The Untold Truth Of Derek Hough

Derek Hough was just 11 when he began focusing on dance. At age 12, he and his sister, Julianne Hough, moved from Salt Lake City, Utah, to London, where they both attended the famed Italia Conti performing arts school, training under the tutelage of some of the world's top dance coaches. After participating in various dance competitions, his ballroom skills caught the attention of "Dancing With the Stars" producers. He was in his early 20s when he was hired as a pro dancer on the show in 2007.

Before becoming a "DWTS" judge in 2020, Hough won the mirrorball trophy a record six times and received 11 Emmy nominations for choreography (he's won three). In the midst of all that, he carved out a career as an actor. After making his feature film debut in the film "Make Your Move," he held a recurring role in the TV drama "Nashville." He's also performed extensively onstage, including Radio City Music Hall's "Spring Spectacular," and starred in a production of "Footloose" in London's West End. His unique combination of skills all came into play when he joined a cast that included Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Martin Short, and Harvey Fierstein for NBC's live television musical "Hairspray Live!" in 2016.

While he's most associated with his years on "DWTS," there's a lot more to this ballroom pro than meets the eye. For proof, read on to delve into the untold truth of Derek Hough.

He appeared in the first Harry Potter movie — as an extra

Speaking with Us Weekly in 2021, Derek Hough revealed various facts that fans don't know about him. Among these, he divulged, "I'm an extra in the first 'Harry Potter' movie." As Hough told Entertainment Weekly, he and his sister, Julianne, were among hundreds of youngsters recruited from British theater schools to play the students at Hogwarts in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," released in 2001. "Since I was a blond kid, I would be a stand-in for Draco Malfoy," Hough recalled, referencing the young villain played by Tom Felton. "That was my claim to fame!" 

Hough revealed that viewers can catch a quick glimpse of him in the film. "There's a specific scene where Hermione is leaving for Christmas while carrying her suitcase," he explained. "We pass in the hallway. I was holding an owl. That's my big moment. I'm right in the camera's viewpoint, so every time you look at Hermione, you can see me, clear as day."

His sister can also be seen in the movie cheering on Harry Potter during the Quidditch match. "She had a crush on Daniel Radcliffe," Hough recalled. "She wrote him a love letter and sent him a teddy bear. They were like 12 years old." Neither of the Hough siblings appeared in subsequent "Harry Potter" films, though, since they were too busy traveling to various dance competitions in the years that followed.

He almost killed Rod Stewart while Queen Elizabeth II watched

In that Us Weekly interview, Hough dropped a revelation about his stage debut, which was about as auspicious as it gets. "My first stage role was the Giant in a 'Jack and the Beanstalk' pantomime at Windsor Castle," Hough revealed.

That wasn't the only time he performed for royalty. As Hough told Bravo, he was just 17 when he was among the dancers performing before a crowd of 80,000 people — including Queen Elizabeth II and other members of Britain's royal family — at a concert outside Buckingham Palace in celebration of the Queen's Golden Jubilee. While meeting with the choreographer, Hough learned he'd be required to do a backflip — something he couldn't actually do, which he explained. After being told that his services were no longer required, Hough insisted that he'd misunderstood and assured the choreographer that he was indeed a backflip expert.

The flip was to occur as he and the other dancers stepped it up while rocker Rod Stewart sang, with Her Majesty watching the show. According to Hough, Stewart's timing was a tiny bit off just as Hough launched into his first flip, leading to disaster. "And I pretty much land on top of him, knocking stuff around, almost killing him," he recalled. "I'll never forget, I came off, 'Guys, I almost killed Rod Stewart, in front of the Queen, in front of 80,000 people.'"

He was in a punk band with fellow DWTS dancer Mark Ballas

In addition to dancing and being a movie extra, Derek Hough's early entertainment pursuits also involved music. "I was in a punk-rock band," Hough told Extra. "I was the drummer and we had long hair and our fingernails painted black and the whole thing."

His bandmate was Mark Ballas, Hough's fellow "Dancing With the Stars" pro and friend since childhood (he and his sister lived with Ballas and his family while in London). "We went through a punk-rock phase and we were, like, 'We need some sort of Emo name,'" Hough recalled in an interview with Deseret News. "I drew a logo with two A's and we said, 'We should be something with two A's. ... And not Alcoholics Anonymous.' We didn't know what that meant at the time." As they spitballed potential band names, eventually, a contender emerged. "He said, 'Almost.' I said, 'Amy.' And that was it." According to Hough, Almost Amy went through a variety of musical and sartorial phases, following their evolving interests. "We would be, like goth, black hair, makeup, fingernails painted, baggy jeans," Hough recalled. "We would show up all skatered out."

