Reasons why Dancing with the Stars is totally fake

There's no denying that Dancing with the Stars is one of reality TV's guiltiest pleasures. Ever since the ABC show first premiered in 2005, it's featured some pretty notable celebs, all of whom have competed for the chance to take home the coveted Mirrorball Trophy. Throughout the show's long run, television personality Kim Kardashian shook her infamous derriere to a "Baby Got Back" mambo, actress-singer Zendaya performed a sultry Argentine tango at just 16 years old, and basically, it seems like DWTS has never delivered a dull moment. 

Despite the rigorous practice that goes into nailing these dance routines, viewers have long speculated that other parts of the show aren't quite as honest or straightforward as the producers make them out to be. That's why we're here to spill the tea. From benign fibs of spray-tanning abs to the more significant accusations of big wigs rigging the show behind the scenes, read on to find out all the reasons why Dancing with the Stars is totally fake.

Do some celebs have an unfair advantage?

While most people know Heather Morris as ditzy cheerleader Brittany Pierce on Glee, viewers of DWTS were shocked to find out that this triple threat talent actually had an impressive background in dance long before coming on the show in 2017. As a former backup dancer for Queen Bey herself, Morris certainly wasn't an amateur like her fellow celeb contestants, which led to complaints from disgruntled fans. According to an on-set source cited by Radar Online, even her cast members who shared the season 24 stage saw her background as "unfair" and a "huge advantage."

This wasn't the only time the show's producers threw in a competitor with an upper hand. Just months before joining the show in 2018, Instagram influencer and model Alexis Ren revealed during a shoot with Sports Illustrated that she was a classically trained ballerina who'd been gearing up to join a ballet company before striking her big modelling break. This obviously didn't sit too well with DWTS viewers, who aired out their frustrations on social media, according to Good Housekeeping. "Why isn't anybody complaining about her dancing experience as a ballet dancer?" one particular fan wrote in the comments section of a since-deleted Instagram photo, while another griped, "I thought [sic] this show was for stars that never danced before?"

Going solo with accusations

Rebellious soccer starlet Hope Solo is known to throw shade, so we're not really surprised she left season 13 of DWTS ready to dish some hot goss. Two years after competing on the show, the sports star released her 2013 memoir, Solo: A Memoir of Hope, in which she accused her former dancing partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, of slapping her across the face during one of their practices — in footage that has since been lost (via Today). That season, Chmerkovskiy also infamously blew up at judge Len Goodman after he poorly reviewed the duo's rumba. For her part, Solo went on to claim that the dance pro decided to cause this ongoing drama in order to ensure their safety after supposedly catching wind of a "secret memo" from producers wanting to cut the two from the show.

According to Entertainment Tonight, Chmerkovskiy denied Solo's allegations in 2015. And while an insider source told Today that "there was no memo stating who was going home," we can't help but wonder if it truly existed.

Behind-the-scenes manipulation

DWTS winner Alfonso Ribeiro, who competed during season 19, knows there's more than meets the eye when it comes to winning. While speaking with AOL BUILD about the show in 2016, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air alum revealed that "it's not about the best dancer." He went on to dish that it's more about the "journey" and "personality" — perhaps alluding to the show's tendency to push certain dramas and showmances. While speaking about his own win, Ribeiro explained how he used the show's point system to his advantage, saying, "There's a lot of manipulating going on with the producers, about what weeks you're doing which dances, and are you doing your best dances early or are you saving them for later." 

In Ribeiro's case, he knew exactly when to drop his classic Carlton Banks dance routine into the show, which ultimately cinched the win for himself and dance pro partner Witney Carson. "We had talked about the fact that we were going to do 'The Carlton' dance at some point," the actor revealed to People. "The producers and I went back and forth as to when we were going to do it." While most fans are under the impression that the dance selections are a surprise every week, it turns out the contestants do have some wiggle room for decisions, too.

This celeb refused to follow the script

Talk show host Wendy Williams is known to share her outspoken candor on The Wendy Williams Show and in her personal life, and seemed like the perfect, rambunctious candidate for Dancing with the Stars' twelfth season in 2011 — or so the producers thought. Although eliminated in week two, the former shock jock believed she would have stayed longer if she'd played along with what ABC wanted. While appearing on Today three years later, Williams let slip that the popular dancing competition is allegedly scripted. 

