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Amy Purdy Talks 'Dancing With the Stars,' Her Reality TV Past, and Why Derek Hough Is a Dream Partner

Yahoo TV
March 28, 2014

Paralympian snowboarder Amy Purdy is ready to pull out a new bag of tricks on "Dancing With the Stars." The 34-year-old Sochi bronze medalist, who lost her lower legs due to bacterial meningitis at age 19, is dishing on her current gig on the celebrity ballroom competition, and she's revealing how she plans to change things up for an upcoming routine. (Hint: She's got legs—and she knows how to use them!)

[Related: Catch Up on 'DWTS' With Our Weekly Recaps]

Yahoo TV caught up with Purdy to talk about her surprising next dance, her relationship with pro partner, Derek Hough, how she plans to handle the show's mandatory partner Switch-Up, and the reality show that she once competed on but is now too busy to watch.

On her initial reaction when she was approached to compete on "Dancing With the Stars"

"My first thought was, as long as it's after the Paralympic Games I'm in," Purdy said. "I'm really motivated by music, and I love dancing even if it's just by myself in my room or if it's going out with my friends. So I felt like I already have a passion to do this — if I can ballroom dance, I don't quite know yet. But I at least know I have the drive to do it, so that helps."

On what she was surprised to find out about Derek Hough

Purdy knows she lucked out in the partner department. Not only is Hough a five-time mirrorball champ and the show's only Emmy-winning choreographer, but he's a great friend, too. The pro dancer even traveled with her to Sochi to train so that she could compete in the Paralympics.

"What's amazing and what I continue to find out more about, we're very like-minded," Purdy revealed. "He's very spiritual. And we really think alike as far as how we deal with challenges... and overcoming those challenges. I feel like I have [a] dream partner not because it's Derek Hough and because everyone's, like, 'Oh he's so hot, an Emmy-winning choreographer.'... I think because of how well we connect and how much we think alike, that's what makes it such a dream partnership."

Hough — who has also worked with fellow Olympians and "DWTS" competitors Meryl Davis and Charlie White — hasn't dished on any weakness secrets about this season's dynamic ice-dancing duo ("No, that's funny I should ask him that," Purdy said with a laugh.), but it doesn't matter because Purdy and Hough aren't focusing on their competition, anyway.

"What it comes down to, though, we're really not even looking at our competition," Purdy told us. "Because we're totally doing our own thing. Everything's pretty innovative with what we're doing, so we're not even comparing ourselves to anybody else. I wouldn't even be able to say, 'OK, who's my direct competition?' I'm not sure. I mean Meryl and Charlie are dancers already — it's like they're everybody's competition."

On the Most Memorable Year dance and what Hough said

After Hough hinted to reporters that the duo would be "doing something that has never really been done before, at least dancing-wise," Purdy gave us a hint as to what to expect: "I have a new pair of legs that move totally different than — let me put it this way — a new pair of legs that have never been used the way that we're going to use them," she teased. "And it's really to create these beautiful lines in this dance and the shapes with your body. I think the way that Derek said we've kind of been pulling from one bag of tricks because my feet, right now my legs are stuck kind of at a 90-degree angle, and that is all there is to it. So with these new legs we're able to open up this whole other box of tricks that we haven't even been able to play with. And neither of us believes it's ever been done before."

On the Switch-Up twist

Just when the celebs are getting used to their partners, the "DWTS" powers-that-be are pulling the ol' switcheroo on them. All the contestants will be required to switch partners (voting is going on now on Twitter and the ABC website), and Purdy plans to give herself fully to whomever America pairs her with. "I kind of try to not think suggestions," she said. "I want to be open to who I get, basically. Whoever it is I'm paired with, I'm going to put 100 percent in just like I have with Derek."

[Related: Tom Bergeron Talks 'Dancing With the Stars' Season 18 Changes]

She does, however, reveal that one particular pro (hint: Hough's brother from another mother) would probably be a good fit for her: "It would be interesting to be with Mark [Ballas], and it's because he's so close to Derek that I already feel like I trust his style and I know that they can work kind of close together," she said. "I think that as of now, just kind of not working with any of the other partners, who knows? Maybe they'll pair me up with somebody, and that's even more of a dream team. I don't know until it happens, but I do think that Mark and Derek are very similar, and for that reason I kind of assume I'll be a bit more comfortable."

On those hot "DWTS" costumes

The champion snowboarder also revealed that she and Hough are very involved in the creative process for their dance routines — and that includes the glitzy costumes. So, how do the brainstorming sessions work?

"After we kind of go through the creative process, we listen to our new music. We start to get inspired by it," she said. "He starts coming up with movements, and I start kind of playing around with it. We actually go, and we sit down with the costume designers and give them our ideas of what we're doing, so we actually get to come up with the costumes with the designers."

As for her dream "DWTS" costume, Purdy tells us she's not sure if she has one, but she does know one thing: "I like them pretty hot!"

She's also conscious of how her legs play into the costume designs: "As we're getting really creative with my legs and these costumes, like instead of just putting my legs out there — like, bam! prosthetic legs — we're trying to get creative, like really kind of creative ways to do it. Because why not? This is kind of a fun, creative process that nobody else even has the opportunity to play with, and we do. So we're constantly just thinking what can we do to make, to use these legs as an advantage versus a disadvantage."

[Related: 'DWTS' Dance Floor Dominance: Does Anyone Stand a Chance Against Meryl and Maks?]

On her stint on "Amazing Race," her boyfriend, and her favorite TV host

Purdy is still dating Daniel Gale, the boyfriend she teamed up with when she competed on "The Amazing Race" in 2012. Her busy schedule has prevented her from watching much TV since then, but that doesn't mean she wouldn't consider another go at the globe-trotting reality show.

"I haven't had any time to watch any TV," she said. "So I would almost say I haven't watched it. I actually haven't watched it since we've been on it. At one point I did think I would do it again, because it was fun. But at this point, you know I'm not sure. I'd have to just see."

So who's the best host, Tom Bergeron or Phil Keoghan? "They're both great," she said with a laugh. "I think they're both great people. ... You see them on TV and then you get to know them, and you realize, wow, the charity work they're involved in and how you're connected. ... They've been really open with how inspired they are by my story, and I appreciate that they have shared that with me. ... They're both really, really great guys."

[Related: Meet the Cast of 'Dancing With the Stars' Season 18]


On her inspirational Trust Your Power project

Purdy recently partnered with Duracell for a powerful video series, and the motivational speaker (yes, she does that, too) says she's grateful to be able to share "the message of overcoming adversity and finding that power within."

"It's kind of funny how that came about," she said. "I'm a motivational speaker, so at one point I did get the opportunity to do a speech and one of the higher-ups with Procter & Gamble actually was in the audience. So I think that kind of planted a bit of a seed. And then once snowboarding became a Paralympic sport and they are an Olympic sponsor, the ball just started to roll pretty quickly with that they wanted to partner with me."

See Purdy's Trust Your Power video:

"Dancing With the Stars" airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.