"Now expectations are so high, and I'm not a dancer!" she tells TVGuide.com. "I'm literally learning from scratch and it scares me. I would rather have everyone think completely nothing of me and I show them a little something, and it's like, 'Oh, wow! She can do something!'"
Menounos is paired with three-time champ Derek Hough and will split her time with "Dancing" between not one, but two other jobs: Extra, which she co-hosts with Mario Lopez, and her new online network, AfterBuzzTV, where fans can discuss their favorite shows live right after they air.
How is she balancing it all? And what's her biggest Dancing fear?
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Have they asked you to do the show before or was this the first time?
Maria Menounos: This was the first time. I never in a million years thought I would ever say yes to this because I'm not a dancer and I have no training whatsoever. I'm the girl in aerobics class who can't coordinate anything and just completely sucks. What I didn't realize is that you can't stop the instructor in aerobics class and go, "Excuse me. Can you do that again?" But dancing with Derek, I can stop and say, "Hold on. I'm not getting this. Let's do it again." So that's a little more helpful. But it's one of those things where, when are you ever gonna have the opportunity again to learn something like this? And I love a challenge, so I was like, "Let's do it!"
I think a lot of people are finding it hard to believe that you are a bad dancer. How good would you say you are on a scale from 1 to 10?
Menounos: Well, what's funny is, my best friend was driving with me yesterday and said, "Maria, remember when we went to our friend's wedding and we were dancing and you had your hand extended out prom date-style?" I'm like, "Thanks for reminding me, Joe." [Laughs] When I'm in the mood to dance, I definitely have rhythm. And if it's like hip-hop or whatever, I can get down. But as far as this type, there is no way to even say how good I am. A 3, maybe? I don't want to say I'm horrendous because I'm actually learning now, which is good. I have the best teacher in the world and I'm definitely, as he says, getting better and better.
How's the cha-cha going?
Menounos: It's going well. What plays into all of this is fatigue ,and you don't really think about that. Like the other day, I felt like I had a really good rehearsal. I was sharp and on point. And the next day, I was so tired because I had worked until midnight the night before and I was a little tired by the middle of rehearsal and I was getting frustrated with myself. Now I have to figure out how to do all of this. .. [I'm] being really smart about how I use my time ... and try to reserve energy and eat healthy foods. I have to think about how to play the game almost.
So are the steps coming easily to you and it's the stamina that's hard?
Menounos: It's everything. It's a real massive undertaking. I have 18,000 full-time jobs along with this, so it's balancing my schedule. It's trying to clear as much of my schedule until the end of May that I can possibly can. Then the mental end is really learning how not get too frustrated with yourself and how to balance the emotion. The eating thing is about to get really important as I'm getting deeper into rehearsals. Then, I have to make sure I rest as much as possible, nap when I can. We're doing six-hour rehearsals.
How's your body holding up? You've tweeted pictures of your bruises, which are par for the course.
Menounos: No serious injuries right now. But I have really, really weak hamstrings. I had a trainer years ago who injured them and they just never healed right. So I'm petrified of dipping too low and ripping them. That's my biggest fear. We're being really careful and I'm feeling strong right now, but I could be in line at CVS and all of the sudden, they'll pull. I've had that happen before. That's why I hate those reports that put us in the lead because anything can happen to anyone at any time. There's so much more to this than just being a good dancer and learning the moves.
Check out photos of Maria Menounos
You're one of the busier contestants this season and now you have AfterBuzz too. How are you finding the time for everything?
Menounos: I'm trying to! It's very hard. I've been up since 3 a.m. today working. I think once the show starts, everything will be a little more structured. But I'm not complaining. Dancing's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and AfterBuzz is something we've been working on for a year. We say it's like a post-game wrap-up show for television. I'm doing all my blogs on there and our premiere show is going to be Dancing. ... I'm gonna race to the studio to do the AfterBuzz livestream. I'll be bringing along whoever I can finagle from the ballroom, whether it be Derek or other contestants or past contestants. I'm really excited about it. I think that's what people were missing before with TV. Remember when Lost went off the air? People went crazy and the Internet crashed. Now you can watch people talk about the show, you can call in and engage as a fan. Our livestreams are also on iTunes, so if you didn't watch it live, you can download it. We're finding that people love to do that. They're going on hikes and listening to it.
How many are you gonna host besides the Dancing one?
Menounos: I do it for my favorite shows. The criteria to host a show is that you have to be a super-fan. Breaking Bad has been my show. I'm obsessed! ... I hosted a live viewing party [for the finale] with the cast of Breaking Bad and a ton of fans. We watched the finale, which was amazing, and then I hosted and interviewed the cast in front of the fans. We partnered up with Extra on that. We're gonna be doing more with Extra, which is exciting. So I do that and now I'm doing Dancing. It's tough because I'm busy, but I'll pop in on, like, the Oscar show or I'll call in to another show. We have 100 hosts, so we've got shows on lock.
I know you're a huge sports buff and you're very competitive, so how do you feel going up against Martina Navratilova and Donald Driver?
Menounos: Obviously Martina and Donald are fierce competitors and I feel like I probably am the next closest. [Laughs] Because I am very much sports-minded. I am pretty competitive. But I think with this, I really am excited that I get to have fun. I keep jumping up and down in rehearsals. I want to do well so I can impress myself. ... I'm more competitive with myself than I think with anyone else. I want to do the best job I possibly can and I certainly don't want to embarrass Derek. Or my family!
Do you think you'll feel differently once the show starts?
Menounos: Maybe. I've heard people have been surprised how competitive they are once the show starts. Right now, we don't have much interaction with anyone else, so I don't have a scouting report.
Maria Menounos sports Giants-inspired bikini after losing Super Bowl bet
Will it be harder or easier to dance in front of millions in a skimpy outfit and spray-tan than it was to wear that Giants bikini in Times Square?
Menounos: [Laughs] You know, I was really lucky that day. It wasn't as cold as it could've been. It was 50 degrees and the next day it was 20. Mario was so gracious and was always putting a coat on me. ... That is definitely worse. I'm the kind of girl who's so sacred with her sports that I would kill you for putting a Yankees hat on me. But I made a blind bet and I had to go through with it. I still have [the bikini.] It's somewhere on the floor, trashed!
You can do a Patriots-themed routine on Dancing.
Menounos: Yeah! That's not a bad idea.
Dancing with the Stars premieres Monday, March 19 at 8/7c on ABC.