Julianne Hough: From Utah To Hollywood

Julianne Hough was born to be a star. The multi-talented blonde bombshell got her start in dance at a young age before making it big on "Dancing With the Stars" and crossing over into the music, film, and wellness industries. It should come as no surprise that the Utah-born triple threat has always imagined herself here. According to Cosmopolitan, she mapped out this very journey for herself at age 10. "By the time I was 18, I wanted to be a professional dancer," she told the outlet. "When I was 19, I wanted to be a singer: At that age, I had my first record out. I said by the time I'm 22, I wanted to be a movie star."

Between high-profile romances, dancing feats, and taking over show business, Hough has had quite the career, but she's never lost her passion for dance. Still, her relationship with it –- and herself –- has changed throughout her journey. "I don't second-guess myself," she told Self in 2013. "Whatever decision I make is the right decision because I make it be the right decision. I could say, 'Oh, I probably shouldn't have done that,' but screw that. I've got to learn from it." As such, she continues to be at the top of her game. This is the transformation of Julianne Hough.

She is one of five kids

Born in Orem, Utah, Julianne Hough was the youngest of five kids -– 14 if you count step siblings -– and a career in entertainment was always in the cards for the family. "We were bred to perform," Hough told Women's Health, adding that her and her siblings took everything from ballet and tap, to vocal and instrument lessons — and they even had a family singing group that performed at local events.

Julianne isn't the only famous one in the family, either. Her brother Derek, who's three years her senior, is also a world-class dancer and they got their start together at a young age. When Julianne was only 10, she moved with Derek to London to study ballroom dance at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, per People. They lived with family friends and international ballroom champions Shirley and Corky Ballas and adhered to a strict schedule.

Living far from their family and friends, Julianne was forced to grow up at a young age to fit in with the adult-oriented dance scene. "When I look back, I think it's so sad I have no pictures of me with a cute, bare, 10-year-old face," she admitted to People. Still, their hard work paid off, and Derek Hough told the outlet he's grateful their parents encouraged them to get into the performing arts. "I think it's great that they saw an amazing opportunity," he said. "That is the reason we are here today."

Julianne Hough was always dancing

Julianne Hough was set up for a long career after attending the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts for five years with her brother Derek. According to Closer Weekly, she became the youngest dancer ever to be named Junior World Latin Champion and International Latin Youth Champion at Blackpool Dance Festival at the mere age of 15. After completing her studies at the prestigious London arts school, she returned to the United States where she attended school in Utah and Las Vegas, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, before graduating –- although it wasn't easy.

"I had a hard time with bullying," Hough admitted to Teen Vogue in 2011. "I ate lunch in the bathroom. I'd get invited to parties, and instead it would be these abandoned houses." Thankfully, she wasn't far from superstardom. In 2007, she moved to L.A. where she picked up a number of gigs, including an appearance on short-lived reality series "Show Me the Money," before she got her big break on the "Dancing With the Stars" tour after a dancer got injured, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

By 2007, she found herself dancing with the stars

After touring with "Dancing With the Stars," Julianne Hough caught the attention of the show's producers who invited her to join the cast for Season 4 in 2007. Hough competed alongside short-track speed skater and decorated Olympian Apolo Ohno, dancing their way to the finale and taking home the Mirrorball Trophy. Julianne, who was only 18-years-old at the time, became the youngest dancer to ever take home the title alongside Ohno, who was also the then-youngest celebrity winner at 25-years-old.

To television viewers across the country, it was the first time they had seen Julianne Hough, but as she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal back in 2007, it was only the start. "It kind of came as a surprise but this has been my dream since I was 5 years old," she said. "I'm very goal-driven, ambitious, and I don't like to fail. I'm willing to sacrifice a lot to pursue my dreams."

