Mark Ballas has wowed audiences for years as a pro-dancer on "Dancing With The Stars." The 27-year-old, who has salsa'ed with everyone from Kim Kardashian to Bristol Palin, recently appeared on Season 17 of the show and plans to continue to compete for years to come.
But did you know Ballas was raised in London or that he watches countless hours of TV in his free time?
He chatted with HuffPost Celebrity yesterday (Dec. 4) and revealed that and a whole lot more while taking our #nofilter challenge.
When's the last time you cried?
Two times actually. Once during “Les Mis” the movie. Like, sobbing! Sobbing, during “Les Mis.” And then when I went to see Celine Dion. [Laughs] I went to see Celine Dion in Vegas and it was ah-mazing. She started singing the “Beauty and the Beast” song and it was a wrap. Yeah, it was really incredible.
What's your guiltiest pleasure?
I’m a horrible TV junkie. I finished “Breaking Bad,” I’m caught up on “Walking Dead,” I finished “Game of Thrones” and I started “Homeland” like two weeks ago and I just finished Season 1. I’m behind, I’m catching up.
What's the silliest thing you've ever lied about?
When we were living in London, Derek [Hough] and I stole my mom’s car when he was 15 and I was 14. And in England you have to be 17 to drive, and we stole the car. And my mom wasn’t in town so we thought, "We are not getting busted." But when she got back, she went to the local dance store to buy shoes and the guy who sells the shoes -- they’re friends -- and he was like, "I didn’t know your boys passed their driving test?" So that night she came home and she was like, "Did you steal the car?" And we were like, "No." And then Julianne [Hough] did us in, she totally told her what we did. [Laughs]
If you could commit a crime and get away with it, what would it be?
I’d like to probably reenact like “Ocean’s 13” and like, rob the Bellagio. Just like abseil down through the roof, through the lasers, with like a team of all my best friends. That would be awesome.
What's one thing you do when you're alone that you wouldn't do in front of someone else?
I tickle my own arm. Like, when I’m at home alone, I tickle myself, like this, [brushes his fingers up and down his forearm]. But usually if I have company, it’s like, ‘Tickle my arm, girl!” [laughs]
What happens in your recurring dream?
I have a daughter. It’s weird. I always have a daughter with me. I have dreams where I’ll just be like doing something and then I have like, this daughter. It’s interesting. I’ve already picked out names for her and everything.
What’s the working title of your autobiography?
"This S--t Is Crazy, But I Like It."
Is it okay to recline your seat on an airplane?
Absolutely, you have to recline your seat. Sometimes there’s more space where if the person in front of you leans back in your space, cool, but when it’s really tight, I usually recline my seat. The worst is kids that recline their seats and they’re shaking and wiggling.
When do you feel most anxious?
Um, every day. Just in life, I’m anxious. I’m a busybody so I’m anxious when I have a day off. I need to learn how to have a day off. During the season and when I’m recording or playing gigs or dancing, I’m like, "Ugh, I’m so tired I want to have a day off." And then I get one and I'm just like, fidgety.
What or who is overrated right now?
Twerking. Twerking is so overrated like, stop. Everyone’s got to stop. Twerking is so old, too. My grandma talks about twerking and I’m like, no! No, grandma!
Is a good friend hard to come by?
Oh yeah, especially in L.A. I feel like in cities like L.A., people are always trying to look for the next big thing. Like to push themselves forward. And I think a true friend is someone that has your back when you’re up, when you’re down and someone that will stay engaged in conversation, who’s not looking to see who else they can go and talk to, I have no time for people like that. My mom’s side of the family is from Liverpool in England and that’s just some really tough down-to-earth people and I was just raised to not have mentality for people like that.
Describe one time you thought "This is harder than it looks."
Wakeboarding. I used to skateboard, and I was like, good at it and I got in the water and I was like, "Ah, this is going to be a piece of cake." And for the first hour and a half, I was just like, "No." I was so sore. I got up the next day, I was so frustrated and Derek was like, "You have to come wakeboarding man, you got to come wakeboarding!" And he was like, boop! [Up on the board] And I was like, "Why can’t I get up!" But I got it the next day. It’s a lot harder than it looks.
Tell us a joke.
