“I always believe that change is never easy,” Stewart, 33, exclusively told Us Weekly on Monday, August 7, when asked about Julianne Hough joining cohost Alfonso Ribeiro following Tyra Banks’ exit. “But [I’m] grateful that Tyra was part of our family for three seasons. Once you’re part of the Dancing with the Stars family, you never truly really leave.”
Stewart repeated that she felt “grateful” to have gotten to know Banks, 49, who took over for ousted hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews in 2020. While the cast will miss Banks, Hough’s return to the DWTS ballroom is “so exciting” for Stewart.
“[Julianne’s] part of the family, so I think she will bring in some fresh and lovely energy,” she told Us.
Banks announced in March that she didn’t plan on returning to the long-running dance competition, telling TMZ that she was “crazy, crazy focused on business.” Later that month, Hough was confirmed to be taking the model’s place.
“The energy is magnetic every time you step foot into the ballroom and I can’t wait to feel it again — and of course to share it all with the absolute best and most loyal fans — for another exciting season,” Hough, a two-time mirrorball winner, said in a statement.
Hough last competed on season 8 of DWTS in 2009. She’ll join brother Derek Hough, who sits on the judging panel, upon her return.
Along with hosting shakeups, season 32 marks the first competition since longtime judge Len Goodman’s death. Us confirmed in April that the British dance aficionado died at age 78 following his battle with bone cancer.
“Len was there since the beginning,” Stewart reflected on Monday. “It will be different and he will be in all of our hearts throughout the season.”
Last month, fans learned Ariana Madix will be vying for the mirrorball trophy. While the majority of the celebrity cast — and returning pros — have yet to be announced, Stewart is looking forward to seeing Madix, 38, strut her stuff.
“We are just thrilled,” Stewart told Us. “I hear the best things about her. [I’m] looking forward to next season. … We have a lot to live up to from last season.”
Stewart got her start as a member of the DWTS troupe during season 23, making her debut as a pro during season 29 with partner Johnny Weir. She was the first Black female pro dancer in the show’s history.
“I’ve really had the opportunity to see the lack of evolution and progression when it comes to diversity and representation,” she told Us while promoting the collaboration between her nonprofit, Share The Movement, and BAND-AID® Brand OURTONE®. “Personally, I’ve been inspired by Black artists and dancers … so to be now in that list of firsts as the first Black female pro dancer on Dancing With the Stars, it’s an honor to do that.”
The partnership aims to uplift BIPOC performers through three BAND-AID® Brand OURTONE® Dance Clinics. “I find joy in cycling through that pressure [of being the first] and now putting it toward the next generation,” Stewart told Us.