Val Chmerkovskiy and Jenna Johnson: Inside the Dancing with the Stars Pros' Love Story
Val Chmerkovskiy and Jenna Johnson found love away from the ballroom floor.
The Dancing with the Stars pros revealed on Thursday that they were engaged — with Johnson, 24, and Chmerkovskiy, 32, sharing a photo of their engagement. “I can’t wait to make you my wife ♥👑,” he wrote.
“My life has changed because of [her,]” Chmerkovskiy told PEOPLE of his new fiancée. “And I find myself to be the best version of myself that I’ve ever been. She’s awesome.”
It was great news for fans of the couple, who have been following their off-and-on again romance since it began in 2015.
They met on DWTS, where Johnson — of So You Think You Can Dance fame — joined as a troupe member in 2014. She was eventually promoted to a full pro in 2016’s season 23, where she was paired with actor Jake T. Austin. She was next partnered as a pro with Adam Rippon for this spring’s All Athletes season. The pair would go on to win the coveted Mirrorball trophy.
Chmerkovskiy, of course, has a long history with ABC dance competition show. He has won it twice, with Rumer Willis and Laurie Hernandez. He’s appeared on DWTS going back to season 2, but only as a full-time pro starting with season 13 in 2011.
While the two would start dating, they kept their romance hidden for the first few months. It wasn’t until February 2016, when the couple was first spotted getting cuddly while out and about in West Hollywood for lunch, that the press had a clue.
At the time, Johnson caressed Chmerkovskiy’s hair and face as they dined. They later walked down the street with their arms wrapped around each other.
Though there was romance, the pair separated when he previously dated Amber Rose. They split in February 2017 after nearly five months of dating.
Soon thereafter, Chmerkovskiy and Johnson began publicly sharing their love story — even sharing a passionate kiss on the season 25 finale of DWTS.
“I’ll be honest, I’m just tired of fighting this because I realize that people and Hollywood are obsessed with romance and love stories,” Chmerkovskiy previously told PEOPLE of his decision to open up more to the media about his relationship with Johnson. “I feel like it’s private. It should remain private but, at the same time, I understand I can’t be a hypocrite. I’m on Instagram kind of sharing our vacations and my love for her constantly.”
Last summer, their relationship was in full swing online. Just one day apart, the DWTS cast members expressed their affection for each other with cuddly photos posted on their respective Instagram accounts.
Johnson first shared an adorable picture of the pair with their arms intertwined while sitting side-by-side on a restaurant patio bench on July 30. “Because he takes care of me when I’m sicker than a dog,” she captioned the image.
A day later on Aug. 1, Chmerkovskiy posted a lovey-dovey image of the pair in front of the Eiffel Tower during their recent trip to France, in which he kisses Johnson’s forehead. “So proud of mah lady. selfie stick and all. 👑#wcweveryday,” he wrote on Instagram.
As their love continued to blossom, Chmerkovskiy began thinking about the next step. Witnessing older brother Maksim tie the knot with Peta Murgatroyd that July left Chmerkovskiy considering walking down the aisle himself.
“Is that what it’s called, the wedding bug? Or have I gained a different perspective on, you know, what love is and what happiness is?” he told The Insider on the red carpet of the 2017 Industry Dance Awards and Cancer Benefit Show in Los Angeles in August. “You know, I’m in a great place and I’m in love, and I’m very grateful for that.”
He would later share a loving photo of him kissing Johnson’s cheek at the event, calling her “the real prize.”
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The duo’s affection for one another crossed over into their professional lives too.
As Johnson returned to Dancing with the Stars in September, Chmerkovskiy told reporters that she was “a huge asset to the show.” “I think she’s an incredible talent. I’m a huge fan,” he gushed. “I think she’s the best girl here, so I’m excited to see her here.”
In March, he admitted to Entertainment Tonight that “it’s hard” to watch Johnson hit the ballroom floor with other men. “The type of person I am, I mean, I’m fairly jealous. I mean, look, I have all these emotions, you know.”
“I’m not perfect,” he continued. “But I have to check myself and be fair and say, like … how can I hold this against her if I’m in the same situation? And I would never want to compromise my artistry, you know, because I wouldn’t want to make my significant other feel uncomfortable.”
“This is part of the new chapter in my life,” he added. “It takes some sacrifice to have a healthy relationship. And, you know, you gotta be willing to make those sacrifices and I’m definitely willing to make certain sacrifices to make it work.”
Chmerkovskiy and Johnson’s love only grew stronger throughout their time together, as they continued to attend events as a pair.
At PEOPLE’s Ones to Watch Party presented by Maybelline New York at NeueHouse Hollywood in Los Angeles in October, the duo hit the dance floor together. An onlooker says Val had his arm around Johnson all evening and introduced her to friends as “my girl.”
Later that month, they stepped out with Maksim, 38, and Murgatroyd, 31 for a sweet double date at Craig’s in West Hollywood. The two couples were snapped walking outside the restaurant and stopped for paparazzi to take a smiling group photo. “Finally…we get to do that double dating thing 🚀” Murgatroyd later captioned an image of the group posted on Instagram.
So what led to the proposal? Well, fans paying attention knew their love was headed that way.
In May, Chmerkovskiy responded to a tweet about Johnson when a fan account shared a gif of her wearing a red bedazzled costume.
“Jenna Johnson though,” the account tweeted, to which Chmerkovskiy responded, “I should def put a ring on it,” adding three emojis: eyes, heart eyes and a crown.
His tweet came the same day Johnson joked to Entertainment Tonight about a proposal. “Time’s a-ticking!” She said. “We’ll see [if engagement is in the cards anytime soon]. We both have very big things happening right now, so we’ll let that ride over… maybe we’ll go to Fiji!”
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As for a baby, that likely won’t be too far behind.
After becoming an uncle to Maksim and Murgatroyd’s son Shai, Chmerkovskiy admitted he has a little bit of baby fever.
“I think she would love to be a mother,” Chmerkovskiy has said of Johnson. “But she also has so many incredible things going on in her life and I would feel very selfish to interrupt them for nine months. But definitely soon, hopefully.”