After the two had become famous for twirling celebrities around each week on "DWTS," Almost Amy was signed by Hollywood Records in 2008. Due to copyright issues, however, the group's name was changed to Ballas Hough Band, releasing its first (and only) album in 2009. 

He's shared strategies to prevent migraines

Given the demands of Derek Hough's showbiz career, experiencing a debilitating headache on the night of a stage show or a "Dancing With the Stars" performance is certainly far from ideal — something he addressed during an interview with Healthline. "We all know there's nothing worse than having a headache or migraine during the day," he said. "For me, if I'm about to go live on stage or a tour or on television ... I'm creating it ... [and if] you're foggy, you got a headache, it just kills the whole the creative process."

To help those who suffer from headaches — particularly migraines — Hough partnered with pain reliever Excedrin in 2023 to launch the Head Care Club, a campaign instructing how to proactively prevent headaches from happening. 

As part of the initiative, Hough was featured in a series of videos, sharing various movements intended as a preventative measure. "I do a variety of regular exercises to support my head health," Hough said in one of these, listing such activities as jogging, walking, swimming, and, of course, dancing. As Hough explained, the type of exercise he was suggesting wasn't just for athletes or professional ballroom dancers but could be utilized by people of any fitness level. "Movement doesn't have to be intense to be beneficial," he added.  

Derek Hough wrote a New York Times bestseller

Thanks to the success of "Dancing With the Stars," Derek Hough was able to capitalize on his stardom by landing a book deal with Harper Collins. That book arrived in 2015, "Taking the Lead," boasting the subtitle "Lessons from a Life in Motion." In the book, Hough shared what he'd learned in his years as a professional ballroom dancer, along with recounting defining moments in his life and sharing some behind-the-scenes secrets of "DWTS." ABC News published an excerpt, a Q&A section in which Hough answered questions that fans had submitted. Among the questions he answered was one asking him to single out his favorite celebrity judge to have appeared on the "DWTS." He responded, "Cher." He explained, "The first time she gave a score, she didn't say the number, she said her name. Carrie Ann says, 'Seven;' Bruno says, 'Seven,' and she says, 'Cher!' I just thought that was absolutely priceless and hilarious."

Interviewed by WCBS, Hough explained the underlying philosophy that formed the bedrock of his New York Times bestseller, part memoir, part motivational instruction manual for life. "The essence of the book that I really want to try to capture is, what if life isn't happening to you, but it's happening for you," he said, "and when I reflect and look back at those moments in my life, they were very important, very pivotal in my trajectory and where I was going."

He firmly believes that failure leads to success

Having experienced plenty of ups and downs in his career, Derek Hough has embraced the age-old axiom –If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. "We're going to experience failure as a part of succeeding. Failure is something to embrace and to look forward to almost in a way because failure is a teacher. Failure is the thing that is designed to help us realize, 'That didn't work. I need to change my strategy and approach,'" Hough said during an appearance on "Power Players with Dan Clark."

While failing may bring about some valuable lessons, Hough also acknowledged that fear of failure prevents people from making attempts that could change their lives for the better. His advice: Just do it, even if you don't know what you're doing. "Honestly, I felt like I was just kind of faking it," he told The Salt Lake Tribune of his early seasons on "Dancing With the Stars." Adding, "Trying to prove myself to my partners."

Of course, swatting away failure in pursuit of success required him to develop a belief in himself, a conviction that he actually could achieve what he was setting out to do. When he was younger, he explained during an appearance on "The Jennifer Hudson Show," he didn't feel he deserved to win until he won, and he'd worked hard to overcome that kind of thinking. "When you start to realize that you already are enough, you already are," he said.

He and future wife Hayley Erbert fell in love on Dancing With the Stars

In August 2023, Derek Hough married Hayley Erbert in a lavish outdoor ceremony held in California's Monterey County. "We got married right in front of this mother tree that's surrounded by all these smaller trees," Erbert told People. "They drop all the seeds, and it plants kind of like an army of children to protect the mother. The symbolism of it was beautiful. We're here, planting our seeds to grow our family."

Hough and his future bride met in 2014 when he and his sister, Julianne Hough, hired her as a dancer for their tour. One of the producers of "Dancing With the Stars" caught a performance and was impressed enough with her abilities that Erbert was hired as a pro dancer on the show; she joined in its 21st season in 2015 as a member of the show's dancing troupe. Hough and Erbert reportedly started dating sometime throughout that season, but the two kept their romance a secret until going Instagram official in 2017. 

