Each Dancing With the Stars pro seems to have one season where they believed they should have won, and Val Chmerkovskiy revealed in his 2018 memoir, I’ll Never Change My Name, why he was so upset when his season 16 partner, Zendaya, didn’t win the Mirrorball trophy.
In the memoir, Chmerkovskiy opened up about what it was like to work with the then-teenage super-talented Zendaya. He said that because he knew how talented she was, he worked harder than he might with others.
“Zendaya was a special talent, and special talents had a special, higher bar to clear,” he wrote. “The standard was set not by the outside world, but by Zendaya herself, because of her talent. But it wasn’t talent that would allow her to succeed, rather it was her desire to fulfill that talent to the best of her ability.”
Chmerkovskiy Says the Second-Place Finish Was Heartbreaking
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight in 2018, Chmerkovskiy told the outlet that he wished he could have a redo of season 16.
“My biggest heartbreak was on Dancing With the Stars, not winning with Zendaya, honestly,” he told the outlet. “That was a huge heartbreak for me because she was 16. I wanted this to be such a huge moment for her. She worked so hard, and I really wanted her to lift that trophy and jump-start her career. And she didn’t lift the trophy and I felt heartbroken about that.”
He added, “But it jumpstarted her career anyway. That’s when you learn that it’s not necessarily always about winning or losing, it’s really about learning through the process and then using those tools to further yourself down the road.”
Chmerkovskiy Believed He Let Zendaya Down
In the memoir, Chmerkovskiy says he thought he let his partner down but that they still became like family.
“She had done all that, working as hard as she possibly could, giving me everything I asked for and more-but she didn’t get the result that I felt she deserved, and it was my fault,” Chmerkovskiy wrote. “At every point between our initial introduction and that second-place finish, Zendaya had been excellent… I probably had one of the best seasons I’ve ever had.”
He added, “We’re still like family: she became my sibling, the sister I never had.”
Chmerkovskiy told Entertainment Tonight that he wished that they could do it over again.
“I wish I could go back and have another chance at that season because I feel like she was an incredible talent, and I could’ve done better,” he shared. “I think I wasn’t as good as I am definitely now as a choreographer and as a teacher and dancer. I would’ve loved to give her another shot at that, but outside of that, she turned out pretty fine.”
Chmerkovskiy recently talked about how proud he was of Zendaya on an Instagram story, writing, that her new movie Malcolm & Marie is a “Must watch, but especially for couples.”
He continued, “Raw, honest depiction and dialogue. Cinematic and creative filmmaking that keeps you watching from beginning to end. Proud of my girl Z. And John David kills it.”