"It was such a powerful thing for me to be connected to fans in a real way," Willis tells PEOPLE of performing on Dancing with the Stars

By Mark Gray
November 09, 2015 08:30 AM
Denise Truscello/Getty

When Rumer Willis held up that Mirrorball trophy after winning the 20th season of Dancing With The Stars earlier this year, it marked a crucial moment on her journey to showing the world her true self.

“It was such a powerful thing for me to be connected to fans in a real way,” she tells PEOPLE at the Black Label Bacon Strop Show in Las Vegas on Friday. “I’ve always come from the school of thought that, ‘Look, if you get to know me and you don’t like me, do you, that’s okay. I’m cool with that.’ ”

Willis, 27, has dealt with judgement and “precursory” her whole life, coming from a showbiz family, so it’s sort of what she’s used to. But, she says, her life is often misinterpreted.

Of celebrities, she says, “People have this image that we’re zoo animals and you have to fit into a particular box, and if you don’t fit into that box, they don’t know what to do with you. By being on Dancing With The Stars, I was able to express who I was and be myself, and tell my own story. It was such a huge thing for me.”

The show, she says, boosted her confidence “100 percent” and led to her to pursue other ventures, like starring in Chicago on Broadway.

“It was the best time, honestly,” she reveals, adding that she would do it again. “Broadway is definitely a whole other gig from anything that I’ve experienced. I bow down to those guys. There were people who have been in Chicago since the beginning, and I only did it for six weeks and my body was dead.”

Willis again enveloped herself in dance on Friday at the cheeky Hormel-sponsored Strip Show, a burlesque-style show dedicated to bacon (really).

“I’ve always been a huge fan of burlesque shows. Burlesque, as an art form, is so intriguing and I think it really speaks to what is so intriguing about the female form and women in general. It’s all about the tease,” she says. “I love burlesque because it’s so cheeky and it really calls to the old school of what Vegas is.”

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