According to Hough, it was being quarantined together during the pandemic — a situation that caused numerous relationships to crater — that actually made their relationship even more solid than it already was. "We came together, we got closer," he said during an appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," adding, "We grew as a couple tremendously. We even started a YouTube channel together, cooking."

He wrote and released a love song right before his wedding

While Derek Hough's band, Almost Amy/Hough Ballas Band, may have quietly broken up, that didn't squash his musical aspirations. That became evident with the release of his solo single "Hold Back Time." The song held very special meaning to Hough, given that he released it shortly before his wedding to Hayley Erbert. He shared a snippet of the track on Instagram, accompanied by an animated video of a bride and groom running on a dock and then leaping off into the water. "It's been a while since I've written a song," Hough wrote in the caption. 

The song's lyrics are nothing short of a love letter to Erbert. "Don't be nervous about the future / We've got love and we won't let it go," he sings. "You make the whole world disappear / When you are standing here / I'm caught in forever with you / It's a feeling I don't want to lose."

As fans of Hough's music are aware, "Hold Back Time" is actually his fourth single, following 2021's "Around You" (from the soundtrack of "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series"), 2017's "Hold On," and 2016's "Kairos."

Michael Buble offered to sing at Derek Hough's wedding

The wedding of Derek Hough and Hayley Erbert was star-studded, with a guest list that included his sister, Julianne Hough, actor Freida Pinto, TV personality Maria Menounos, gymnast Shawn Johnson, "The Vampire Diaries" alum Nina Dobrev, snowboarder Shaun White, "Shark Tank" star Robert Herjavec and wife Kym, and "America's Funniest Videos" host Alfonso Ribeiro. One expected guest, however, was not in attendance: Canadian crooner Michael Bublé.

That was because Bublé — a close friend of Hough's — had previously offered to be the couple's wedding singer. Hough recounted how it all went down in an interview with ET. "Yesterday in rehearsals, he literally walked up, and he had his beautiful newborn baby in his hand, and he was holding like a football — it was hilarious, but he was just like, 'Hey so when are we getting married?'" Hough recalled. "And I was like, 'Uh?' And he was like, 'Where? Where is it gonna happen?' And I'm like, 'I don't know yet!' He was like, 'Well whenever it is, I'm there.' So, it's done."

Appearing on "Live with Kelly and Ryan," Bublé confirmed Hough's account. "I will do anything for Derek Hough," Bublé declared (although, for whatever reason, he didn't attend). Not only are the two pals, but Bublé also tapped Hough to direct two of his music videos: the video for his 2022 single "Higher" and, a few years before that, the 2017 video for "I Believe in You."

He's seriously into free diving

In a 2019 interview with People, Derek Hough revealed that he and his future wife, Hayley Erbert, shared a love of thrill-seeking experiences. "That's one thing she learned, there's no real like chilling out or sitting down," Hough said. "It's like, 'Alright babe, let's go swim with sharks, we're going to go swim with whales, helicopter rides, scuba diving, find a waterfall and let's go jump off of it.'"

Hough elaborated on the couple's exploits during a visit to "The Jennifer Hudson Show" in 2022. "We do some crazy stuff. We do some adventures," he said. "We love free diving. You know, where you go down 30, 40 feet." What made his new pastime particularly ironic, he admitted, was that he used to be deathly afraid of being submerged in water. "I used to hate the water, especially the ocean," he said. "Then one year, I call it my year of water, I went to Tonga, I swam with humpback whales, swam with dolphins. I was living in the water for months, and I fell in love with it ... Once I understood the ocean, once I understood the creatures, I loved it."

In an excerpt from his memoir, per ABC News, he revealed an even more extreme underwater excursion on his bucket list. "I want to try cave diving — kind of like scuba diving, but you go into these massive caves underwater with a flashlight," he said. "It would be terrifying but incredible."

A former DWTS dance partner stirred up controversy with her remarks about an 'affair'

During the seventh season of "Dancing With the Stars" in 2008, Derek Hough was partnered with actor and TV host Brooke Burke. They ended up winning the mirrorball trophy, while Burke was subsequently hired to co-host the series.

More than a decade after they danced their way to victory, Burke appeared on former "DWTS" dancer Cheryl Burke's podcast, "Sex, Lies. and Spray Tans," where she revealed that she was seriously tempted to have a fling with Hough. "I was crushing on Derek for sure," Burke divulged. "Had I not been married ... I would have had an affair with Derek. But listen, let me tell you why: You are intertwined with someone's body when you're not a dancer. There is no way that I have ever been so connected — besides with a lover or a husband — than I was with Derek." 

