Cheryl Burke Has a Theory Why She Was Excluded From That ‘DWTS’ Tribute

Eric McCandless via Getty Images
Eric McCandless via Getty Images

Cheryl Burke is no stranger to heartbreak, not least when she was “not invited” to take part in a tribute performance on the last season of Dancing with the Stars dedicated to the late Len Goodman, the competition series’ longtime head judge. It’s still unconfirmed why Burke, a 26-season DWTS veteran, was snubbed, but she thinks she might know the reason.

In a Tuesday appearance on the Amy and T.J. Podcast, the 39-year-old speculated that her own podcast—a no-holds-barred iHeartRadio show—might have ruffled some feathers over at ABC.

“I would assume that some people may not be happy with my podcast that I have here with iHeart,” she told hosts Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes.

Of her exclusion, she explained, “I found out when everyone else found out. And that was just such a stab in the heart for me. I just couldn’t believe that I wasn’t included in something so special. Regardless of—if you want to look up “OG” in the dictionary, regardless, I should have been there.”

Burke’s podcast, Sex, Lies, & Spray Tans, is styled as a tell-all airing of “the secrets, the behind-the-scenes arguments and the affairs, the flings, the flirting and the fighting” at Dancing with the Stars. Launched in September 2023, the show sees Burke frequently joined by former partners, co-stars, and frenemies to discuss old episodes and rehash drama.

She grew emotional speaking to Robach and Holmes about her show possibly having cost her an invite back to the DWTS stage. “I can sleep at night knowing that I’m not doing anything wrong,” Burke said. “Like, I’m so grateful for the show, for everything.”

Burke placed first in her debut as a 21-year-old dancer on DWTS in 2006, and became the show’s first two-time champion the next season. She would go on to appear in 24 more seasons, and announced her exit in 2022, departing after the show’s season 31 finale.

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“I didn’t want to leave the show,” she explained on the Amy and T.J. Podcast. “This was my family.”

Asked if she still felt like a part of that family, however, Burke said, “Definitely not.

“It’s so personal—and [some] people can separate the two. I’m like, ‘Are you a sociopath?’ Because I don’t get it. I don’t know how you do that,” she said. “I don’t know how you separate it because for me as an artist, dance is so vulnerable, you know, like literally so vulnerable, like Naked and Afraid.”

Almost immediately following her exit, however, Burke expressed a desire to return to the show, saying she hoped to be asked to take the seat at the judge’s table formerly occupied by Goodman, who also left the show at the end of Season 31.

“They are very well aware that I want that seat,” Burke told Variety a month after Goodman’s retirement. “It’s important, for me at least, to feel like, OK, let’s grow together as a brand and also for me as a person. If that’s not with the show, then I’m moving forward and I’m moving on.”

Goodman died of prostate cancer on April 22, 2023, three days shy of his 79th birthday. That October, eight of the show’s most beloved former dancers returned to join the current pros to perform a waltz set to Henry Mancini’s “Moon River,” one of Goodman’s favorite songs.

Burke confirmed that she hadn’t been asked to participate in the performance just days before it aired, saying on social media that she’d “be there in spirit” to cheer her former colleagues on.

Hours before the broadcast, she posted a tribute of her own, sharing a video message about how Goodman had touched her life and shaped the cultural perception of her art form. “I’m sure many will agree when I say that because of you, ballroom dancing was brought to mainstream television,” Burke said. She wiped tears away as she recalled how her goal on the show had always been to make Goodman proud.

“Thank you for changing my life and for bringing joy to millions of people who have been watching us throughout the years,” Burke said.

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