Pro ballroom dancer Tony Dovolani, who is partnered with reality star NeNe Leakes on this season's Dancing with the Stars, writes a weekly blog for Closer!
I would have to say last night was a great success. The fact NeNe danced the rumba so beautifully; I really felt we created passion on the floor.
Her husband Gregg was so supportive and gave me the last move of our dance! He was the one that suggested I clean my lap with my hands. He said, “Big daddy does it like this.”
NeNe actually choreographed the ending and wanted to do the whole straddling thing. She’s really adapted to choreography and I feel like we really are a partnership. We pull pranks constantly and joke on Instagram. She even danced to Albanian music yesterday while I was doing the Dougie.
It’s constant fun and there has never been a dull moment, which is a dream. I've been here 17 seasons and had a variety of different partners, each bought something different, but for my 17th season to be this much fun…that's pretty cool.
I’m so impressed by how adaptable NeNe has become. If I give her something difficult, she's actually pretty cool about it. Still, she’ll tend to look at me and say, “Tony, if you show it to me, I'll tell you if I can see myself doing it."
You kind of have to earn your stripes with NeNe, but she's been a joy to work with and never gives me a hard time, A lot of people know her as this housewife from Atlanta, and those housewives can be spicy and full of drama. I know, I watch the show with my wife, so the fact I was expecting that and I'm not getting it is incredible.
Instead I'm getting southern hospitality; NeNe epitomizes that. And you saw her break down and cry last night after the dance. She didn't handle the emotion of this week, she cried a lot.
NeNe really loves her husband Gregg and those two have a very special relationship. They've included me in their family and to see how they interact and how much love and appreciation there is for one another is very special. Gregg was the one pushing me to make the dance spicy. He said, “Tony, you have to make sure this is hot!”
NeNe with husband Gregg
And I’d like to mention on a personal note, last night was the first time in 17 seasons that I went shirtless! Sure I've opened my shirt, but shirtless? I don't know where I got the guts! Yes I do – I asked people on Twitter to vote if I should go shirtless or not – they all said shirtless! The response was overwhelming.
I loved that Carrie Ann said, “You've been here 17 seasons.” So I announced that I am actually 40 and I wanted to make sure that all these young men saw what a real man's body was supposed to look like – LOL. The response was just amazing; the cast couldn't have been more supportive.
Both Val and Maks [Chmerkovskiy] were on their feet screaming, so I felt the love. Even NeNe’s husband Gregg told me to do it. Before the show I mentioned to him I was asking the fans about it and he said, “I saw your tweet, do it shirtless.” That was it.
I’m feeling pretty good about myself right now and the reason is because last season was very emotional for me. I got a great family as friends with Leah Remini and her family and they continue to impress me with their support. I have an incredible wife and kids at home who always support me, but they are 3000 miles away.
Leah and her husband have become my family here in LA and part of my happiness is because of them. Leah actually gave me my makeover, with my clothes and all of that. It's pretty cool that I'm excited to be 40 and be able to represent being 40 the way I'm doing it.