I won’t tell you my usually go-to jokes because they’re very, very dirty. But this one is, “What do you call a fish with no eye? A f-s-h.” [Laughs] That one is great, especially after a few drinks.
What are you most afraid of?
Dying in bed alone. Or being torn limb from limb by a shark. But I love sharks, like shark week is my jam. But man, the thought of all that power.
When do you feel most at peace?
Watching “Homeland?” [Laughs] No, I’m most at peace when I’m with my family. I just went home for Thanksgiving and we got together all of us just dancing and listening to music and talking. We’re loud and rambunctious and there’s over 20 of us and we’re Greek and Hispanic, so we're a rowdy group. I just feel so comfortable there. And my best friends, too. I say I can count my really good friends on one hand and when I’m around them I always feel super comfortable. Family and friends are everything. Without them, there’s just no point.
What's the most unusual thing you have in your purse/wallet?
I have a picture of my dad in high school. I think that it was on his 50th birthday that my uncle laid out these hilarious pictures of my dad and I was like, "This is a cracker!" (Editor's Note: Cracker is British slang for something that you think is very funny.) So I kept it, and the other day I was going through my wallet and getting rid of like receipts and stuff and I found it and he’s 54 now, so I’ve had it in my wallet for four years. It’s really funny.
What sense would you most be afraid to lose?
Sight, probably. Sight and hearing too, because I don’t want to not hear music. I couldn’t do that.
Do you think it would be more difficult to dance without sound or without sight?
Probably without sight because I’m so experienced now. But if I was in a dance, and say you put some ear muffs on to cancel out the sound, and I was in a group, I could keep it going by looking at the others and just feeling the vibrations on the floor. You can feel like the beats. But if you’re blind, yeah, no.
By the looks of his moves (and stamina) you would never know Ballas is a smoker. He has teamed up with the new program BluePrint to Quit to kick his smoking habit and regain a healthier lifestyle.
"I've been smoking on and off since I was 15 or 16," he told HuffPost Celebrity. "Dancers think they’re invincible and then you reach 25 and you pass your prime as a dancer, and you really do start to feel little body changes."
"Blueprint is really great because it offered me a routine," he continued, explaining how they helped him quit smoking. "It gave me a really strong program to follow, it gave me a target, it gave me goals and it wasn’t just based off of pure will power and discipline."
For more on Blueprint to Quit, visit their website.
He sings. He dances. He doesn’t smoke.
You may recognize Mark Ballas’ name. He is on the wildly popular Dancing With the Stars and has won multiple times. The DWTS pro sat down with TheCelebrityCafe.com to talk about his partnership with Blueprint to Quit, his singing career and dancing.
Ballas joined DWTS in its fifth season after retiring from professional dancing. While on DWTS, Ballas has had dance partners from Christina Millian to Kim Kardashian and Bristol Palin. He has won the mirrored ball trophy twice, in season eight and six.
In 2011, Ballas released HurtLoveBox, his first album. He is planning to release a new record sometime in 2014. He has also had guest-starring roles in Melissa and Joey and Samantha Who.
Following his success, he partnered up with Blueprint to Quit to finally quit smoking. The 27-year-old said that he began smoking around age 16 and had continued on and off throughout his adult life.
Ballas spoke about his journey with smoking, his past dance career and future goals. He even talked dance battles and feuds. (And it’s not with Julianne!)
TheCelebrityCafe.com: Can you tell me about your partnership with Blueprint to Quit?
Mark Ballas: We started working together about six months ago. The program has been really amazing. I’ve been a smoker on and off since I was 16 years old. Growing up in Europe, it was part of the lifestyle. I’ve tried to quit in the past. I’ve done well on my own at times but I always ended up going back to it. The Blueprint is great. It is kind of like how I dance and train for something. I stick to a routine, therefore it encourages discipline. The most helpful part about doing it is when I use the Nicoderm CQ patch. I just put it on in the morning and go about my day. I can dance and not worry about it. I don’t have to think about doing anything else during the day. It just kept me focused. It has been really great. I feel a lot better, especially doing what I do for a living. It really has been awesome and life changing.
TCC: Did you use the Nicoderm patch before the partnership or did you use it after the company approached you?
