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Val Chmerkovskiy Calls Carrie Ann Inaba the ‘Most Challenging’ Judge on ‘DWTS’: Find Out Why (Exclusive)

While Val Chmerkovskiy and the rest of the Dancing With the Stars couples compete for judges’ scores weekly, the esteemed panel has become somewhat notorious when it comes to articulating what they’re looking for.

Related: Every 'Dancing With the Stars' Pro Through the Years: Where Are They Now?

“We have such a different relationship with the judges than I think people think we do, you know?” Chmerkovskiy, 36, exclusively told Us Weekly on Tuesday, September 27. “The most intimidating … obviously, the answer [for others] is Len [Goodman] because Len is, you know, he’s kind of no-nonsense. With Len, I don’t find him intimidating because I navigate in his lane.”

Val Chmerkovskiy Calls Carrie Ann Inaba the 'Most Challenging' Judge on 'DWTS': Find Out Why
Val Chmerkovskiy and Carrie Ann Inaba. ABC/Christopher Willard (2)

The Ukraine native admitted that he doesn’t necessarily find Goodman, 78, intimidating since they are both “ballroom dance purists.” He added: “If I could have four Lens behind that table, I would take four Lens.”

Goodman has presided over the DWTS judging panel since the show’s 2005 premiere alongside Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli. Six-time mirrorball champ Derek Hough joined the roundtable in 2020.

Related: Dancing With the Stars' Judges Through the Years

“For me, I think that the most challenging judge out there would probably be Carrie Ann just because she kind of gravitates in the department and the lane that I’m not really [great at],” the Dance With Me cofounder told Us about the former Talk cohost, 54. “I mean, I’m good at [that] as well, but I think [for her] as a female adjudicator, me being partnered with female celebs, you know, that that could be a more intimidating perspective to perform in front of.”

Chmerkovskiy — who previously won the dance competition twice with partners Rumer Willis and Laurie Hernandez — is currently dancing with Bachelorette Gabby Windey on DWTS season 31, the series’ first on Disney+.

Val Chmerkovskiy Calls Carrie Ann Inaba the 'Most Challenging' Judge on 'DWTS': Find Out Why
Val Chmerkovskiy and Gabby Windey. ABC/Eric McCandless

“She’s a great student. She knows how to take direction and she doesn’t take things personally. With me, I think that’s, like, the biggest thing,” the choreographer gushed about the 31-year-old ICU nurse’s work ethic. “There’s a very — and I wouldn’t say it’s a thin line — I think it’s a very clear difference between being hard and demanding accountability when it comes to the work that we do on the show. In regards [to] me, at least. I try to not to venture into being a dick as much as I can. I do have dick moments, but she thankfully is patient enough to understand that.”

Related: Back in the Ballroom! Meet the ‘DWTS’ Season 31 Pros

He added: “I’m the first to say that the patience that you want from me when it comes to teaching you how to dance [is] what I would love back. I have moments [that are] not my best moments, but once those moments pass I’ll be the first to make them right. [So] Gabby has been wonderful to work with and I’m only as good as my partner.”

Windey and Chmerkovskiy — who is currently expecting his first child with wife Jenna Johnson — impressed the judges with their Viennese Waltz during the Monday, September 26, live broadcast. They topped the leaderboard with a collective score of 32/40 for their Elvis Presley-inspired dance, which featured a sweet cameo from the Colorado native’s fiancé, Erich Schwer.

Dancing With the Stars airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Disney+.

With reporting by Christina Garibaldi

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