From Big Wins to Big Blowups: How Maksim Chmerkovskiy Has Felt About All of His DWTS Partners
SEASON 2: TIA CARRERE
Maks's first run on Dancing with the Stars was in season 2, when he was paired with actress Carrere. "She's a joy, but she had an aura of 'I just had a baby. I am doing the best I can,' " he told PEOPLE at the time. "I said, 'You didn't have a leg amputated, you had a baby!' " He later admitted that he was "very hard" on her, but was doing it for the good of his family. "I knew if we lasted longer, we got paid more, and my legs were helping pay for Val's lessons and my family bills," he shared when opening up about his family's move to the U.S. The two placed sixth.
SEASON 3: WILLA FORD
The dancer's bond with season 3 contestant Ford spurred romance rumors all the way to their seventh-place finish. "Every week I told people the truth — we were close, we hung out — but the show loved to fuel the relationship," Ford told PEOPLE. "We do have chemistry and it was easy for the show to go into that. We were definitely close and we still are. We'll stay friends and we'll still hang out."
SEASON 4: LAILA ALI
Though they didn't speak much about each other, Chmerkovskiy and partner Ali, who placed third, seemed simpatico — especially when it came to family values. On one particular episode, the pair danced the waltz as Ali's father, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, looked on. "I had a tear," Chmerkovskiy told PEOPLE. "My mom and dad were here, my best friends, my brother is here. When they showed the video package about Laila and her dad, it was very much about family, and, for me, the most important thing in my life is my family, so kind of by association it brought tears to my eyes." On the lighter side, Ali was also quick to note her partner's reputation in the public eye: "He's hot!" she said. “It’s the truth! Women think he’s hot.”
SEASON 5: MELANIE BROWN
Speaking to Glamour about some of his past partners, Chmerkovskiy said, "I can always call Mel B. These relationships never really go away ... you always remember that person." The pair came in second, which, while disappointing, was "so much fun," Brown said. "Everyone's so cool here. It's been an amazing experience." For his part, Chmerkovskiy called his partner "queen of the floor."
SEASON 6: MISTY MAY-TREANOR
After taking a season off, Chmerkovskiy returned to the ballroom, thrilled with his season 7 partner, an Olympic volleyball gold medalist. “When we come out that first week and do our dances, everybody is going to be surprised. She's doing amazing,” Chmerkovskiy told PEOPLE. And her focus was a big plus. "God, thank you for giving me somebody with an unlimited attention span," he jokingly added. "Mel B. had the attention span of 1.3 seconds but this one can go for hours.” Sadly, May-Treanor suffered an injury that forced the pair to withdraw; they placed 10th.
SEASON 8: DENISE RICHARDS
The pro only had positive words for his season 8 partner, Richards. “She is so kind,” Chmerkovskiy told PEOPLE. “I am not a morning person … our rehearsals are early for me, at 9 a.m. Denise brings me a fresh cup of coffee to practice every day. Sometimes she’ll make a nice sandwich for me and bring it from home.” In fact, her un-Hollywood manner made him “very surprised,” he said “We’re always joking, laughing. Our conversations are very relaxed.” But that didn't mean she wasn't tough. “Denise is so dedicated to this show," he added, despite the pair's 12th place finish. “I don’t see any difference between how hard she works compared to working with past partners Misty May–Treanor and Laila Ali.”
SEASON 9: DEBI MAZAR
Mazar's dynamic with Chmerkovskiy was particularly unique: he was going through a split from fellow pro Karina Smirnoff at the time, and rumors were swirling about the relationship between her and partner Aaron Carter. “He’s going through a very rough period in his life,” Mazar explained. “I’m giving him a lot of support and positive energy.” And she did: “She has been so good to me,” Chmerkovskiy told PEOPLE. “She’s helped me through this whole thing so much. My family is in New York and I don’t have anybody here in L.A. so when we split Debi would call me and say, ‘If you need a home cooked meal, come over.’ She was like, ‘Get over here. You’ll be out in 10 minutes. I just want you to eat well,’ ” he added. “So she was very good. Very cool.” The two placed 12th.
SEASON 10: ERIN ANDREWS
The two all but confirmed their off-camera relationship in a 2010 PEOPLE story, though never actually admitted to dating. Still, an on-camera kiss and great rapport kept rumors swirling during the entirety of their run to third place. “When I first met Maks, I broke out in hives because I was like, ‘Wow, you really are delicious,,’ ” Andrews said during a 2015 DWTS panel at the Paley Center in Los Angeles. But she chalked their chemistry up to a great brother-sister vibe. “The reason why Maks and I worked out so well was because I come from a world where all I worked with was men, and pretty much I’m like a guy in a lot of ways,” she said. However, she credited him with helping her through her hotel stalker trial, and he was happy to protect her during that time. "I just feel very easy around her," he told PEOPLE. "I really do like her."
