LOS ANGELES (UPI) — Dancing with the Stars Season 30 contestants Suni Lee and JoJo Siwa said the show, which premieres Monday, realizes childhood dreams. Both 18, Lee is a gold medalist gymnast and Siwa is a recording artist.
“I think it would be really cool to get the gold medal and the Mirror Ball,” Lee said of the Dancing trophy on a Television Critics Association Zoom panel.
Siwa said she grew up watching the show with her grandmother. Her television dance career began on Dance Moms when she was 12.
Each season of Dancing with the Stars pairs 15 celebrities with the show’s roster of dance professionals. One team is eliminated each week. Other Season 30 contestants include The Office star Melora Hardin, Cobra Kai star Martin Kove and singer Mel C.
Siwa is the first female contestant in 30 seasons to dance with a female partner. Having come out as LGBTQ, she said the show gave her the choice of a male or female partner. Siwa said she chose female to set a precedent for future seasons.
“I want to make it OK for the people who come after me,” Siwa said.
Siwa, who is dating Kylie Prew, also 18, said she had a FaceTime conversation with Prew in which she assured her girlfriend that the relationship with her dance partner would be purely platonic.
“She’s been non-stop supportive,” Siwa said of Prew. “She was like, ‘Love, you are going to be incredible, and what you’re doing with another girl on this show is so groundbreaking. I’m so proud of you for it.”
Host Tyra Banks, 47, said she felt the Dancing with the Stars milestone would be monumental for LGBTQ inclusion. The show has had openly gay contestants in the past, but paired them with the opposite sex.
“I think it’s going to save lives,” Banks said. “I think it’s going to change lives, and it’s going to make a lot of noise, and the noise that needs to be made.”
After acknowledging the social impact of including same-sex dance couples on Dancing with the Stars, Siwa said she will be a dancer first and foremost on the show. Despite her previous dance experience, Siwa said she was nervous for the judges’ scrutiny.
“They’re going to look at my legs, how straight they are, at my feet, if they’re pointed in ballroom shoes,” Siwa said. “Everything is going to be fine-combed.”
Lee follows other gymnast Dancing with the Stars contestants, such as Simone Biles, Nastia Liukin and Laurie Hernandez. Lee said she spoke with them before the show began.
“They’ve all basically told me that anything that I do on this show is not going to be as difficult as [what] I did at the Olympics or preparing for the Olympics,” Lee said. “I’m just focusing on staying in shape.”
Lee said dancing could be more fun and expressive than formal gymnastics.
Siwa, who also competed on Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition and Celebrity Family Feud, said she will also focus on having fun on Dancing with the Stars.
“I like to look back on every project that I’ve done and only remember the fun times, and not the time when I’m nervous or stressed,” she said.
Season 30 of Dancing With the Stars will also coincide with Lee’s freshman year at Auburn University. She said she will continue to attend classes online while training and competing on Dancing.
“It’s going to be pretty hard trying to balance out practicing and then doing school at the same time, plus all the media,” Lee said. “But, I also have a really good team behind me.”
Season 30 will be Banks’ second season as host of Dancing With the Stars. She took over for Tom Bergeron in 2020.
Banks said she was aware that longtime fans of Bergeron, who had hosted for 28 seasons, have not warmed up entirely to her yet. Banks said changing the host is as important as changing the rules on dance pairs.
“We must continue to evolve,” Banks said. “There will be a change where I won’t host anymore, and people will be pissed.”
Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.