Her time on the show was a hit from the start

After winning her first season on "Dancing With the Stars," Julianne Hough did the unthinkable: she scored another consecutive win alongside successful race car driver Hélio Castroneves. "I have said from the beginning, it's not about me winning," Hough told Good Morning America (via Reality TV World). "It's about my partners winning. [Hélio has] come so far and I'm so proud of him. We've said from day one all we're going to do is have fun and just do the best he can do and it got him the trophy." That wasn't all it scored them either -– the duo earned Hough a nomination for Outstanding Choreography for their mambo routine at the 2008 Primetime Emmy Awards.

Hough went on to compete alongside DJ Adam Carolla on Season 6, although they could not snatch the Mirrorball Trophy after their Paso Doble earned the lowest score of the night. Still, the wisecracking Carolla had nothing but good things to say about his partner, telling People, "I lost 20 pounds of fat, I gained 105 pounds of angel. I love this girl." And even after her first loss in the competition, Hough remained in good spirits, telling the outlet, "America got to see who I got to know ... I gained 200 pounds of great guy."

She turned her sights on music

As her star was rising on television, Julianne Hough was busy focusing on another passion: music. In between winning two seasons of "Dancing With the Stars," Hough traveled to Nashville to begin building her country music career. In 2007, she released her debut single "Will You Dance With Me," which peaked on the country charts even without radio promotion. Her self-titled debut album, featuring singles "That Song in My Head" and "My Hallelujah Song," arrived in May 2008, hitting No. 1 on the country album charts. Although the record received mixed reviews, Slant Magazine noted that "her enthusiasm and charm are palpable throughout the record."

Although she definitely owed some credit to dance for her crossover success, Hough told CMT that music had always been in her heart. "I grew up listening to country music," she said. "The fans, the music, the artists –- they are all so real. It's so attractive to me." That summer, she toured with Brad Paisley, Chuck Wicks, and Jewel, and even went on to score Top New Artist and Top New Female Vocalist at the 2009 Academy of Country Music Awards.

Julianne Hough eventually left the show where she got her start

With her music career on the rise, Julianne Hough kept busy in 2008, competing on Season 7 of "Dancing With the Stars" alongside Disney Channel star Cody Linley. The pair came in ninth place, and Hough teased that the season might be her last. "I really, really want to focus on the music and, you know, kind of be taken seriously a little bit," she revealed to Ryan Seacrest's radio show, per Reality Blurred. "I think it's hard being on 'Dancing With the Stars' and be singing, and kind of get that confusion."

However, Hough did return for Season 8 alongside her then-boyfriend country singer Chuck Wicks, whom she met on tour with Brad Paisley. The real life couple came in eighth place in 2009 and their relationship shortly fizzled out after, with a source telling People that the split "was mutual. They needed some time apart." Season 9 might have marked Hough's last time competing for the Mirrorball Trophy, but "Dancing With the Stars" would remain close to her heart –– and her career –– over the years.

Her music career came to a halt

After the success of her debut album, Julianne Hough was full speed ahead on releasing her followup record in 2010 –– until it came to a screeching halt. She released the lead single "Is That So Wrong," which was inspired by her breakup with Chuck Wicks, however it failed to perform on the charts.

In an interview with The Boot in 2012, Hough revealed that her planned sophomore record was "completely done," however her bustling film career had taken priority. "I feel like when I have the time to focus on it, and when I feel like it is the right time, [I'll return to] my music," she explained. "I love performing. If I'm not performing, there's something missing in my life." Although she hasn't released a new musical project as of this writing, she wouldn't leave her singing aspirations behind completely –– but more on that later.

She made her big screen debut in Burlesque

In 2010, Julianne Hough made her film debut in Christina Aguilera and Cher's movie musical "Burlesque" as Georgia, a dancer who works at the nightclub. The film was a box office success, grossing $90 million, although Hough admitted dancing for a movie was a lot more difficult than her reality competition days.

"On 'Dancing With the Stars,' you learn the dance, you dance the dance on TV, and then you're done," she told Reuters in 2010. "'Burlesque' was months of preparation, and each number was shot over and over again, over 16-hour days." Still, she admitted the experience was incomparable. "When I sang 'Diamonds Are A Girls' Best Friend,' sliding down those beads was probably the coolest thing I've ever done," she told the outlet. "And the most painful! I had welts on my sides, my legs, my arms, and my neck for weeks!" Ouch!

