"I think she has other things I think we could celebrate," says Chmerkovskiy

By Patrick Gomez
April 12, 2016 09:20 AM

Valentin Chmerkovskiy has a ton of respect for Marla Maples – and not just for her skills on the dance floor.

“I want to commend Marla on her grace,” Chmerkovskiy told reporters after Monday’s episode of Dancing with the Stars of this week’s eliminated contestant. “I hope she leaves with a great feeling. She had a great showing, and it was sad that she had to go.”

Chmerkovskiy – who, along with his partner Ginger Zee, tied for Monday’s highest scores – thinks there’s one aspect of the show that Maples dealt with particularly well: being introduced as “the former Mrs. Donald Trump” week after week.

“This is Hollywood, and people tuning in every week don’t always remember what happened the week before, so we want to introduce our celebrities in the most [succinct] way,” said Chmerkovskiy, 30. “But having said that, I think she has other things I think we could celebrate outside of her being the former Donald Trump’s ex.”

But Chmerkovskiy believes the actress dealt with her introductions “like a champ.”

“She held her head high and she never stooped down to make that a thing. That, for me, is one of the more impressive things about how she was on our show,” he said. “I probably would not have handled it with that much grace.”

Even after being eliminated, Maples, 52, handled her defeat with an air of positivity.

“I don’t want to stop performing,” Maples told PEOPLE minutes after getting the news of her elimination. “I’ll be looking for projects that really give me the chance to do that. Maybe [my partner Tony Dovolani] and I can do something fantastic together. We had fun.”

Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.