‘Dancing With the Stars’ Contestant Opens Up About ‘Almost Dying’ During Their Season

Dancing With the Stars

ABC/Eric McCandless

Season 29 of Dancing With the Stars met the celebrity contestants and pros with possibly more than their fair share of injuries from injured ankles to sprained backs, but in one case, the contestant was so ill they had to leave the show.

Jeannie Mai, the celebrity partner to pro dancer Brandon Armstrong during season 29 of the show, recently spoke with Armstrong on her show Hello Hunnay with Jeannie Mai about how she almost died while rehearsing and filming her season of the show.

In November 2020 at the height of the Dancing With the Stars season, it was announced that Mai had to leave the show and was in the hospital due to health concerns.


Mai Says She Was ‘Focused on Competing in DWTS,’ Not on Health

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In a new episode of Hello Hunnay, Mai and Armstrong talked about what led up to her health concerns and throat surgery, as reported exclusively by ET Online.

“Some of you may have heard that I recently got really sick,” Mai started after making joking references to The Little Mermaid. “I saw a doctor who correctly diagnosed me and saved me from possibly losing my ability to breathe. I’m going to be honest with you. Even when I was diagnosed, I did not take it seriously.”

She continued, “I was not focused on saving my life, I was focused on competing in Dancing With the Stars.” 

She said that at the beginning of her illness, she thought she just had a sore throat and could continue rehearsing and competing in the show, which she really thought she may be able to win. She had to cancel a rehearsal in order to go see a doctor, but she was originally misdiagnosed.


Mai Says She Was ‘Almost Dying’ While Rehearsing for the Show

Mai said on the show that when she returned to rehearsals, she was still not completely focused on her health.

“The next day, of course I stayed consistent and rescheduled the rehearsal with Brandon,” she said. “I was almost dying in that room, but I didn’t know it because I was pushing through and hyped up on steroids.”

It was days before she got the advice from Armstrong to stop taking steroid shots who had once torn his Achilles after taking a steroid shot for pain.

“My throat was 60% closed,” Mai shared. “It was numb, but it was closed.”

She said that she went home and wrote a note to her fiance about feeling sick and going to bed early. She joked in the note about needing prayers because she didn’t “know if I’m going to make it through camera blocking.”

The next day, she woke up at 5 a.m. and couldn’t breathe. She said she was gasping for air and tried to take some aspirin to maybe get the swelling down, but she couldn’t even swallow the pill. After two more doctor’s appointments, she finally knew what was wrong.

She said that she found out at one of those appointments that her throat was going to close and she had to have surgery.

“I called Brandon and was so upset,” she said. “Was absolutely enraged in tears, like, ‘They’re making me do this, I’m so sorry.'”

Mai has since recovered from her illness, but she had to leave Dancing With the Stars abruptly and wasn’t able to finish her run for the Mirrorball Trophy.

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