MB: It was after the partnership. Once we started working together, they put me on their program. There are three different ways you can do it too. You can do the patch, the gum or lozenge. I just thought, because I have to move around all day, especially when I’m dancing, the patch is the best way to go. I can put it on in the morning, take it off at night before bed. You don’t have to worry about it. You just keep repeating the same thing every day.
TCC: How did your smoking affect your dancing?
MB: When I was younger it wasn’t as noticeable, but when I got a little bit older, I’m 27 now, I started to see a difference. It affects your breathing and stamina. It affects your dancing at the pace I dance at.
When I started taking on the Blueprint and finally admitting to the quit, my breathing was better and I was able to dance longer. It was like how I used to feel when I was younger. That is something that I need and have to have with me when I’m dancing so much during the day. On the show, we’ll be going for 10-12 hours a day. It is definitely something that keeps me going.
TCC: You released an album in 2011, did you notice that your smoking affected that at all, vocally?
MB: Yes. For me it wasn’t as much as when I was dancing. I would feel it. And of course, it’s not great for your voice, but I think that the main thing it affected in me was stamina.
TCC: DWTS ended a few weeks ago. What are your plans while the show isn’t on?
MB: When the show is not on I am obviously enjoying holiday time. I am eating food that I can’t typically eat. That is pretty awesome. I just finished my new record. We are hopefully going to roll it out next year at some point. I was just kind of setting up for the new single that was coming out and video too. I have played a lot of shows with my band. It has been really, really awesome. This new record is going to be something else. It is my first full studio album; the last were just acoustic fun stuff. This is the one. I am excited.
TCC: How would you describe your music?
MB: Relatable, catchy, funky, it makes you want to move but it is also about things you can relate to. It is all produced, mostly, on live instruments. There is a horn section on there. I wrote and co-wrote the whole record. It is just fun, upbeat and catchy. Another word I have been using is unique, it has a whole blend of styles. It has funk, pop, there is a little Latin flare in there since I grew up playing guitar. It has a really cool vibe.
TCC: Who would you like to duet with on your album?
MB: John Mayer, Bruno Mars, Ellie Goulding, if he were still alive, Michael Jackson, Ed Sheeran.
TCC: What about your dream dance partner?
MB: I get that question a lot. I used to say Jennifer Aniston but I’m on the Ellie Goulding thing right now. It would be her.
TCC: If you were in a dance battle for your life and you had to pick three people to be on your team, who would be on your team and why?
MB: 100% Derek Hough would be on my team. Gene Kelly would be on there too and Michael Jackson.
MB: We would kill everybody! Me, Derek, Gene and Michael Jackson- that would be awesome!
TCC: What is your song of choice?
MB: That’s really good. That’s a great question.
TCC: It is Hunger Games dance style.
MB: I’m going to go with “Working Day and Night” by Michael Jackson.
TCC: Christina Millian went home before Bill [Engvall] even though he, consistently, had lower scores throughout the entire season-
MB: We went home before Bill.
TCC: I know! What about that?
MB: Why? Here’s the thing. A lot of people say Bill blah blah blah- first off, Bill is awesome. Obviously you guys voted for him. It is viewer’s choice. The judges can do their part and score them fairly but at the end of the day it comes down to viewer votes. If people don’t pick up the phone. Everyone is like “I don’t understand why you and Christina went home” and I’m like “Did you vote” and they’re like “no…” and then there you go.
TCC: Was she a dancer before the show?
MB: No. She did a little bit of cheerleading before but she wasn’t, by any means, a professional dancer - like Corbin. Corbin had a lot of experience.
TCC: Do you think that it is fair to bring in celebrities that have had previous dance training?
MB: Absolutely. I always bring this up in debate. There is no rule. It is not Dancing With the Inexperienced Stars, it is Dancing With the Stars and it is virtually impossible to find 12 people in the entertainment industry that don’t have dance experience. If you’re an actor, singer, or performer it is more than likely that you have done a little bit of dancing - if it is for a role or growing up doing theater. I think this has turned into a stereotype where the show is about dancing with people who have no experience dancing. That’s not in the rulebook. That has never been in the rulebook. Of course it can seem unfair but blah, blah, blah, but you’ve seen some of the best dancers, AKA Christina Millian and Sabrina Bryan, you’ve seen loads of great dancers go out early. At the end of the day, if you have dance experience it really doesn’t come into factor. I’ve seen so many great people go out first. It is all about how you work with your partner and if you have a fan base as well.
