Julianne Hough is sitting barefoot and cross-legged on a twin bed in a SoHo, New York City, apartment, gushing about married life. “I feel so much more sexy,” she says. “It’s so awesome. I love being married so much.” There’s definitely a slumber party vibe happening, what with all the talk about boys and sex (kind of), and it’s hard not to imagine you’re in the sleepover scene in Grease—the live TV version starring Julianne as Sandy (if you missed it, at least Google her singing “Hopelessly Devoted to You”).
Utah-born Julianne—Jules to her friends—the youngest of five, is 29 now, and she’s come a long way since her debut, at 18, as one of the pros on Dancing with the Stars. In the past decade, she’s done movies (Footloose, Rock of Ages) and TV (aside from Grease Live!, she has spent a handful of seasons as a DWTS judge) and released a self-titled album, which hit number three on the Billboard 200 chart. Earlier this year, she and her brother, Derek, starred in MOVE Beyond, a live dance stage show that sold out venues such as Radio City Music Hall.
Now she’s so big-time that her wedding (to Canadian ice hockey player Brooks Laich, 34, in July) was on the cover of People. But in this bedroom today, wearing all-black athleisure and exuding her signature super-positive energy, there is not one ounce of prtentiousness. Jumping up to show the occasional dance or workout move, she is just goofy, down-to-earth Jules.
It was fun to follow your honeymoon on Instagram. Was anything off-limits?
We had a lot of photos that we took for our private collection, for sure. [Laughs] But at the same time, a lot of people were like, “That should be your private time.” But part of our enjoyment is taking pictures and having these memories last forever, and setting up our tripod and doing all our own photos. And, hey, we’re frickin’ in the Seychelles and the Indian Ocean, and on a safari, so yeah, if it inspires somebody to go and do that, I’m 100 percent gonna put that out there.
What’s the best part of being married?
I’ve always wanted to be married and be a mom and have kids, but to be honest, all of that scared the s— out of me. I was like, “Oh my gosh, to actually be married and committed to somebody, that just seems so grown-up.” But the first thing that I felt when we got married was, “This is the complete opposite of scary. This is like home.”
How do you and Brooks motivate each other? And did I see you working out on your honeymoon?
Yeah. But that was at the beginning of the honeymoon! [Laughs] He motivates me so much because [working out is] a way of life for him, because of his career but also because he enjoys doing it. When we first got together, Brooks said, “Protect the things that are important to you,” and for me, working out and having my alone time is so important to me, and it’s the same for him, too.
Do you work with a trainer?
I do, but I change it up. It’s not one specific trainer who does everything. I work with a trainer at Body by Simone or one at Tracy Anderson, or I’ll do SoulCycle or CorePower Yoga with different trainers. I’m a dancer, so I remember different combinations, so I’ll sometimes take what I’ve learned in classes and make my own workout.
Were you working out during the tour, or was the show enough?
That show was two hours every day, and sometimes twice a day. Definitely on two-a-days I didn’t work out at all. Sometimes I wouldn’t do a heavy workout, but I would put my wrist weights on and do my arms or my legs or something beforehand, just to mix it up and shock my body.
Do you ever have a bad day?
Oh my gosh, totally. And that’s the thing—I do try to stay as positive as possible, and people always comment on that, but I also work at it. It’s not that I’m, like, Miss Positive perfect girl, wake up and everything’s sunshine and rainbows.
You don’t wake up with cartoon birds flying around your head?
Exactly. No, I have my days for sure. The other day, I was having a major endometriosis “episode” is what I call them, and I was just quiet. We went to the beach, and it was fine, but I wasn’t active. I didn’t want to play Spikeball and I didn’t want to play Frisbee, and later, Brooks was like, “Hey, are you OK?” I was like, “Yeah, I’m just not feeling very good.” He was like, “Oh, I just thought you were in a bad mood. You need to tell me that because I don’t know.” So, trust me, I have my days. Sometimes I don’t want to work out, and so sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m just like, “I deserve a day off—I’m fine.” But sometimes I’m like, “No, come on, I know I’m gonna feel better afterward.” The end result is always the best. There’s never been a time I’ve finished a workout and been like, “I totally regret doing that.”
Do you have a least favorite move?
Oh my goodness. You know those sliding round disks where you put one foot there and you do your inner thighs, or you’re crossing behind? Anything to do with inner or outer thighs—that’s my struggle point, so I’m always trying to work on that part of my body. I love doing abs and I love doing arms, so legs are always the hardest for me. But they’re the most rewarding.
Do you ever have a moment when you look in the mirror and are like, “Ugh”?
