Lolo Jones can’t stop beating herself up.
The track-and-field star says a missed cue on premiere night not only got her booted first from Dancing with the Stars, but gave her naysayers more reason to criticize her behavior under pressure.
“There have been three times where I have come so close to an Olympic medal and every time those things happen, people tease me, saying, ‘You are a failure in the spotlight,’ ” Jones told PEOPLE after Tuesday’s elimination episode. “When that dance happened and I had that moment, I was like, ‘Here it goes again. Now everybody is going to say I’m a bad dancer.’ ”
Jones said her cha-cha on opening night was supposed to begin with a text message between her and partner Keo Motsepe, but she didn’t hear the right sound that was supposed to cue her to start dancing.
“He’s a veteran dancer. He put the phone down and was trying to get my attention across the room, but I didn’t see him,” said Jones. “Once the song started, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, did I miss it? Did I not interact with the judges?’ ”
“I was like, ‘Don’t worry about it, just walk like Beyoncé.’ But when I started to dance, I kept thinking about whether I messed up the intro. That’s when I messed up the second step and from there it was just downhill. There was that awful moment. If you have ever given a public speech, you’re just like, ‘Oh my God,’ you fumble your words and there is that awkward silence. Everything was swirling inside of me.”
Though she and Motsepe, with a 22 out of a possible 40, didn’t have the lowest score for the night (that went to Betsey Johnson and Tony Dovolani), she still received social media messages from fans criticizing her for her “bad attitude.”
“How is me being competitive bad?” said Jones. “I ended my track season early so that I could have more time to practice. I really wanted to show them I knew how to dance. I was just so heartbroken.”
Her elimination was equally tough on Motsepe, a South African dancer who is new to the show.
“We practiced for three-and-a-half weeks, four hours every day,” he said. “She only had one day. She worked hard.”