Derek Hough: Rob Kardashian Has ‘Blossomed Into a Man’

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Derek Hough is the most successful pro dancer ever on "Dancing With the Stars" -- with three wins to his credit -- and this season is no exception. He and partner Ricki Lake's performances in the ballroom have already landed them in the semifinals, and Tuesday we'll find out if they make it to the finale. The 26-year-old older brother of former "Dancing" pro-turned-singer/actress Julianne Hough recently took some time to dish with omg! about his biggest competition, his alleged feud with fellow pro dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy, how Rob Kardashian's evolved on the show, and more.

You've had some fantastic partners, like winners Brooke Burke, Nicole Scherzinger, and Jennifer Grey. What do you see as Ricki Lake's strength?
"She knows that when I'm tough on her ... I have her best interest at heart. If you met her you'd never envision [she's a] graceful dancer. The fact that she's come out here with, you know, zero dance experience ... overweight and then losing all this weight, looking great and doing all the dances is pretty incredible."

Do you think you have a good chance of winning this season?
"I don't want to be honest cause if I'm honest then it's gonna sound like I'm defeated. I don't know if it's our season to win, but it's not [about that]. I tell Ricki, 'Listen, who was your favorite last season?' She goes 'Kirstie Alley.' 'Do you remember her scores?' She went, 'No, I have no idea what her scores were.' 'Did she win?' 'No.' That's what matters. What matters is being memorable."

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Who is your biggest competition?
"I feel that J.R. [Martinez] is definitely the frontrunner and has been from day one. It's in his blood -- the rhythm and the timing and things like that -- and [pro dancer] Karina [Smirnoff] is doing a great job with him. If I had to guess who would make the final, it's gonna be tough. I think Rob [Kardashian's] been doing such a great job. He's really improved a lot, so I think that he has a chance to make that final. As a person, he's really evolved. It's really great to see him -- in a very sort of non-patronizing way. He's kind of blossomed into a man."

I think the toughest part of being on "Dancing" is standing there and getting critiqued by the judges. Do you think they're fair?
"[Some seasons] I've become very sort of protective with my partners, and I lashed out at the judges. But after a couple of seasons I realized the best way to approach it. What I do now is I prepare my partners. I prepare them so, for instance, if they've got a dance, even if I think she deserves a 10 or a nine or whatever, we don't talk about scores ever. It never comes into our vocabulary. But if I think she might deserve better I still tell her before I go out there, 'Okay, even if you nail this dance, even if you're gonna kill it, the judges might pick you on small things and mark you down so just be prepared for that."

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You've shot down rumors of a feud with (pro dancer) Maksim Chmerkovskiy countless times. Why do you think people keep talking about this supposed feud with Maksim?
"I don't know. They just want to see us do some sort of dance-off or something and walk and stalk each other and do some weird, creepy dance together. I don't know."

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It's been reported that you and former "Hills" star Lauren Conrad recently broke up. Is that true? (The two were photographed with Derek's sister Julianne and her boyfriend Ryan Seacrest.)
"I'm not sure how you break up with somebody who you've never dated before. Not sure how that works out, but it's pretty funny."

You're also interested in music, and released an album with the Ballas Hough Band in 2009. Do you plan to continue that?
"Yeah, I go home and I write all the time. For me, music is strings and piano and guitar. I play all those instruments ... and eventually I'll make an album or something. But at the moment, I'm focusing on different projects."

For now, Derek is focused on winning that mirror ball trophy for the fourth time. Do you think he will?

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