Season 11 of Dancing with the Stars is right around the corner. And while folks like David Hasselhoff, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino and Bristol Palin are prepping to perfect (or at least learn) the Paso Doble, the show’s co-host (and season 7 champ) Brooke Burke has some tips for the new cast, which she calls “eclectic” and “exciting.” In between going up against everyday poker players for FOX’s PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge, airing Sept. 19, the TV personality gives PEOPLE her keys to success on ABC’s hit show.
Here are five things NOT to do on DWTS, according to Burke:
1. DON T LOOK SCARED … EVEN IF YOU’RE SCARED S––LESS.
“Even if you’re terrified, don’t look scared, because if you’re not having fun, you’re not fun to watch,” Burke tells PEOPLE, referencing her pal Kate Gosselin. “If you let the stress get the best of you, you have no chance. And that’s easier said than done. I’ll go on the record and say dancing was the scariest thing I’ve ever done – ever.”
2. DON’T FIGHT WITH YOUR PARTNER–BECAUSE IT WILL AIR
Last season brimmed with caught-on-tape feuds between (not only) Kate Gosselin and Tony Dovolani, but also Jake Pavelka and Chelsie Hightower. “We love dramatic packages, and I say that with love and humor,” Burke says. “I totally know that Dancing with the Stars is like a prearranged marriage, and you’re going to fight. But my advice – not that anyone on the show ever has any privacy – is be sure your fights won’t make air.”
3. DON’T PISS OFF ME AND TOM BERGERON
Even though Burke says she’s never personally encountered problems with contestants, she says, “I know I get them in their most vulnerable moments when they’ve been heavily critiqued, and sometimes they don’t want to talk.” But Burke, who describes herself and Bergeron as contestants’ “life line to vote,” says, “That’s the time between contestants and the viewers to be really real. Let root for you and support you and be part of the process with you.”
4. DON’T FORGET TO EAT
Nothing affects a contestant’s scores like their ability to dance. And Burke says a big part of being able to move has to do with what you eat. “You’re so stressed out that you can’t keep weight on,” she says. “You’re doing cardio eight hours a day, so you can’t keep any calories. But it’s also hard to dance on a full stomach. It’s more challenging than it sounds. But you have to eat.” Burke says she managed her Dancing diet by “eating high-calorie protein shakes with maybe peanut butter or banana–fattier than I would normally make,” adding, “At night, pastas for some energy and some extra bulk, because no one can keep weight on, on that show. It isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but you don’t want to get too skinny.”
5. ACCEPT CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM FROM THE JUDGES
“Don’t be defensive,” Burke says. “The judges really do want everybody to do amazing. As harsh as it is, usually what the judges are saying is true.” But if anyone understands the difficulty of accepting such critiques, it’s Burke, herself. “It’s really hard to put your heart and soul into something and stand there and be criticized in front of ,” she says. “It’s humiliating and deflating, but I think that’s what’s exciting about the show – seeing s’ true colors. ” –Dahvi Shira