November 11, 2013 12:00 PM


Right before every performance on Dancing with the Stars, Amber Riley feels the same wave of emotion come over her. “I am almost hurling before I hear the music,” says the Glee star, 27. “I get really bad stage fright before I do anything in front of people.” No one would ever guess after seeing the fierce, 5’2″ full-figured actress cha-cha, Charleston and samba her way to 10’s alongside dance pro Derek Hough on the ABC dance competition show. “You have blown me away not only with your flexibility,” praised judge Carrie Ann Inaba. “You do all the different styles of dancing as if it’s nothing!”

Riley is the first to point out why exactly people are so blown away. “I’ve surprised a lot of people with the way I can move, because I know how to support my weight and my body,” says this season’s breakout star. Still, “I am pushing myself in ways I never thought I could.” She’s also inspiring women of all sizes to do the same. “I get a lot of tweets from people telling me they are taking their first salsa class,” says Riley, getting teary. “This is just something I did for fun. But I think it’s cool the show is helping a lot of people.”

To make it through her six-hour rehearsals, “I make sure I get five servings of fruits and vegetables and two lean meats. And I stay away from chips as a snack and get some nuts,” she says. “Now I have much more energy, and my stamina is better.” While she admits “my arms look a little smaller,” Riley says losing weight by dancing “is not really what I’m focused on.” She will, however, draw the line if she notices one thing changing about her body. “If I start losing my butt, I’m going to be mad,” Riley says. “It can’t get smaller. I can lift, but I can’t lose!”

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