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!
Last week was stressful because we were in the bottom two, so I really wanted to focus solely on our dancing this week, honing in on the technique, ONLY samba content and we did just that. Of course it was Disney night, so it was for sure the most magical night of the season, and you could really feel that this week, especially with us shooting the opening number at Disneyland. It was so incredible, but I was really hard on Karamo because samba is one of the hardest dances, which Carrie Ann even pointed out to Lauren Alaina. Other than the quickstep, samba is definitely one of the hardest dances to learn in 1 week during the season. Karamo really tackled it head on, and I’m so thrilled with our performances tonight. I think it was for sure one of his best dances.
This past week, we pulled two all-nighters at Disneyland; one night to completely camera block the opening number and practice, we slept through the day, and then the next night we filmed the whole opening number. Lights, camera, costumes, hair and makeup, characters – it was crazy! I think the actual production came out perfectly, and I want to shout to Zach Woodlee. It was my first time working with Zach, he choreographed all of Glee, he is absolutely fabulous and I think he created this number perfectly. It was a great way to start off the night for Disney night.
Disneyland is also so special to me because Val and I secretly went on one of our first dates to Disney. Season 18, I’ll never forget it. So every time we’re at Disneyland it’s a special reminder of our love because it’s where Val and I’s dating life all started. Now we work for Disney/ABC, we were shooting this overnight shoot there, so I made sure we got a little kissing picture in front of the castle because it’s such a full circle moment. He’s my favorite. And he was dressed as Prince Charming for his dance, he was so cute. He really is my Prince Charming. Side note: if I had to be a Disney princess, I would totally be Merida from Brave. She’s a little bit of a mess, but super strong and powerful. That’s the princess I want to be – messy but so so strong, and can tame the wildest of animals.
It was so surreal to be at Disneyland after-hours. I felt like I was dreaming, honestly, because I’m dancing in front of the castle, there’s not a sound or person around other than a dancer. I just sat there and thought “What is happening? This is so incredible, I am so grateful.” It was a nice moment to reflect and be present, and fully realize and enjoy that this is my life.
While we were pulling two all-nighters for the opening number, I don’t think we necessarily missed out on time with our partners. If anything, it was more just exhausting this week with way less sleep and more time with our bodies trying to recover. I wish I could have been Sleeping Beauty and just go rest in the castle! Everyone was kind of in this panic mode and crunch time, but thankfully Karamo was able to pick up the dance and we were able to rehearse. He was really great about giving me his full energy.
Our inspiration for last night was the newest, live-action Lion King movie. Karamo and I wanted to be more royal, and I think it was actually kind of fun – one of the inspiration photos was Beyonce with a fierce long braid, a slick snatch up and a gorgeous black see-through beaded gown on. I absolutely love the Lion King, and I think it fit Karamo perfectly … he’s this daddy Lion and he has these two little Simba cubs. I think it was especially relatable for him, and it was a special moment for him to share with his sons. He had never been to Disneyland, so this week was his first time and he got to go with his boys which was really sweet.
I was really happy that the judges started out positive tonight. I think we haven’t gotten away yet with a “That was fabulous comment,” so I’m really looking forward to getting that and I will keep pushing Karamo. I’m hoping soon for both of our sanities that we will get that validation of our partnership soon. For Karamo individually, he is working so hard, and he is putting his heart and soul into this. I know speaking for myself, there’s only so many critiques one can take before they get a little disappointed and discouraged, so hopefully next week we really get that validation. And I know we will both keep working at it until we do.
I’m really excited for this coming week, we have a special dance and a special story ahead of us. I think this coming week means a lot to Karamo and I think it’s going to be a side we haven’t shown yet that means a lot to him. Carrie Ann said something in her critique along the lines of “I want to see you guys connected, there’s a little bit of a push-and-pull going on,” which I have definitely felt. She said she wanted to see us more unified as a partnership, and I’m really excited because I think next week will give us the opportunity to have time and showcase our partnership.
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.