"When they put you in the room and you have to talk to the camera about your experience — you know, the one-on-one with the camera — I was letting people know that they script what you say," she said. Around that time, Williams claimed on her own show that she would have fared better on DWTS had she given "a little bit more sassafras … because that's how they were writing my script, to be Angry Black Woman."

It may be The Bachelor 2.0

It's no secret that reality TV showmances often occur to boost ratings. When Instagram influencer Alexis Ren was paired with dance pro Alan Bersten in season 27, the sparks seemingly flew immediately. After the brunette beauty shared her feelings about her partner in a confessional, Bersten did the same during a highly-publicized horseback ride and kiss the duo shared on camera. The two kept up the appearance of a happy new couple while the show was still on the air. However, things apparently quickly fizzled once the cameras stopped rolling.

A month after their first on-screen kiss, Entertainment Tonight caught up with Bersten, grilling him for an update about the blossoming romance. "You know, we're talking," he simply said. "She's in Japan right now … so we'll see." While his response kept things pretty hush-hush, co-star Witney Carson was quick to throw the entire relationship under the bus, saying, "It's like The Bachelor. It never really quite works after [the show is done]." At that point, fans understandably found the entire romance to be suspicious, causing a source close to the couple to tell Life & Style that the pair thought these claims were "crazy," saying, "They were always totally honest about their feelings for each other." Whether or not that was the case, it's worth noting that Bersten admitted just months later that their relationship "didn't end so well" during an appearance on Jana Kramer's Whine Down podcast (via Inquisitr).

Staging wardrobe malfunctions for extra points

Is it possible to stage wardrobe malfunctions, too? In 2017, TV host Vanessa Lachey performed an infamous quickstep routine alongside pro dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy after her skirt fell off only seconds into their dance. As People reported, the brunette starlet surprisingly didn't skip a beat and finished the dance with high scores and praise from the judges. Carrie Ann Inaba, for example, told her, "It was such a fantastic performance! You are the epitome of class and grace." While joking to host Tom Bergeron afterward, Lachey quipped, "I lose my skirt right in front of the judges. It looks like bribery … Hey, if it's for extra points, I'll take it."

While the judges on the show were forgiving, fans at home — and sources backstage — were singing a different tune. An insider claimed to Radar Online, "Vanessa's dance last night was flawless, but her skirt ripping off was totally staged … She isn't stupid. Before Vanessa was a celebrity in her own right, she was an entertainment news reporter, so she definitely knows how to make headlines."

Spilling the tea on the Tea Party

When season 11 of Dancing with the Stars threw politics into the equation, it resulted in some fishy under-the-table antics. Activist and author Bristol Palin — a.k.a. the daughter of Republican politician Sarah Palin — performed as one of the contestants while paired with dancing pro Mark Ballas. While Palin wasn't the strongest contender on the show, she still somehow managed to place third by the season's end (via People). However, HuffPost reports that her success on the show led to mass speculation that conservatives had found a way to cheat and cast an "infinite number of e-mail votes" for Palin. 

Naturally, Palin herself denied these conspiracy claims, firmly believing the effort she was putting in had kept her in the running. "I work my butt off here," she told the New York Post. "I rehearse every day. I am totally out of my element here. I think I deserve to be here." While hard work often does pay off, so does uncovering a glitch in the system. According to The Washington Post, a number of Tea Party supporters supposedly teamed up online for what was called "Operation Bristol," with one commenter writing, "Here's a hint: They don't have to be VALID email addresses to register them with ABC.com, there is apparently no validation process. The just have to be formatted like a valid email address … I'm voting like a democrat, all night long."

What's even the point of voting?

As it turns out, allegedly rigging votes in your favor isn't just reserved for political wins. Season 18 of DWTS featured Olympic ice dancer Meryl Davis, who, paired with Maksim Chmerkovskiy, won the sought-after Mirrorball Trophy in 2014. Although her background as an ice dancer certainly would have given her an advantage, fans found another reason to be enraged over Davis' win against competitor James Maslow and his partner, Peta Murgatroyd. According to TMZ, votes made through the DWTS Facebook voting app may have accidentally gone to the wrong team. Meanwhile, gossip site RumorFix received screenshots from viewers claiming their votes weren't even counted. 

While digging further, TMZ confirmed the glitch and proceeded to reach out to ABC. However, the network's rep claimed the votes had been counted correctly, with the media outlet noting, "The rep blew off the apparent error as a 'caching anomaly' that only affected a small amount of users." Interestingly enough, this wasn't the first time Davis found herself in the middle of a rigging scandal. The same year as her DWTS run, the ice dancer's win over Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir at the Sochi Olympics was shrouded by reports of an alleged deal between American and Russian figure skating judges to keep Team Canada from winning the gold (via The Star).

