"I've really moved past that and turned it into a positive thing," the Dancing with the Stars contestant tells PEOPLE

By Dahvi Shira
April 02, 2014 08:50 AM
Credit: Adam Taylor/ABC

James Maslow has been characterized as the heartthrob of season 18’s Dancing with the Stars.

But on Monday night, fans of the hunky Big Time Rush singer, 23, had their jaws dropping about his appearance for much different reasons than usual.

During the most memorable year-themed episode, the La Jolla, Calif.-born musician gave viewers a very personal look into his upbringing, which was filled with bullying by his peers because he was overweight.

“Everyone has their challenges growing up,” he told PEOPLE after his revealing segment aired. “I’ve definitely had quite a few of them, and it’s cool to be able to share that with people. I haven’t really talked about it in a long time.”

But instead of bringing back negative feelings from those days past, reliving the experience through the photos he shared was therapeutic in a way.

“I don’t dwell on it,” he said. “I’ve really moved past that and turned it into a positive thing. But it was nice to reflect back and just remember. Even I, at times, forget and try to live in the moment. We all came from somewhere. That’s the cool part – to dig that deep and go through those interviews and those questions. They put it together in a way that shows that you can do whatever you want [in life].”

An added bonus for Maslow – who scored a whopping 36 out of 40 points for a jive with partner Peta Murgatroyd – was having some former instructors in the audience showing their support.

“Tonight, I actually have a couple of my old teachers here who saw a lot of [the bullying], so I just look at their faces and they’re so proud and it’s so nice to have,” he said.

But among the people most in awe was Murgatroyd, who stood happily next to her partner during interviews with her arm around him.

“I’m so proud of him,” she said. “[It’s great] to see how far he’s come in such a short time. In Hollywood, this lifestyle is just not normal. It’s crazy. It’s good that he can look back and realize what he went through just made him the person he is today.”

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