SEASON 11: BRANDY
When rehearsal footage showed Chmerkovskiy swatting Brandy on the rear to encourage her to nail the choreography, some outrage ensued, especially from judge Len Goodman, who said, "It's not the way to [teach]." But Brandy maintained that she appreciated the pro pushing her (eventually to fourth place), and told Essence.com that certain miscommunications between the two cleared up as the weeks went on. "When you first meet somebody you got to figure them out and how they respond to things and how you respond to things," she said. "Maks and I are getting to know each other just fine. It's so great to get to know different sides of who he is. Although he's very hardcore when it comes to teaching and making sure I'm doing my best." Still, Chmerkovskiy told TV Guide that he and Brandy "are one of the friendliest couples this season."
SEASON 12: KIRSTIE ALLEY
Alley loved Chmerkovskiy so much that she wrote a chapter in her book, The Art of Men (I Prefer Mine al Dente), about him. “The book is about how men have influenced my life," she told PEOPLE. "Every chapter is named after an art. He’s the only one that’s the art of a name. The Art of Maks, because he’s a special category. He is a special guy.” Long after their season, in which they placed second, the two still spoke fondly of each other, even reuniting for nights out in N.Y.C.
SEASON 13: HOPE SOLO
Chmerkovskiy's most notorious partner was Olympic soccer star Solo, whom the dancer very publicly clashed with. On a 2015 podcast appearance, he went as far as to call her “just a s----- person," comments he later clarified on The Real. “She’s not somebody I talk about. I don’t like her and that’s the end of it," he said. "That’s literally the only person that I could I dislike from my past, present or future." Solo accused her pro partner of being "nasty" and "harshly critical," saying he manhandled her at rehearsals and at one point, slapped her across the face. He denied the allegations. Despite the drama, the pair placed fourth.
SEASON 14: MELISSA GILBERT
Though both suffered injuries on their DWTS season together, Gilbert and Chmerkovskiy had a solid working relationship and made it to fifth place. “I cater to Melissa, and the only thing I want Melissa to get out of this is five years from now, I want her to look at it and go, ‘I did that,’ ” he said. She got a little more candid in a blog for PEOPLE, explaining that with the amount of time they spent together, they saw the good, bad and ugly. "In a very few short weeks we have become very, very close. So close that we trigger each other daily," she said. "Poor Maks is having a recurring nightmare about me. His eye is starting to twitch. And how do I feel about him? Alternately, I want to strangle him or hug him. Every few minutes of every day. He is brilliant, difficult, smart, funny, charming, petulant, generous to a fault, funny and demanding. I absolutely adore him."
SEASON 15: KIRSTIE ALLEY
So nice, they did it twice! Alley and Chmerkovskiy reunited for the show's all-star season in 2012, exhibiting the same chemistry they had the first time around and landing in seventh place. But two years later, Chmerkovskiy revealed that the two were no longer friends, insinuating in a Watch What Happens Live interview that Alley, a Scientologist, "disconnected" from him when it was rumored he was dating Jennifer Lopez, a good friend of former Scientologist Leah Remini. “We had a great relationship," he said. "But I got a message now that I am associating with other people that she can’t be associated with, I am no longer to be spoken with, and sorry, but it is what it is.” However, it didn't change his opinion of the actress: “I think the world of her."
SEASON 18: MERYL DAVIS
Chmerkovskiy took a break, returning in season 18 with Olympic ice dancer Davis — and winning his first (and only) Mirrorball Trophy. But their chemistry scored almost as much attention as their dancing, with judge Carrie Ann Inaba even declaring, "I think the two of you should get married." “Meryl is everything,” Chmerkovskiy told PEOPLE. “She is the strongest person I’ve ever met.” Inaba fueled the fire, though, telling PEOPLE, “It was like the ideal love relationship – they loved each other, they respected each other, they supported each other. I’ve never seen a partnership that was so truly about the essence of two people working together, coming together, merging together as one and becoming greater than themselves.”
SEASON 23: AMBER ROSE
The pair's time together was brief — they placed ninth — but they exchanged sweet Instagram messages following Rose's elimination. "You truly are my brother for life," she wrote to him. "Thank you for not giving up on me and getting to know the real me with no judgment. I'll love you forever." Chmerkovskiy thanked Rose for "some of the best weeks of my @dancingabc career," in his reply. "You've not let me down and only made me more proud each week." The pair's friendship in real life continued long after the elimination, when Rose dated Chmerkovskiy's brother, Val.
SEASON 24: HEATHER MORRIS
An injury kept Chmerkovskiy away from the ballroom for a few weeks, and backlash against Morris's professional dance background sent the two packing early on; they placed eighth. “I felt sad — I felt that there was an opportunity for ‘Maks and Heather’ to develop and build every single week and we got that cut short," Chmerkovskiy shared.
SEASON 25: VANESSA LACHEY
In a shocking move, Chmerkovskiy skipped his week 3 performance with Lachey, citing a personal issue. But fans read into his absence, and a source told PEOPLE of the two, “There’s a big chemistry issue. They both have big personalities and that’s not always the best recipe for a good partnership.” While the former Total Request Live host has called the Ukrainian dancer the “best coach,” the source added, “They’ve been fighting a lot. I wouldn’t be surprised if Maks doesn’t return as her partner for the rest of the season.” However, Chmerkovskiy apologized two days later, and promised to be back in the ballroom for week 4.