I wanted to be a professional dancer my whole life. I tried everything from basketball to volleyball to soccer, but dancing was the only thing I never complained about. I started when I was 4 and did ballet until I was 11 before switching to ballroom dancing. I literally grew out of my ballet tights because I grew hips and started becoming a curvy woman, and I was like, ‘Oh this doesn’t really fit me anymore’—but ballroom did.
I didn’t do it professionally right away—just socially at first. I thought it was for old people, because my mom and dad were doing it. Then my parents took me to a dance competition in San Francisco—I’m from the Bay Area—and I saw kids my age in glitter costumes with rhinestones and eyelashes and fake tans. It was good music and dancing with somebody else, and I figured this was for me, for sure.
I started competing internationally when I was still in school. Every summer I would travel abroad to England because England was the place to be for ballroom dancing. At 19, I turned professional, and I moved to New York. Then I got the call to do Dancing With The Stars, so I moved to LA when I was 20 and did it for 18 seasons—about two a year—until I was 30.
After so long, I felt that it was time for me to move on. NBC approached me to do a new show called I Can Do That. It’s basically me and five other celebrities—Nicole Scherzinger, Ciara, Joe Jonas, Alan Ritchson, and Jeff Dye. The best way to explain the show is that it’s a mix between The Voice and America’s Got Talent. So, we’ll have challenges where you'll see people like the Blue Man Group come out and whoever wants the challenge has to race upstairs and pick a partner. My first challenge was to be a Harlem Globetrotter, and I never really played basketball before. You only have five or six days to learn a new challenge. It’s kind of like a comedy variety show. I really wanted to learn and feel challenged again, so this is everything that I’ve wanted.
My mom washes her face all the time. I never really caught onto that. I’m so bad at it—and I'm not into facials either. I got one once, and I broke out. My mom has amazing skin, and I'm blessed to have inherited it. I just use a couple of the Comodynes Make Up Remover Towels to take my makeup off. It’s especially important when you have so much on. I also use lots of lotion with SPF in it, especially on my face. I like Olay. It’s good to hydrate your skin because all of the spray tans and stuff really dries it out.
And I swear by Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment. I’ve got about 10 of them around my house—just the little ones. I feel like it’s the best balm in the world. If your skin is dry, you can put it all over your face before you go to bed, and it really hydrates you.
When I do my makeup myself, brows are really important for me. It sculpts a face. Beyond that, I literally just use mascara and curl my eyelashes—I don’t have a lot of them, but I try. I just buy my mascara at CVS—I don't need the expensive stuff or anything like that. I’m totally down for experimenting with brands that I see my makeup artists use, though. Lately I’ve been using lots of Nars and MAC and stuff like that. I just like the clean look. When I don’t have to wear makeup, I try not to.
Sometimes I’ll get the occasional zit on my forehead or bruises, especially from doing this new show, so I always have someone to put body makeup on me. I use Scott Barnes’ Body Bling. It’s amazing to cover up bruises and stuff like that.
I had hair down to my butt when I was 18 or 19. Then my coach told me it was time for a new look, so he literally chopped my hair off. I was crying. He dyed it black, and that’s when you first saw me on Dancing With The Stars.
But as soon as I cut my hair, it became really hard to grow it. If you ever saw me with long hair from that point on, know that it was extensions. I feel like shorter hair with no extensions just feels healthier. I’m trying to grow it out a little bit, but it's so easy when it's at this length. I get a little paranoid about my big forehead, so I like to have my bangs covering a part of it. My hair is also naturally straight, so when I come out of the shower, I just put a little bit of product in it to create some volume before I blow-dry it out.
I used to wash my hair every day, but my hairstylist said not to—just three times a week. Now, I’ll just dry-shampoo the shit out of my hair. It gets really flat, and I find that after a day and a half or two of not washing, dry shampoo adds more volume. It’s been my best friend lately.
When I’m doing rehearsals for the new show, I obviously have to be in activewear. So I started this line called Cee Bee. The first collection came out in January. The inspiration was everyday women who want to be comfortable and stylish at the same time. My weight fluctuates just like anyone else, so it ranges in size from xxs to xxxl—that can be hard to find these days. It's a nice change of pace for me, because with ballroom dancing—especially Latin dancing—your costumes are very revealing. There are no rules, but you always want to look really glamorous. And you have to get spray-tanned. It’s all about being tan because you’re like half naked in these costumes. You’ve got to have the lashes, you’ve got to have the long nails. You really go full-out. When I compete, I’m 100-percent involved in how I look.
Other than dancing, I love hiking. I think it’s important to shock your body because it gets used to doing the same thing all of the time. I’ll go through phases where I have a trainer or where I’m hiking and running a lot. I just try to change it up. I find that being more social and doing workouts with a buddy helps me stay more motivated. The hardest part is getting out of bed and putting the clothes on.”
—as told to ITG
Cheryl Burke interviewed by Jane Helpern and photographed by Paley Fairman in Los Angeles on June 2, 2015.
Read what ballerina Misty Copeland uses when regular moisturizers won't do the trick, how Damaris Lewis started dancing for Prince, and what made Tracy Anderson switch from dance to fitness.