"It's just so intimidating," the talk show host says. "That was more skin than I show at the beach"

By Liza Hamm
February 02, 2011 05:15 PM
David M. Russell

Rachael Ray has jumped out of a plane and held a giant python on her talk show but on Thursday she’ll do something that truly terrifies her: She’ll wear a skimpy red dress designed by Dancing with the Stars costume designer Randall Christensen.

“It’s just so intimidating,” Ray told PEOPLE after she taped the episode on Tuesday. “That was more skin than I show at the beach. I’m usually the girl in the long poncho.”

DWTS designer Christensen brought up the idea. Ray’s staff pitched the idea to her after Ray – a huge fan of DWTS – said that she wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one of the reality show’s revealing outfits. Ray decided to take on the challenge because her 2011 New Year’s resolution is to try to do more things that frighten her.

“She was totally nervous,” says Christensen, who created the dress especially for Ray. “I’m so impressed she manned up and took the challenge.”

Once he learned she was on board, Christensen began envisioning “a shorter, sexier Latin dress.” The end result – a Chinese red fringe frock with an asymmetrical skirt line and 15,000 Swarovski crystals – almost undid the Emmy winning talk show host.

It took a few minutes but a visibly shaking Ray finally pulled off her white bathrobe and took a twirl with DWTS pro Tony Dovolani, who was on hand for the occasion.

“I felt really awkward,” says Ray. “You feel like you’re showing people your naked, icky body.”

The only plus? “I liked that they build boobs into the dress,” she says. “It’s fun to have fake boobs for an hour and then give them back so you don’t have to lug them around.”