To be fair, it wasn't exactly her first role. In 2001, she made an uncredited appearance in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" as a Gryffindor student. She revealed that she had a crush on the franchise's titular star Daniel Radcliffe in a 2017 interview with People. "I gave him a love note and a Beanie Baby for Valentine's Day," she said, adding that Radcliffe may not have even received it.

In 2011, she starred in the Footloose remake

Julianne Hough scored her first lead role in 2011's remake of "Footloose," playing Ariel Moore, the wild-child daughter of Reverend Shawn Moore (Dennis Quaid), who falls for the new-in-town rebel Ren McCormack. Although it marked her first time at the top of the bill, Hough told Collider she was not intimidated. "Honestly, challenging myself is my favorite thing to do in the world," she explained. "Starting from scratch somewhere is always a little nerve-wracking, but I feel like when it's scary, I should probably do it."

Although it wasn't a musical, it certainly was a movie with good music. The film grossed $63 million worldwide on a $24 million budget, and certainly primed Hough for a successful film career. "Honestly, I think this is the perfect movie that I could have done for breaking into the [acting] world," she told Collider. "I'm not stepping out of my fans' comfort zone too much, 'cause you still see me dance, but it does give me room to actually act." She did have to tone down some of those pro moves for the camera, though. "[The director Craig Brewer] was like, 'You know, you're supposed to be 17 from Bomont, and not a professional dancer, right,'" Hough recalled. "I was like, 'I know! But once the music comes on, I just want to dance!'"

Julianne Hough became a big screen mainstay

Julianne Hough's next lead role came in Adam Shankman's film adaptation of jukebox musical "Rock of Ages" in 2012, where she starred alongside Hollywood heavy hitters like Russell Brand, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Mary J. Blige. Hough played Sherrie, a small town girl who moves to the city to pursue her dreams of becoming a singer. To say she had a lot in common with the character was an understatement. "I am pretty similar to Sherrie in the fact that everybody has a dream, they go for it, they are ambitious," she told Collider.

Although "Rock of Ages" wasn't a box office smash, Hough wouldn't stay quiet for long, starring in 2013's "Safe Haven" with Josh Duhamel, based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. The movie, which arrived just in time for Valentine's Day, grossed $97 million worldwide. The film allowed her to explore a darker side as an actress. "This movie is about second chances and everybody really does deserve to find somebody who gives them joy and happiness," she told Cosmopolitan. "So it was challenging, I felt very safe."

Her next big film was 2016's "Dirty Grandpa," where she played the aggressive fiancée of Zac Efron's character. The raunchy comedy was not well-received, to say the least, earning Hough a nomination for Worst Supporting Actress at the 2017 Razzie Awards. Yikes.

She showed us all she's still the one we want

After a few box office bombs, Julianne Hough came back strong in 2016 when she nabbed the lead role of Sandy in Fox's "Grease Live" musical. Her role in the musical event even scored her the endorsement of none other than Olivia Newton-John, who played the character in the original 1978 film. "I met her, and she was like, 'Oh you're a perfect Sandy,'" Hough told Variety in 2016. "That took some weight off my shoulders a little bit."

As a lifelong performer, it was not a role Hough took lightly. "When I was a kid, my parents wouldn't let us watch the PG-13 movies. When they were gone ... I'd go downstairs to the basement and put on 'Grease,'" she recalled to Variety. "I'd do the dances and songs and try to be Sandy as long as I could –– until the dance scene, and then I went into full-blown Cha Cha."

The special was well-received by critics, scoring a 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Hough and Aaron Tveit, who portrayed Danny, even took home an MTV Movie & TV Award for Best Musical Moment with their performance of "You're the One That I Want."