After her remarks made headlines, Burke felt it was necessary to clarify her comments. "For me, our time in the ballroom, there was so much chemistry. It was romantic, it was challenge, it was struggle, it was triumph, it was fear. It was all these things that a couple goes through," she explained in an interview with E! News. "So, for me, that was very intimate and at times, very romantic, especially during performances like the Rumba and just the romance of storytelling through our bodies. That's what I meant."

Derek Hough and Hayley Erbert recreated a Disney dance in quarantine

While Derek Hough and Hayley Erbert grew closer as they quarantined together during the pandemic, one of the activities that helped tighten their bond was dancing. 

That was evident in the 2021 edition of "The Disney Family Singalong," when the couple recreated a classic dance number from a beloved Disney animated film. With Hough costumed as Beast and Erbert as Belle, the dancing duo performed a routine set to "Be My Guest" from "Beauty and the Beast." As a bonus, Hough's sister, Julianne, also made an appearance via Zoom.

Not only did they choreograph and perform, but the couple also filmed themselves at their home. "It was just the two of us too, so everything had to be mounted up high or put on a tripod somewhere using a GoPro," Hough explained in an interview with Awards Daily. "It was really fun. It was hilarious because we were just running around our house in 'Beauty and the Beast' costumes. But for me, being able to entertain and bring a little bit of joy in this very scary uncertain time was the highlight."

Dancing With the Stars isn't the only TV dance show he's judged

While "Dancing With the Stars" is the one TV show with which Derek Hough is most clearly associated, it actually isn't the only dance-related show in which he's been involved. After leaving "DWTS" in 2015, Hough signed on as a judge for "World of Dance," an amateur dance competition created by Jennifer Lopez, who also served as a judge. Joining Hough and Lopez on the judging panel was singer Ne-Yo, with Jenna Dewan (who, at the time, still went by her married name, Jenna Dewan Tatum) as host and mentor to competitors. Making its debut in 2017 on NBC, the series was canceled in 2021 after four seasons.

In an interview with Forbes, Hough discussed what it was like to have made the move from a dancer being judged — as he was on "Dancing With the Stars" — to being the one doing the judging. "It's not painful for me to critique [the dancers]," Hough said. "I just try to remind some of them, that they're good, but it's not just about being good; it's about being smart with choreography and music and all the creative elements. You have to have all of that, not just the dancing."

In 2020, Hough brought his judging experience with him when he returned to "Dancing With the Stars" — not as a pro dancer, however, but now as a judge himself.

He takes it on the road with a live touring act — both with and without sister Julianne

When Derek Hough isn't writing books, free-diving in the ocean, or judging dancers, he's likely to be touring with his live stage show. In fact, Hough has toured with multiple shows over the years, including 2017's "Move: Beyond," in which he shared the stage with sister Julianne Hough.

In 2019, he hit the road with his own 60-city solo tour, "Derek Hough: Live! The Tour." Promoting the show in an interview with Brit + Co, Hough revealed what fans could expect. "There's going to be live music, live percussion, and the most incredible dancers from all over the country — actually, dancers that competed on 'World of Dance,'" he said. "It's going to be an epic night of nonstop energy. I'm very, very excited about it."

In 2023, Hough unveiled a new show, "Derek Hough: Symphony of Dance." Prior to embarking on the tour, he rehearsed for three intense weeks, which he pointed out wasn't really a whole lot of time for so expansive an undertaking. "You know, it takes Broadway shows months to put on a show, and we did it in three weeks. So, it's extraordinary what we've done," he told The Pitch. "I've done a lot of shows, and I've created a lot, but this one is, in my opinion, the one I'm most proud of. And it's the most ambitious one I've ever done — ever."

He's floated a genius idea for a special all-star season of DWTS

In his move from the dance floor to the judge's table on "Dancing With the Stars," Derek Hough brought along some ideas for the show — one of which was an all-star season consisting entirely of celebs who'd already won the mirrorball trophy. "I think that it'd be a really, really competitive season," Hough told Variety of his concept. He also floated a few potential returnees he'd like to see face off against each other on the dance floor, singling out his former partners Nicole Scherzinger and Bindi Irwin. "I think Rashad Jennings would love to come back," Hough continued. "Donny Osmond, I know he'd probably love to come back too. Even Jordan Fisher, who was fantastic."

If such a season were to become a reality, would he follow suit and make a return to dancing on the show? "I feel like I've done that: I really squeezed the juice out of that you, if you will. I love being a judge," he said, but left the door open just a crack, adding, "I never say never because at the end of the day, I love to entertain, I love to perform and if it is something that audiences wants to see." Here's hoping!