Courtesy: Cheryl Burke via Instagram
By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent
Professional dancer Cheryl Burke fondly recalls her annual childhood trips to the Philippines with her mother. She’s seen where her mother grew up, a place Cheryl describes as a “poor province in the Philippines” with “no toilets, no A/C, nothing.”
It’s a stark contrast to Burke’s life today as a two-time Dancing with the Stars champion, an author and an inductee into the Asian Hall of Fame. It’s an honor presented to her this past November which she proudly shares with her mother.
“My mother is such a role model to me. She has a rags to riches story. She has made a living and a great life here in the US. I wouldn’t be here without her sacrifices and success. The values she instilled in me made me appreciate what I had while always working hard.”
Just as her mother, Cheryl has overcome her own struggles. In her autobiography, Dancing Lessons: How I Found Passion and Potential on the Dance Floor and in Life, she detailed how a family helper molested her and her sister. Burke testified against him at age 6 and the court found Gerry Depaula guilty and sentenced him to 24 years in prison.
More recently Burke detailed her struggles with sobriety. She recalls a life of partying seven days a week, the point when she realized her drinking had become an “issue.” Her father battled alcoholism and she did not want that pattern to repeat itself.
Her father, Stephen, grew up in New York and is both Irish and Russian. She jokingly says she got the “no BS side of myself from him” and the dancer side comes from both of them.
“He always said it came from him, and my mom said it came from her, but I do know that both of their mothers loved to dance.”
Being multiracial and being recognized by the Asian Hall of Fame makes the honor that much more special for her. Burke realizes when she takes the dance floor she has a look audiences are not used to seeing there.
“People would do a double take when they saw me. But now I’m older I love that I’m older. I love that I’m mixed and how it makes me stand out.”
Burke puts her successes and struggles out for everyone to see or hear in her new podcast Pretty Messed Up with her season 29 partner AJ McLean and friend and co-host Rene Elizondo. They talk about everything “messed up” they’ve been through-from their mental health to their sobriety.
“I tell my story in hopes to help at least one person be able to share theirs. People are taught not to talk about mental health, but being able to voice my own struggles, I hope we can get rid of the stigma and show that it’s okay to talk about these topics. There is help available, and everyone can benefit from therapy or just talking to someone,” she says.
Burke married actor Matthew Lawrence in 2019. She credits Lawrence with helping her get through some of her struggles. In an interview with People, she called Lawrence “her rock.”
Burke recently started a new line of face masks this year with Bailey Blue. She describes her masks as comfortable and breathable.
Comfortable- that’s a good way to describe the star dancer. Comfortable on the dance floor and comfortable in her own skin.
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