She returned to her home on Dancing With the Stars

Julianne Hough returned to her roots in 2014, joining "Dancing With the Stars" as a judge. "[The show] has always been a part of my family," she told Good Morning America. "That's where it all began for me, so ... It just felt like the right time and the right opportunity." Sitting alongside longtime judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Bruno Tonioli, and Len Goodman, Hough strived to give helpful critiques. "I'm known to be a little bit honest and a little bit direct, but I think that's my role as a judge in this," she told GMA, adding that she had a unique perspective because, unlike the other judges, she also competed alongside the celebrities on the show.

Hough served as a judge through Season 24, however she didn't return for the show's 25th season in 2017. She did, however, make a special appearance behind the judges' table for the Season 30 finale in 2021 after her brother Derek Hough contracted COVID-19.

Even though she's no longer on the series, she told ET that she remains "a fan, just like everybody who watches." She told the outlet in 2017, "I watch the show now that I'm home and, you know, I have favorites and everything which is great because I could never really have favorites. I had to really kind of separate that [as a judge]."

She had a short stint on America's Got Talent

After exiting the judges' panel on "Dancing With the Stars," Julianne Hough kept busy. In 2019, she joined "America's Got Talent" as a judge for Season 14 but the gig did not last long. In November of the same year, it was announced that the contracts for Hough and fellow new judge Gabrielle Union would not be renewed, according to Variety.

Following the news, Variety reported that both Hough and Union "received excessive notes on their physical appearance" and, in particular, was picked apart to the point that it "impacted her morale and led to tensions." Union in particular called out the reality show's "toxic work environment," leading to an investigation from SAG-AFTRA, according to USA Today.

While she remained vague about her time on the show, Hough did come out in support of Union, telling People, "I believe that the paradigm of the workplace and how you do business and work with people now, it's shifting, and I think that the people that really want to see that change happen are going to authentically and positively ... do that."

She launched her own wellness brand KINRGY

After dabbling in music, movies, and professional dancing, Julianne Hough decided to go back to the basics: movement. In 2018, she launched her own fitness method KINRGY, which she toured alongside Oprah the following year. The method, she told The Riveter, "is specifically designed to help you connect to your truth and to yourself." The brand hosts online classes and occasional in-person events, according to its website, focusing on a "fusion of dance fitness and energy healing."

The decision to create the company came as Hough considered her "legacy," she told The Riveter, and processed "letting go of an old idea of what [she] thought [her] life was supposed to be." She added, "I can still act, I can still sing, but I'm getting rid of the idea that this is the way it was supposed to look, and actually accept that my life has evolved into this." As of this writing, her method has been featured by Women's Health, Goop, and Tony Robbins, according to their website.

She came out as 'not straight'

In 2019, Julianne Hough got candid about her sexuality in an interview with Women's Health. The veteran reality TV star revealed that she was honest with her then-husband, Brooks Laich, who was caught off guard by her confession. "I [told him], 'You know I'm not straight, right?' And he was like, 'I'm sorry, what?' I was like, 'I'm not. But I choose to be with you.'"

Hough now identifies as queer, and explained to The New York Post in 2022 that she hadn't planned to come out in such a public way. That said, she noted that opening up about her sexuality just felt like the thing to do. "I didn't really have a moment of like, 'I'm going to do this.' It just was," she said. "I just said something and, you know, it just came out that way. And it is my truth."

Hough went on to reveal that her religious upbringing might have been a hindrance to speaking her truth, but luckily she had a lot of support. She told The New York Post, "Everybody's [coming-out] experience is different, and I come from a Mormon background where ... it hasn't been looked at as something that's accepted. But I know that my parents, my friends, my family love me, and they're proud of me. And so I had a really good experience."

She was open about her experience with endometriosis

In 2020, Julianne Hough opened about her endometriosis diagnosis when she graced the cover of Women's Health. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, endometriosis "affects an estimated 2 to 10 percent of American women between the ages of 25 and 40," affecting the uterine lining and often meaning women who have it will experience "infertility or difficulty getting pregnant."

