With his upcoming memoir, I’ll Never Change My Name, Val Chmerkovskiy proves he’s just as adept with words as he is on the dance floor. Set for release in March 2018, the book will reveal his journey from a poor Ukrainian immigrant to a professional dancer on Dancing with the Stars.
“I’ve arrived at a point in my life that called for some reflection. I feel a sense of gratitude and hindsight that I can use to help others,” the 31-one-year old star reveals in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE. (See the new cover below.) “With this memoir I finally have my own platform outside of Dancing with the Stars, outside of being a brother, outside of the person the world has come to know through a television screen, to share my story my way.”
But it isn’t his story alone.
Chmerkovskiy reveals that his brother Maks, a fellow dancer on the show, plays a major role in the book.
“While reading this book you’ll quickly realize that my memoir is more like our memoir because [Maks] plays such a prominent role in my life,” Chmerkovskiy says. “I love him dearly, and only he and I truly understand and value our bond. We’ve shared so many life-changing experiences together and I owe a lot of my life to him. We had bunk beds most of our lives and shared everything from conversations to the adult magazines we hid underneath those bunk beds.“
Before they shared adult magazines, Chmerkovskiy and his brother lived in Odessa, Ukraine. Their parents eventually moved the family to the United States to escape anti-Semitism and provide a better situation for their children. According to Chmerkovskiy, the book will delve into this life-changing experience, as well as his and Maks’ journey to become professional dancers.
“I write about the difficulty of arriving in Brooklyn with no understanding of English, having no sense of American fashion, and having very little money,” Chmerkovskiy says. “However, this isn’t a book that dwells on hardships, but rather is a reflection of some of the best times in my life. We didn’t have much, but I never felt poor or small because I was lucky enough to always have my family by my side.”
He was especially fortunate to have his older brother, to whom he will be “forever grateful.”
“I was very lucky to have an older brother. For most of my life, he bulldozed through heartaches and disappointments while I walked behind him enjoying the wisdom of hindsight,” he says.
Beyond sharing details about the special bond with his family, Chmerkovskiy will also share some of his perspective about the show that has brought him so much success.
“I don’t kiss and tell,” he says, “but I do discuss my experience on the show and provide a behind the scenes perspective that will enlighten the reader on what was really going on in my head during my 13 seasons on Dancing with the Stars.”
Mainly, he hopes his book will serve as an inspiration to others.
“I hope to inspire at least one person to pursue their dreams and go after their passions no matter how absurd they may seem to the outside world,” he explains. “At the end of the day, I’m an Eastern European immigrant from South Brooklyn making a living doing Latin dance on a reality show in Hollywood. To quote one of my biggest influences, the great poet Christopher Wallace, ‘It was all a dream!'”
I’ll Never Change My Name will publish on March 6, 2018.