Cheryl Burke is hoping the third time is a charm on the new season of Dancing with the Stars (premiering March 19 on ABC at 8 p.m. ET).
The 22-year-old pro dancer has also been basking in her new relationship with actor Matthew Lawrence, the brother of her fellow season 3 competitor Joey Lawrence. Burke took time out from practicing her fancy footwork to talk to PEOPLE about finding love, becoming a household name and why she feels she’s cheating on Emmitt Smith.
How is life with your boyfriend, actor Matthew Lawrence?
Life is great! He’s a great, smart, wonderful guy. We started dating at the end of December while I was on the (Dancing with the Stars) tour (with his older brother, Joey Lawrence) and we’re having a lot of fun.
Do you feel like you’re cheating on Emmitt Smith this season of DWTS?
I do! And Drew, too, because I was on tour with him for the past two months. I just talked to Emmitt a week ago. He called me and he said, “You miss me already, don’t you?” And I actually really do miss him. I remember teaching him the basic steps like yesterday. It’s been weird to adjust to another man to dance with.
How’s your new partner, Ian Ziering, coming along?
He’s a fast learner. With choreography he’s quick. The first few days was a little rough for him. He gets frustrated because he’s a perfectionist. He can be really hard on himself. So I tell him, “Deep breath and let’s try again.”
Do you feel pressure to win again?
I don’t think it’s pressure. Even after coming in last season after winning with Drew in the second season, it wasn’t about, “Oh, I have to win again.” It’s about who I’m dancing with and making my partner the best dancer he can possibly be.
You’ve hardly had any time off in between last season and being on tour with DWTS. How’s your energy level?
The first week getting back was a shock. I haven’t even digested the third season. I feel like I was just working with Emmitt a week ago. It was, “Wow, I can’t believe I’m doing this again.”
You’ve become a celebrity thanks to the success of the show. What do your fans say?
I had a marriage proposal – I was kind of flattered but freaked out at the same time. I’ve had a lot of little girls write to me saying that they want to be dancers and that I’ve inspired them. Just being known for a skill you’ve worked on your entire life is an amazing feeling.
Where do you keep your two disco-ball trophies?
Both are falling to pieces, by the way. The mirrors are slowly falling off. One trophy is home in San Francisco with my mom and dad and the other one is in my storage because I was on tour for two months.
What do you like to do when you’re not dancing?
I spend time with Matt, of course. My schedule for the past year has been work, work, work. I’m just a normal 22-year-old girl who likes to go out, go to movies, have fun, hang out with my friends, get manicures.