TCC: Who do you think has had the most growth when dancing?
MB: So many. They’ve all been really good. Shawn Johnson has been amazing. If you would have seen her on day one. She was always natural but, in the end, she was incredible. Kathie Jenkins too. I’ve had so many really great partners. Aly Raisman too. At the beginning she could not count music at all by the end of it she was making it through routines.
TCC: Who is your dance influence?
MB: Michael Jackson, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, my mom and dad- just those right there. Justin Timberlake has got some good stuff going on.
TCC: He would be cool on DWTS.
MB: If he did it, we might as well throw in the towel.
TCC: How do you deal with the critiques from judges that you don’t think are fair?
MB: At the end of the day, you can complain and say stuff. But, once they give you a number, that’s it. You can’t do anything. You just have to grit your teeth and go on with it. You have to be somewhat creative in an individual way the next week. Of course there are times when it is super frustrating when you’re working that hard and you come in the day and there like “well..” There are so many creative routines on the show that just get killed by the judges. It is annoying. At the end of the day, it is up to the fans. The judges are only three people. We have millions of people watching the show. That’s why we do it.
TCC: Do you choreograph all of your dances?
MB: I do.
TCC: Tell me one day of Dancing With the Stars.
MB: At its highest velocity, it would be rehearsal at 9:00. The first shift could be between four and five hours. Then lunch break. There might be a wardrobe fitting. Go to CBS, pick out wardrobe, do fittings, make sure the dress is correct. There will be a creative meeting with one of the guys who are in charge of the props and one guy who is in charge of the lighting. You have to make sure all of your band edits are correct and talk to the band editor. When that is on track then you can go back to rehearsal and rehearse another four, five or six hours until you’re completely ready. It is a full, full day. It is so crazy. You get to eat, take breaks and do other things at the same time. Sometimes you have 2-3 dances a week instead of just one. It is a hectic schedule. When you are in it, when you have a partner who is going to last you in the long haul, you have to work.
TCC: Which dance is the hardest dance? Which dance do you need to spend the most time on, just to really get it down?
MB: It depends on the celebrities. Like some are more inclined to ballroom and others to Latin. It depends on their body type and what they find natural.
TCC: What’s your favorite?
MB: I like the jive. The jive is fun. It is also really fun when you get to the freestyle round too.
TCC: Your father [Corky Ballas] was a dancer so you grew up around dancing. Is that what influenced you to be a dancer or did you come upon that on your own.
MB: My mom and dad were both dancers. They were world champions together. I guess you could say it was in the family. I came into it that way. I was never pushed into it. I made the decision that I wanted to do it myself. They didn’t tell me, “you’re going to dance.” One day, when I was about 10, I decided that I wanted to dance.
TCC: What do you do in your free time? If you have free time outside of your album and DWTS?
MB: I am dealing with the record and playing shows. When I do manage to squeeze some relaxation time, I am a huge TV junkie. I just figured that out in the last few months. I am addicted to Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Homeland,The Walking Dead. I love it. Especially when I’m traveling because I have the iPad that gets service. So I can watch it when I’m traveling.
TCC: Who would you consider your mentor in dancing?
MB: Honestly, my mom. She trained me. She was my coach.
TCC: Are you planning on doing another season of DWTS?
MB: It depends if they ask me back in February, we shall see then.
TCC: You’ve been on the show since season five. Do you ever think you’ll get tired of it?
MB: No. Every season is a different challenge. It is always fun to take on a different person because every person is a different character. It’s not like you are going out with the same person every time. I enjoy the process. If you have someone who is eager to learn and is somewhat natural and is ready to understand what the challenge is, it’s a blast. It is an awesome, unique situation to be in as a dancer. I think it doesn’t really get any better as a dancer. I am super grateful to be here. I don’t think something as awesome as this could ever get tiresome.
TCC: How did you get onto the show?
MB: I quit competitive dancing because I couldn’t compete and do the show at the same time because the time frames don’t match up. So, when they heard I quit competing, I got a call. They knew I could dance, I just needed to do an onscreen interview. Myself and Derek [Hough] both got asked to do it at the same time.
TCC: There have been rumors that you were feuding with Derek’s sister, Julianne, is that true?
