Mauricio and Emma: ‘Soulmates’ 

Voted out October 31, Mauricio Umansky, 53, and Emma Slater, 34, raised eyebrows when they were spotted holding hands on a dinner date. They denied any romance, yet after their elimination, Emma gushed about their “soulful” connection: “We’re gonna be friends for life.” The fact that both had recently ended their marriages— he’s separated from Real Housewife Kyle Richards; she divorced fellow dancer Sasha Farber in 2022 — had the competition whispering.

“No one’s really buying that they’re not dating,” a source tells Closer. “They’re having a very good time.” Much to the consternation of Kyle, adds the insider. “She doesn’t want to believe Mauricio would disrespect her when they’re trying to figure things out in their marriage, but her intuition tells her there’s something going on.”

Mauricio umansky and Emma Slater
(Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Park Elm at Century Plaza)

Facing the Haters 

At just 18, Rylee Arnold is the youngest pro on the dance competition — and her inexperience has some criticizing her online. “People act like Rylee TOOK something from other pros who have more seniority than her,” wrote one commenter in her defense. Not helping in the ballroom: Her “showmance” with influencer partner Harry Jowsey, 26. “Everyone is working so hard to win this competition,” says the insider, adding that Rylee and Harry’s obvious chemistry “gives them an unfair advantage.” Still, the Too Hot to Handle alum is genuinely protective of the young dancer. “Fans are criticizing Rylee and she’s hurt,” continues the insider. “But Harry’s there to boost her confidence and tell her to keep her head up.”

Why They Were Snubbed 

Fans were saddened by longtime judge Len Goodman’s death at age 78 in April. But longtime dance pros Cheryl Burke and Sharna Burgess were shocked not to be included in the show’s October 24 tribute to Len. Now Closer can reveal that both made enemies on the show and were considered persona non grata. For her part, Sharna, 38, rubbed producers the wrong way when she objected to how she and partner turned fiancé Brian Austin Green were portrayed on season 30.

Mark Ballas, Cheryl Burke and Sharna Burgess
(Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic)

“I was like, ‘Hey this isn’t what we signed up for. If this is what you want for us, you just have to eliminate us because we can’t do this.’ And we were quickly eliminated after that.” Cheryl, 39, wasn’t invited either, telling fans, “I’ll be there in spirit.” The insider says her stance on the writers’ strike — she questioned whether DWTS should air — was at the root of the issue. “The producers wanted the night to be about love and remembrance, not controversy.”

Tom Lashes Out 

Former host Tom Bergeron recently revealed why he got the ax in 2020. After suggesting that producers avoid casting divisive political figures on the show, the 68-year-old was stunned when ex–White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was invited to the dance. “I said… this is not the right time,” he recalled. “Play to our strengths, be the show that gives people a break from all this bulls**t.” Instead, they offered to let him out of his contract. “It really pissed me off.” The insider says Tom has been much missed on set — especially during Tyra Banksnot-so-great run as host. “He added so much to the show,” says the source, adding that current hosts Julianne Hough and former contestant Alfonso Ribeiro have slowly won over the cast. “At least they’re part of the DWTS family,” says the insider. “They know how the show works.”