Derek Hough Reveals Childhood Bullying Years Before ‘Dancing With The Stars’

Derek Hough is now an entertainment superstar. In addition to his role as a professional on Dancing With the Stars, he’s appeared on Broadway and will feature in a televised production of Hairspray Live! later this year. But before he was tearing up the ballroom becoming a bit of a sex symbol in the process, Hough was an awkward kid who found dancing an acceptable way to escape from bullying.

Dancing is the Hough family business. In addition to Derek and his sister Julianne, herself a former Dancing With the Stars pro and current judge, dancing was the primary occupation of Derek’s parents and all four of his grandparents. But in a new interview with 24 Hours, Hough says he “found” dance, in a way that got him out of trouble in school.

“As a kid, I didn’t fit in. I hated school so much. I loved learning but I didn’t like the social aspect of school. I found myself going to six different schools because I was getting into fights and being bullied. For me, finding dance was such a refuge. Dance offered me a great community and one I really felt a part of. It motivated me and I grew.”

For a person whose talent and visage are now trademarks, it is perhaps surprising that Hough did not always feel so confident with his appearance.

“I had terrible acne when I was a kid. I relied on my skills and talent to give me confidence. I felt so insecure with my skin that I wanted to be really good as an artist so people didn’t see my skin, you know? As silly as it sounds, that’s how I survived.”

As Derek Hough and Marilu Henner are continuing to compete with each week on DWTS, high-stress competition is taking its toll on both dancers. Hough wrote in his blog in TV Guide that the Taxi star was in grave pain last week, which may have shown during the pair’s performance.

“[Marilu’s feet] got progressively worse, so much so that she could literally barely walk down the stairs on show day. She had injections and numbing cream. She tried all these different things to no avail. It was just a combination of things. Her feet hurt, her ribs hurt, she broke out into hives one day.”

Marilu and Derek’s struggles were reflected in the scores they received last week, Eras Night, when they performed the Charleston, which requires a lot of foot movement, as Hough pointed out on his blog. According to ABC, they received 29/40, just one point higher than last week’s lowest scoring couple, Ryan Lochte and Cheryl Burke. The one eight that the pair received came from Derek’s sister Julianne.

As People reported and as Derek alluded to in his blog, the strain of the week also showed during the team dance, when Marilu took an unexpected tumble.

For Monday night’s Halloween episode, which will feature dances by each of the seven remaining couples, Derek and Marilu will dance an Argentine Tango. According to Buddy TV, their accompanying music will be “Sweet Dreams,” by Emily Browning.

But that probably won’t be it for Derek and Marilu on Monday night. The couple that receives the highest score will be immune from elimination and can take it easy for the rest of the evening. Everyone else, however, will compete in a dance off performing the Salsa, Jive, or Cha-Cha-Cha. While it’s tough to say who will get the immunity from the panel, so far this season it’s been race car driver James Hinchcliffe and gymnast Laurie Hernandez who have gotten the best numbers.

Dancing With the Stars airs Monday night at 8 p.m. on ABC.

[Featured Image by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images]