TCC: Maybe she can be on the other side of your dance battle. That would be an interesting way to take care of the feud.
MB:There was no feud. That’s just press blowing that up. She’s like my little sister. We went out that night. She was just being funny and I know her sense of humor. It was just blown up out of proportion.
TCC: Back to the smoking, it there anything else you’d like to say about Blueprint to Quit?
MB: I just love the company and want to encourage people to checkout the website. If they want to quit, New Year is around the corner. You can find all of the info at Walmart.com/BlueprintToQuit and quit! Do it! Do it for New Years. Make a promise to yourself. Live a better lifestyle. It doesn’t matter if you are young or if you are an older person, if it can work for me then it can work for anybody. You just gotta do it. You’ll live a healthier lifestyle, you’ll feel better. It is a really great thing to take on. I feel better. With New Years around the corner, make a resolution. Your friends, your family, your siblings or whoever will be happy you’re doing it. You’ll just feel better.
TCC: What would you tell a 14-year-old boy who is being pressured into his first cigarette. The other kids are telling him to try it, do it and that it is cool. What would you tell him?
MB: I would say, “no! It is not cool.” I would say that it is a trap. Sure you’ll start with one then you’ll have two and then you start buying it and spending a lot of money a year on it. It is just unhealthy. In England, a lot of people start smoking young. I picked it up when I was about 16. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t. It’s not cool. It’s not awesome. Luckily I didn’t have people pressuring me. I was just around people who did it. If someone is pressuring you, it is your own decision, but don’t do it. I would encourage any young person just not to get on it. It is nasty. There is no point in going down that road. It’s never really cool. I understand the curiosity of it. That cute girl from high school or college isn’t going to walk up to you and say, “you smoke, cool!”
You can check out Mark Ballas' story at Walmart.com/BlueprintToQuit.
Comment below, who would you want in your dance battle?
Dancing with the Stars‘ Mark Ballas had been a cigarette smoker for over a decade and, after many unsuccessful attempts, has recently quit his habit. Below, he shares his story of struggle and success with PEOPLE.
Between long days in dance rehearsals and long nights at the studio, my life requires discipline. When I put my mind to something, I’m all in and will not stop until I accomplish my goal—which is why I didn’t expect quitting smoking to be such a challenge.
You might be surprised to learn that for more than 10 years I was a smoker. I grew up with several of my friends and family members smoking, so it didn’t seem strange to pick up a cigarette for the first time. It started out as one cigarette here and there—even sneaking in a smoke in the bathroom at school (ha!)—but before I knew it, I was up to a pack a day. I was hooked.
Like many people, stress became a main trigger to push me to light up. My line of work can be very unpredictable—long hours, last-minute performances and schedule changes—so smoking became my release. It became my normal routine: Wake up, have a smoke, drive to work, have a smoke, take a break, have a smoke. Now that I think of it, I probably attempted to quit 30 times in my life with no success. How scary
I like to think of myself as a healthy guy. I like to eat right—usually egg whites with avocado for breakfast and lean chicken or fish for dinner—and stick to a gym routine to get my cardio in. Cigarettes were just not fitting into that lifestyle. But when smoking started to affect my stamina and endurance, I knew it was time to quit for good.
It really hit me at the end of a two-minute dance routine one day, when I doubled-over, wheezing and coughing. That was a serious wake-up call. I knew this time had to be different, so I decided to use a program that gave me the support I needed. I chose to use Blueprint to Quit, a quit-smoking program for which I am now a paid spokesperson.
I had to think of it this way: Dancing is all about partner work, and I needed a “partner” to help me quit. Not that it was easy, but I went all in using a nicotine patch, online support and, of course, a little love from family and friends (shout out to Mom!) to help curb my cravings.
If your 2014 resolution is to give up smoking, make it happen. I’ve been smoke-free for more than six months now and it’s like a massive weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I can breathe easier, I’m not getting worn out by my routines and workouts and, well, I just feel better.
My advice to someone who wants to kick their smoking habit is: Go for it and don’t give up! Pick a day, get support, stay focused and tackle this huge life change head-on. Don’t be afraid to mix things up, change your state of mind and try something new.
Quitting smoking is one of my biggest accomplishments yet. And if I can quit, so can you. I believe in you.
Peace and love in the New Year