Karina Smirnoff has kept herself busy since she announced her departure from “Dancing With the Stars” in 2015 — but could there be a comeback in the works?
The 39-year-old ballroom dancer is gearing up to headline Dance For Africa, which aims to benefit the African Wildlife Foundation. Smirnoff is also set to launch a cosmetics collection with LASplash that’s 100 percent made in the U.S. and free of animal testing. And if that’s not enough, she’s starring in E!’s “Famously Single” where she attempts to solve her romantic woes with other celebs.
But even with a non-stop schedule, Smirnoff hasn’t forgotten about "DWTS" — and let’s just say she hasn’t ruled out returning:
Fox News: Fans still remember you from your days on ‘Dancing With the Stars.' Out of all your celebrity partners, who surprised you the most and why?
Karina Smirnoff: Oh gosh, that’s a hard question. Some partners were not the best dancers, but they're so incredible... I think J.R. Martinez was my biggest surprise. Not many people knew who J.R. was before the show started. He had obviously the soap opera fan base… but by the end of season, everybody knew who J.R. Martinez was.
He has such a positive outlook on life, he’s always smiling, he shares such an inspiring story, and he has an incredible will to live. That surprised all of us in a good way. And that’s what made us fall in love with him.
Fox News: Do you stay in touch with any of your celebrity partners?
Smirnoff: Yes, absolutely! I stay in touch with most of them. Once you go through that experience together, you become family.
Fox News: When it comes to your partners, is it possible for a romance to occur on the dance floor?
Smirnoff: Here’s the thing. You have acting, right? Two actors could be portraying a married couple to audiences in a movie. If they’re good, we’re going to believe, and we want to believe, that the relationship is possible. They have an incredible chemistry, there’s a connection... but it’s all about the training… ballroom dancing is a big, emotional presentation.
Two people are creating a story on the dance floor. And of course, if it’s a romantic dance, you want to believe that romance will continue past the performance. When that is visible, I think the dancers have executed an incredible job. And if we don’t see it, they need to go back to the studio and continue practicing.
Fox News: Why did you leave ‘Dancing With the Stars?'
Smirnoff: I didn’t suddenly just feel I had to leave. I had an incredible journey on the show that lasted 11 years. But I had another opportunity where I could perform with my professional partner again. I felt extremely humble and gracious that I even had such an opportunity.
I love dancing with celebrities on the show, but it’s a different type of experience. You’re not just their dance partner. You’re their coach, their shrink, their cheerleader. But when you perform with your professional partner, they’re as strong as you and it becomes a different type of performance. And I missed that when I wasn’t doing it while I was on the show. But now I miss the show! Honestly, I just wish I could do it all.
Fox News: Do you see yourself returning?
Smirnoff: I never say never. I miss being on the show, I miss the experience of getting celebs ready while they’re freaking out and getting nervous before the live performance. I always say to myself [that] if you miss something badly enough, and that stays in your mind, things will turn out the way you manifest them. But I am grateful for all opportunities that come my way.
Fox News: You’re currently on E!'s ‘Famously Single.' Why put your love life in front of cameras?
Smirnoff: Ironically enough, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into… I thought it sounded fun and I think I know what my personal issues are. I’m working through them. I’m aware of them, but I always wanted to try therapy. It just never clicked for me… I thought it would be a good opportunity to try therapy in a different way.
I did not anticipate the benefits that I got by sitting down and talking with Dr. Darcy about what’s exactly the catalyst that made me feel certain emotions and reactions... It took a show on E! to help me pinpoint what I needed to know… Everyone had their own issues, like we all do in life… We were all open about it and we wanted to be helpful to one another.
Fox News: Was there an eye-opening moment for you?
Smirnoff: Yeah. I always try to be positive, as much as I can. Even if I find myself in a situation that’s not pleasant or where you begin to judge your character — I try to laugh it off. I mask everything with humor. I’ll say, ‘Well, that didn’t work. Lesson learned. Time to move on and focus on work.’ But when I started talking to the therapist, she told me, ‘You can’t continue masking everything. You need to figure out how you even ended up in this situation. Did you misjudge someone’s character? Were you too trusting? Were you too naive? Were you too optimistic about the final outcome? You have to analyze it on a deeper level.'
It was weird, I had a physical reaction to a certain memory. I kept thinking to myself, ‘I’m way stronger than this. What is even happening?’ That was the a-ha moment. It was just interesting to have it on camera.
Fox News: Based on your experience with the show, what does it take for a guy to impress someone like you?
Smirnoff: I think a strong woman needs a strong man, and vice versa. I’ve learned more than anything that you can’t let anyone change you. And you can’t expect anyone else to change. You just have to be happy with who that person is... And they have to let you be you. Then you can create a life together, rather than fine tuning each other to become who we want that person to really be. I always found in my past it’s like, ‘I love you, but can you do this instead?’ But… it never works.
Fox News: What made you want to get involved with ‘Dance For Africa?'
Smirnoff: I just thought it was an incredible opportunity. We always talk about different charities that we’re passionate about, but saving the planet should be a priority on everyone’s list. To be a part of an event that raises money to save animals? I think it’s a beautiful cause and one that we should be proud to be a part of.
Fox News: In your opinion, is there enough being done for the planet?
Smirnoff: No… Today we live longer and use natural resources, but we don’t actually give back to the planet enough… We always take -- we take the gas, the oil -- but we don’t really think of what we can do to preserve it. I definitely don’t think we do enough.
Fox News: As a dancer, what’s the preparation process like?
Smirnoff: Dancing is dancing and practice makes perfect. But this is a creative process where I’m going to have a couple of amazing dancers performing with me. We are going to the ballroom to put our heads together and create a special number just for the event… and of course, we’re going to open the door and introduce dancing to the non-dancers at the event.
Dance For Africa takes place July 23 in Los Angeles.