It took a long time for Carrie Ann Inaba to find her voice. “I was actually afraid of talking when I was young, and that’s why I became a dancer,” the Dancing With the Stars judge, 51, exclusively told Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now. Then in January, she became a permanent cohost of CBS’ daytime chatfest The Talk, which revolves around the thing she once feared the most.

“It’s really interesting how life puts you on your course,” Carrie Ann — whose work on DWTS also led to a cohosting stint on Live With Kelly — said. It was then that “I realized I love having a voice and being able to help people by sharing my own stories,” she added. “That’s the key to success and fulfillment: to work hard and go to bed at night feeling that I used my time well.”

Closer recently caught up with Carrie Ann to talk about her exciting career, her feelings on motherhood and how she’s transforming a personal health battle into a new crusade — scroll down to read our exclusive Q&A interview with Carrie Ann!

Congrats on replacing Julie Chen on The Talk! How did it happen?

I guest cohosted about 60 times because they needed somebody. I lived nearby and I really enjoyed being there. Then Julie unfortunately left the panel [when her husband, former CBS chairman Les Moonves, faced sexual harassment allegations] and a space opened up. They auditioned a lot of people, so I’m just really lucky that it worked out the way it did.

Why is it the right job for you?

I love those women, I respect them and I enjoy our dynamic. It’s a very diverse panel and I like being a part of that. It was such a blessing.

You also have a great dynamic with the judges on Dancing With the Stars. What’s your funniest memory from the show?

Gilles Marini performed one of the best dances ever, and I got so excited, I fell off my chair! I was laughing so hard, and then Bruno [Tonioli] fell off his chair! That tells you a lot about us — we just laugh!

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How did DWTS prepare you to cohost The Talk?

It taught me how to know my lane and stand up strong for it, but also respect others and encourage them. It’s like a dance — when somebody’s having a moment, you support them. It’s the same thing that I took over to The Talk. What I love about it is that I get to speak about so many more topics and share more things about my life. For instance, my iron deficiency anemia (IDA).

Which inspired your ‘Get Iron Informed’ campaign with Daiichi Sankyo. How did you know you were sick?

I was extremely exhausted and had a lot of pain in my body, a lot of brain fog and anxiety. It was so confusing, and once I was able to find the right doctor who gave me the right blood test — for me, it was the ferritin test to measure my iron levels — I realized I had IDA. I was diagnosed six years ago.

How did things change once you knew?

I felt relief, as you could imagine. I was surprised that it’s so under diagnosed yet so common. Many of my friends have it. I want to start a conversation with everyone: about how you should ask your doctor the right questions. Sometimes we feel rushed, but you have to put your foot down and ask for things you need. I had to ask for a specific blood test that wasn’t part of the normal workup. What’s important to note is that people can have no symptoms or very different ones than mine.

In 2007, you were diagnosed with spinal stenosis. How did you get through it all?

I’ve been through a lot of health crises in my life. The most important thing is having a great relationship with your doctor and being your own advocate. And I have a great support system: My mom would go with me to my appointments and I would go with her [when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008].

How did you balance all this with your busy work schedule?

I’ve been very fortunate that I never missed a day of work due to illness. I have a very strong work ethic. Also, Dancing With the Stars is not on as often as The Talk. We usually go for 10 weeks, then off for three months, then on 10 weeks again, but this year is different. We’re going to skip the spring season and hopefully head right into the fall. Because of that, I was able to rest a lot in between.

How did dancing change your life?

Oh God, it changed my life completely. It gave me a voice and taught me how to always speak my truth. As a judge, sometimes it’s hard to look somebody in the eye who has really worked hard and didn’t do such a great job, and to give feedback in a loving way. That’s helped me a lot, because I really believe in truth.

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#tbt Going way back to my days in Hawaii.i used to dance on our deck pretending I was dancing on a stage. I wasn’t the best dancer in regards to training, I didn’t care for ballet, I didn’t like to feel confined by what moves were “right” or “wrong”. Hula and Jazz dance suited me more. In Hula we use our bodies, mostly our hands, hips, and eyes, to tell stories and keep the Hawaiian culture alive and well. I loved expressing this way. And then there was jazz. I loved that jazz was a wide open form of dance. Back then there was no “contemporary” so jazz included lyrical jazz as well. I loved to dance to songs that melted my heart, I loved not having to pull up or point my toe all the time. I loved letting it all go.. putting all my emotions into the movements, without fear or falling or doing too much. In dance, I wanted to do too much. I had a lot in my heart that needed to come out. And in dance class or out there on my back porch, I’d let it all flow. Today, I’m thankful for having dance as a form of expression and healing in my life. I don’t know who I would have become without it. What are you thankful for this #thankfulthursday ? 🙏🙌🏻✨❤️🙏🏻. #dancer #life #thoughtfulthursday #hawaii #jazzdancer #proudofit @dancingabc

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You were engaged to accountant Jesse Sloan in 2011 and actor Robb Derringer in 2016 — you’re single now and recently said you’re thinking about adoption. Do you have regrets about those relationships, or not having kids?

No, I don’t have any regrets … Okay, maybe I wish that I had children. That involves so many things, like the right partner, the right environment, the right body conditions. That’s one thing I could have done differently, but I can’t even say that’s a regret because I have my [ex-fiancé Jesse’s] daughter [Kristen].

What do you mean?

If I had my own daughter, maybe I wouldn’t have had that bond with Kristen. She’s 21, and I’ve known her since she was in fifth grade. We’ve been very close, and I’m so fortunate to have her in my life.

That’s nice to hear! What’s the greatest life lesson you’ve learned?

That usually after a stumble or a difficult time, there’s always a blessing. There’s no such thing as failure, because whatever heartbreak it is, whatever you’re going through that’s difficult, the lesson is the next step. Don’t be afraid if you’re going through a hard time because you’re just around the corner from the good stuff.

What’s around the corner for you?

I want to write. I have a blog called Carrie Ann Conversations where I talk about women’s issues. I also want to write a show, and I have to produce one, maybe in Vegas. It’s so funny — once I got The Talk, I thought, now it’s all the beginning! I feel like I’m just getting started.

For more on Carrie Ann Inaba, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!