Oh, well, the other day, when we were at the beach and I was having my endo stuff, and we got paparazzi’d and I literally was like, “Oh my God.” My stomach was like—people were asking me if I was pregnant. I definitely have my moments for sure. But it’s not so much what I look like; it’s how I feel. When I don’t work out, I can tell I’m not as limber, I’m not as quick, my brain’s not as sharp. When I’m physical, I’m like, “Aaah! I’m free!” I feel blah when I don’t feel free, and I feel free when I’m working out.
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What else do you do to stay healthy?
Me time. If I don’t have my space for an hour, I feel overwhelmed and I need to just chill. That can be having a cup of tea by myself outside, going and getting gas—it doesn’t matter; I just need some time every day where I can think and put myself in a good place. I always try to wake up and think about three things that I’m grateful for: something that has happened already, something I’m currently grateful for, and something that I’m wanting that I can achieve that day.
What do you eat in the morning?
I always wake up and we make fresh juices. It’s mainly kale, cucumber, spinach, sometimes beets, celery, lemon, ginger. For sweetness we’ll do apple or carrots. I have half a protein shake before I work out because I need a little bit of energy, but I’m one of those people who can’t have a full breakfast. Brooks can have, like, a tub of oatmeal, and I’m like, “I would throw up.” When I finish the workout, I finish the protein shake. Then I come home and have a bowl of oatmeal and berries or something like that.
Tell me more about your endometriosis struggle. When did you realize you had it?
I thought I was just like every other girl—getting her period and having cramps. I’d see my mom and my sisters all have bad cramps, but being a dancer, I was like, “I’m fine. I’m a tough cookie.” I remember moving to L.A. when I was 18, and my roommate had endo, and I was like, “Well, that sounds too medical, and I have no idea what that means. It’s over my head.” But then I saw her and was like, “That looks like the kind of pain that I have.” Again, I didn’t care because I was 18. Then I was on Dancing, during one of my last seasons as a dancer, and all of a sudden while I was dancing, something happened and I just doubled over. They cut to commercial, and my mom was in the audience that day, so she’s like, “You’re going to the hospital. I don’t care what you say.” It took so long to figure out what was going on. Finally one doctor said, “I think you might have endometriosis, and it looks pretty bad.” I needed surgery—I had it everywhere, to the point that they took my appendix out because it was so bad.
How would you explain endo to someone who doesn’t know what it is?
It’s complicated and confusing, but basically, the uterine lining is growing outside [the uterus]. It can look like a spiderweb, and what happens is it contracts and cramps. For me it’s an immediate sharp pain, like a stabbing sensation. It hurts so bad. It’s ongoing. But the thing that’s great about it is a few things happened: Dancing knew about it, so then I didn’t feel as guilty or bad or like I was a weak little woman, or like, “Oh, I need to be strong,” because they understood me. And then also, my mom and two of my sisters found out they had endo. They had been doing the same thing I was, where they didn’t do anything about it because they were like, “We’re strong.” And I’ve had so many people who message me on social media saying, “Thank you so much. Because of you I had the courage to go to my doctor and ask about this.”
What do you do to feel better?
A hot bath. I have a hot water bottle that I call the boiling baby, and I sleep with it and put it next to me. Also, stretching and almost breaking a little bit of a sweat. You don’t have to, like, go for a run, but just getting my heart rate up helps with the blood flow.
Anything else about endo you wish people knew?
For me, especially with this campaign [I’m partnering with], Get in the Know About ME in Endometriosis, it’s that it’s OK to talk about these kinds of things. In the past, it was kind of a hush-hush thing, but it’s a way of life. My husband is the most sporty, Canadian, manly of men, and so he doesn’t know anything to do with women in that sense, so for me to tell him, he was like, “Wait, what?” But now he’s so open about it. And by the way, to be in my family, you have to know that the word “vagina” is gonna be out there all the time. That’s how we end all of our conversations—something about vaginas. [Laughs]
Favorite healthy snack? Hummus and veggies and always fruit. Perfect Bars are yummy little protein bars.
#Vacationgoals: They say once you get bit by the Africa bug, you don’t want to go anywhere else. And it’s totally true. Next I want to go to Rwanda, Botswana, and Tanzania.
Netflix and (literally) chill: I’m so late to the party with Making a Murderer, but it’s so great.
Go-to cocktail: I made this up: It’s Hendrick’s Gin, St-Germain, a splash of grapefruit, mint, and lime. It is so good, but it is so dangerous, because you can’t taste the alcohol. One and you’re done.
Photography by James White. Styling by Karen Shapiro. Hairstyling by Caile Noble using Kérastase at Starworks Artists. Makeup by Spencer Barnes for TACK Artist Group. Manicure by Shirley Cheng for Elle at traceymattingly.com