"We get along like a house on fire, but I'm thinking about how I'm not going to be with James," Murgatroyd tells PEOPLE

By Peta Murgatroyd
Updated April 07, 2014 08:00 AM
Craig Sjodin/ABC

Peta Murgatroyd is a former Dancing with the Stars champion, winning the coveted mirror-ball trophy in season 14 – only her second season on the series – with Donald Driver. The Australia native will blog for PEOPLE about competing with Big Time Rush band member James Maslow during the show’s 18th season.

I think James’s bullying package during last week’s show was such a strong message for kids in school. Bullying happens everywhere, all over the world, and usually, most kids have a story dealing with it. I think he just wanted to share the message with everybody that everything is going to be all right if you stay strong and keep pushing through with your dreams.

I’m glad he went with the bullying angle for his most memorable year, because we had another option to tell the story of his life on the road with Big Time Rush. We both sort of felt that wasn’t enough to tell. We needed to show the real James who has struggled with his weight – not just the James people already know by watching the show. I think people assume that those who are so heavily in the spotlight have looked a certain way their entire life and that it’s been easy.

James is so dedicated to health and fitness. He really takes it seriously. When everyone else is grabbing crappy snacks and fatty stuff to eat, he always opts for the healthier snack. It’s great for me, too, because sometimes I get in the habit of eating whatever is in the dance studio. There are granola bars and packs of chips, which are okay once in a while, but he is like, “Peta, no, let’s order in food.” So, we order salads and vegetables and stuff like that. He’s just on this health kick and he looks amazing. He’s a sexy guy.

But I can’t make all the talk about James. I have to focus my energy on a different partner this week for cast change-ups.

It’s a very strange feeling being paired with [my new partner] this week. We get along like a house on fire. He’s so funny and so sweet, but I’m still obviously in contact with James. We’ve been texting and calling each other just to check up and see how each other’s dances are going. It’s just weird because I’m thinking about camera blocking and how I’m not going to be with James.”

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