As she told People, she grew up thinking she simply had menstrual cramps and didn't think anything of it — until she was rushed to the emergency room in 2008 while filming "Dancing With the Stars." According to another People article, the result of the incident ended in having to get her appendix removed. While she initially struggled, she told Women's Health that viewing it "as part of her rather than a 'problem'" allowed her to look at things differently. "I feel I've created a more peaceful and harmonious relationship with it," she told the outlet.

Although it means she will experience difficulty having children, the optimistic starlet trusts the journey. "I've always put it out there that it's going to be okay," she said.

She divorced husband Brooks Laich

Julianne Hough married NHL star Brooks Laich in July of 2017. The lavish ceremony was held outdoors on Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where Hough spent summers as a child. Hough told People, "I couldn't stop crying all weekend and most people [thought] I would have cried during the entire ceremony, but instead I was just so excited and ready to celebrate!"

But the union did not stand the test of time, and the pair ended up separating in 2020. Still, it does not seem as though there was much drama involved in the split, despite the pair citing irreconcilable differences in the divorce filing. Hough told The New York Post in 2022, "Brooks and I — we had the most beautiful separation. we went through things amicably. It was filled with love and respect. Like any relationship that means something, you learn and you grow, and you are blessed with those riches that you experienced from that relationship." She went on to add she harbors no ill will toward Laich and will continue to root for his happiness and wellbeing even though their marriage didn't go the way they thought it would. 

She went viral for some odd reasons

In January 2020, Julianne Hough went viral when a video of her "receiving an energy treatment" from Dr. John Amaral, who appeared on Gwenyth Paltrow's "The Goop Lab," hit the web. According to Jezebel, the treatment took place at Switzerland's World Economic Forum and Hough "shrieked and convulsed" while "screaming like a banshee undergoing an exorcism."

Amaral can be heard saying, "There's always a huge dissipation of energy and a feeling of relief, release, freedom" as he runs his hand down her spine. The strange video was enough to garner more than a handful of snarky headlines, but in the video, Hough herself can be heard saying she felt "much more liberated on the inside" after the treatment.

Julianne's brother Derek came to her defense in a since-deleted comment, per Jezebel, writing, "This stuff looks whacky and crazy but diving into it with the understanding is a pretty wild experience. Maybe ahead of its time but worth an open mind." We might just leave this exercise to Julianne.

Julianne Hough's sights are on Broadway

While Julianne Hough's relationships with stars like Ryan Seacrest and Chuck Wicks and her divorce from NHL player Brooks Laich have all made headlines, this triple threat has shown the world that she's more than just her relationships. From reality television to country music to the big screen and her own fitness empire, Hough has never stopped challenging herself, so it's only fitting that she made her Broadway debut in 2022.

Starring alongside the likes of Vanessa Williams, Lea DeLaria, and Rachel Dratch, Hough portrays a woman, along with seven others, who are tasked with quieting down a PR debacle involving the president, according to ET. Although the play is not a musical like fans might have expected, it's a bucket list item for Hough nonetheless. "This has been a dream of mine, to do Broadway and be on Broadway," she told ET, adding, "After the last few years we've kind of just really understood what's important and what we value. And this is what I value. And I want to put myself in proximity to that and immerse myself."

It's clear the sky's the limit for this natural-born performer, and we can't wait to see what she does next.

She replaced Tyra Banks as co-host of Dancing With the Stars

In March of 2023 it was announced that Julianne Hough would once again return to her home on "Dancing With the Stars." While she's had plenty of experience as a dance pro and judge on the series over the years, this time around, she'll be taking on the role of co-host. Hough will be taking over for Tyra Banks, who told Us Weekly that she is all for her replacement. "The businesswoman in me sees how Julianne is great on multiple levels," the "America's Next Top Model" alum said. "It's going to be a family affair in that ballroom which people will love to watch. And she has so much personality and strong opinions backed by expertise." 

Hough seems delighted to be returning, telling Variety, "I am so excited to reunite with Alfonso, Carrie Ann, Bruno, Derek, the unbelievably talented pros, and the amazing cast on the dance floor. The energy is magnetic every time you step foot in to the ballroom and I can't wait to feel it again." And we can't wait to watch her homecoming season.