"Nerves get the best of people," Jenna Johnson said about dancing in a "celebrity-packed" ballroom

By Jenna Johnson
October 01, 2019 03:35 PM
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Jenna Johnson is back for her fifth season as a pro dancer on Dancing with the Stars — and is partnered with Queer Eye‘s Karamo Brown. Every week, Jenna will give readers an inside look at their journey thus far: the challenges, the laughs they share and what it’s going to take to win!

Karamo and I were both recovering from being super sick this past week, and we also had the jive, which is the fastest, most energetic, most cardio-like dance out of all of them. Getting the jive so early on in the competition was a battle in itself, and if anyone noticed, we were the only couple to get jive this week. Overall, I was so happy and really proud of Karamo and how he tried to attack this week. He nailed our routine every single time we did it in rehearsals, and in our live show there was a tiny little mishap, but no one would have noticed because he kept going, and he was smiling and he kept his character up the whole time, so I was thoroughly proud of his performance.

Courtesy Jenna Johnson

It was also movie night this week and we had Rocketman; it was an awesome night to pay tribute to Elton John and I think Karamo really related to the whole situation.

We also got a video message from Taron Egerton, who played Elton John in the movie Rocketman and I probably watched that video he sent us 400 times because I’m obsessed with Taron and his accent, so it was a great week.

Courtesy Jenna Johnson

I think the judges are particularly hard on Karamo – I’m not entirely sure why, but my hope is that it’s because they see so much massive potential in him and they want him to do well. So of course we will take their critiques. They all mentioned the little timing error and mishap, so this week I’m going to focus on him being incredibly clean, us being super synchronized and aiming to get his routine perfectly from top to bottom.

There were tons of celebrities packed in the audience. There was Demi Lovato, which was definitely an OMG moment for Karamo and me. Jim O’Heir, who plays Garry/Jerry/Larry/Terry in Parks and Rec, was there and I was dying because I’m a superfan, so I immediately took a picture with him and sent it to my brothers and they were geeking out with me — it was incredible. Zooey Deschanel was in the audience and she is just a queen. Karamo’s Queer Eye castmate Bobby Berk was there in the front row being so supportive. And then my old partner, Bachelor Nation’s Joe Amabile, was in the audience, which was super fun. Joe came in real confident and said, “I miss being out on the floor, I bet I could do a lot better now.” And you know what? I bet he could. Nerves get the best of people, and I don’t think folks watching at home realize how stressful going live is — and performing in front of the audience in the ballroom, but also with 23 cameras pointed at you and knowing that millions of people are watching you. It is very stressful and very scary.

Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown and Jenna Johnson
Courtesy Jenna Johnson

While this was the first week I ever saw Karamo show his nerves, I really do think that Karamo has done a good job of containing his nerves. When you take into consideration the fact that we had to do the jive, and so many of his celebrity friends were front row watching, I don’t blame him at all. I just wish America got to see our dress rehearsal when Karamo absolutely destroyed the dance every single time and got everything perfect. I can also understand why Karamo would be disappointed, because he knew this dance and he was executing it perfectly. Things like this happen, but it’s what allows us to grow.

Courtesy Jenna Johnson

This coming week I just want to make sure that Karamo feels his absolute best during the dance. I want him to be super confident, and I think he is going to be really motivated after Monday. We had some hard critiques and we didn’t get the best of scores, but I think this is going to be great motivation going into this week to come back and work even harder and to do a great dance that the judges are going to love.

Courtesy Jenna Johnson

Two fun things happened this week that I want to share with my PEOPLE blog fam. Karamo’s mom is in town and she came to a lot of our rehearsals. She has this thick Jamaican accent; she is adorable and was giving us critiques. She wanted our arms to be better. It was the sweetest thing ever. Also, we’re pretty obsessed with [my husband] Val Chmerkovskiy and [his celebrity partner] Sailor Brinkley-Cook – they’re our little sweeties, so we had a lot of fun bonding this week, especially because we weren’t traveling for the first time. Val and Sailor are the best. Hopefully soon we’ll have time to do a little double date with the four of us.

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