Carole Baskin hopes to dance to her wedding song, Rod Stewart's "Have I Told You Lately That I Loved You," and incorporate her personal style into her costumes during her time on Dancing with the Stars

By Christina Dugan
September 09, 2020 09:30 AM
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Carole Baskin is ready to rumba on Dancing with the Stars!

In this week's issue of PEOPLE, the Tiger King star, 59, opens up about her journey thus far on the ABC dance competition show, the challenges that come with competing, and why she made the tough decision to leave her big cats and join the cast.

“It’s so much easier than I thought it would be,” Baskin, 59, says of her dance rehearsals. “When I first saw some clips on YouTube, I thought, ‘There’s no way that I’m going to be able to do that, not in 100 years of training,’ But now, I’m like, ‘Dang! This could potentially work.’ ”

Though the Big Cat Rescue (a sanctuary for exotic cats in Hillsborough County, Florida) founder is surprised with her progress, she admits she is facing some challenges.

Carole Baskin
Frank Ockenfels

“During rehearsal I’ll do the routine 10 times in a row," she says. "By the 11th, my mind drifts and I’ve forgotten all the steps. Then it’s time to regroup!”

While she’s thousands of miles away from her husband of 16 years, Howard Baskin, and her business, Baskin says she’s determined to make the most of her time on the show.

“I feel like this is an opportunity to give light to big cats and remind people that they don’t belong in cages,” she says. “I just keep telling myself that this is the best way to get the message out there. To be as good as I can so that I can stay on as long as I possibly can.”

She also hopes to dance to her wedding song, Rod Stewart's "Have I Told You Lately That I Loved You."

Last week, ABC released the cast for season 29 of DWTS — and the list of celebrities competing for the Mirrorball trophy is sure to be entertaining.

The cast includes Baskin, Backstreet Boys' AJ McLeanSelling Sunset's Chrishell Stause, former Bachelorette star Kaitlyn Bristowe, former NFL player Vernon Davis, Jesse Metcalfe, Monica Aldama (head coach from Netflix's Cheer), Anne Heche, Skai Jackson, One Day at a Time actress Justina Machado, The Real host Jeannie Mai, Grammy Award-winning rapper Nelly, Catfish host Nev Schulman, NBA superstar Charles Oakley, and Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir.

Baskin, who describes herself as a “living caricature,” says "anything goes" when it comes to her costumes — so long as "it's not too skimpy and there's no fur, feathers, or leathers involved."

“This is all for the cats,” she adds.

Dancing with the Stars premieres Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.