Is there jealousy between the pros?

Reality TV shows wouldn't exist without drama. Although DWTS is a dance competition, it still relies on the classic reality formula of cutting and editing behind-the-scenes moments to portray its stars in a certain light. One memorable example of this occurred during season 18, when an alleged feud broke out between contestant NeNe Leakes, her original pro dancing partner, Tony Dovolani, and fellow dance pro Derek Hough. After Leakes was paired to do a dance with Hough during "Switch-Up" week, she returned to Dovolani. However, the duo had an argument during practice over Dovolani's "jealousy," which led to Leakes storming out while telling Dovolani she didn't deserve his "attitude." 

Clearly upset over his portrayal, Dovolani spoke out to Us Weekly about the incident, blaming the tension on a "combination of exhaustion and good storytelling." Apparently, the Real Housewives star wasn't too thrilled either. As Dovolani went on, "She was overwhelmed. She didn't like that they were making me the villain. She saw the look on my face, and she said, 'Why are they doing this to you? You're the nice guy!' It was hard." As for Dovolani's relationship with Hough, the dancer later cleared the air on Today, saying, "That package … made it seem like I hate Derek. I don't hate Derek. He's an incredible choreographer."

Talking smack is reserved for the football field

Dancing with the Stars' apparent fakery isn't a new phenomenon spanning across recent seasons — it's actually been a talked-about issue for a while. Former football star Emmitt Smith, who won the show back in season three, has also spoken openly about the ways in which the famous dancing competition reportedly cuts clips and dabbles in scripting. Although he had a reputation for being an intimidating football player, Smith never showcased his adversary side on DWTS. However, fans may remember that Smith appeared to be "talking smack" about his competition during a camera confessional clip, in which the show's producers asked him certain questions and, to spice things up, made it sound like he wasn't "intimidated by an actor or Indy racer or speed skater," according to an interview with Esquire

While clearing the air about the incident, Smith told the publication, "First of all, the show's producers cut it to make it look like I was going after those guys. If you know anything about me, I've never been a trash-talker. That's not even part of my DNA." He added, "I have a great deal of respect for their dancing as well as their athleticism and acting abilities. And they didn't even show the entire clip. That's the power of cutting and editing."

Are the judges biased?

Sure, we've learned that fans may be able to rig votes for their fave contestants, but is the judges' scoring fixed, too? Season 21 winner Bindi Irwin, who's also known as the daughter of the late Steve Irwin, faced outrage from fans during her run with partner Derek Hough. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the backlash started in 2015 when Irwin repeatedly received perfect scores from the judges, one of whom happened to be Julianne Hough — Derek's sister. "How is Derek's sibling a judge for this competition? Where is the integrity in that?" one viewer tweeted, while another called her scoring "biased and ridiculous." With the judges apparently ignoring Irwin's mistakes, and the actress herself emotionally paying tribute to her late father, it seemed like the focus was more on the storytelling than her talent.

The negative press unfortunately didn't stop there for poor Irwin, and continued when she was welcomed back as a guest judge in 2019. Per the Daily Mail, the Aussie was branded as "too sweet" and "fake" by Twitter users, while others asked her to be more natural as a TV persona. This resulted in 20-year-old Irwin leaving the judging panel before the finale. Given the star's young age, we think fans of the show may have been a bit harsh with her.

If you can't tone it, tan it

Have you ever wondered how every Dancing with the Stars celeb appears to have a perfect glow and seemingly toned abs? Well, it's all fake tanner, of course! During an interview with InStyle in 2015, the show's head makeup artist, Zena Shteysel, revealed that the cast always participates in what are called "Spray-Tan Sundays," when "everyone comes in on Sunday to get tanned." Explaining that this trick makes "everything look flawless," Shteysel noted that some of the benefits include covering up bruises from dance practice, as well as contouring abs.

However, that doesn't mean that there haven't been some pretty fantastic tanning mishaps in the show's history. In 2017, Big Brother star Hughie Maughan accidentally used leg tanner on his face, which resulted in a comically orange look (via RTÉ). Social media users immediately zeroed in on the contestant's over-the-top bronzed appearance rather than his dancing ability, with fans making comparisons to Ross Geller's own tanning faux-pas on Friends and Robert Downey Jr.'s controversial blackface performance in Tropic Thunder.