Carrie Ann Inaba issued an apology to actress Kelly Monaco -- the very first winner of Dancing with the Stars -- on the 15th anniversary of the ABC celebrity ballroom competition's debut.
When the first episode of the show aired on June 1, 2005, Inaba delivered a harsh critique to Monaco -- who was partnered with pro dancer Alec Mazo -- following her first dance.
In one of her first moments as a young judge on the star-studded dancing show, Inaba told Monaco she "didn't enjoy" her dancing. The former Fly Girl added that the actress "looked very stiff" and that her dance "wasn't enjoyable to watch."
Fifteen years later, Inaba told Yahoo Entertainment she was "shocked" at how she abrasively spoke to the General Hospital star who would go on to win the reality show's first season. Inaba said she meant to sound compassionate but it didn't come out that way and she has since learned a lesson about how to carefully "wrap" her words at the judges' table.
Inaba also offered a long-overdue apology to the inaugural DWTS winner.
"Kelly Monaco, I just have to apologize to you, I mean forgive me," Inaba said. " What I did — what I said was horrible, but I was a baby judge and I was still learning how to do it."
She added she should have instead told Monaco that "there's things we could work on here, but there's a lot of potential."
During that first season of Dancing with the Stars, Monaco would suffer a wardrobe malfunction while dancing the samba on live TV and she scored the only perfect 30 of the season before winning the mirrorball trophy.
But Monaco's ultimate DWTS win proved to be controversial. After she was declared the winner, some viewers felt actor John O'Hurly had danced better throughout the season. The controversy sparked a dance-off between the two stars.
Fifteen years later, Inaba told Yahoo she thinks the dance-off was unfair to Monaco after she'd already been announced the winner.Monaco later returned to the ballroom for the 15th season of Dancing with the Stars. She partnered with Val Chmerkovskiy for the show's all-stars season.
At the time, the actress told TVLine that it was a lot to juggle Dancing with the Stars and her day job on General Hospital. She joked she was going to try to convince the ABC soap's writers to put her character, Sam, "in a coma" in order for her to be able to put 1o0 percent into the TV dancing competition. Monaco ultimately finished in third place for DWTS: All-Stars.
Dancing with the Stars will return for its 29th season once production is able to resume following the coronavirus pandemic.