IF YOU GO
What: She: An Expo for Women.
When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. July 21, noon-6 p.m. July 22.
Where: Chattanooga Convention Center, 1 Carter Plaza.
Admission: $10 in advance, $12 at the door.
For tickets: www.timesfreepress.com/she.
Could Cheryl Burke be the next "Bachelorette"?
When the "Dancing With the Stars" champ nonchalantly tossed her name out for consideration last week, the dancer wasn't pulling anyone's leg.
"It's definitely something I would think about," said the two-time DWTS champ in a telephone interview. Like DWTS, "The Bachelorette" is a hit show for the ABC network.
"I think it would be a great opportunity for me to meet people because I've been so busy and married to my work lately. It's really a struggle for me to go out and meet guys, and I'm kind of the shy type. I'm not aggressive. I'm not the person to chase people.
"Having an opportunity to have guys in front of me and being able to talk to them when they are already there would be easier for me than going out and finding somebody," she explained.
Burke and fellow DWTS champ Mark Ballas will be in Chattanooga on Sunday, July 22, to meet fans at She: An Expo for Women. The pair will be onstage at 3 p.m. to dance for the audience, according to Lyndsi Sebastian, marketing manager for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, which is sponsoring the expo.
To see the two perform live is a rare opportunity, according to Burke.
"I do mainly individual appearances signing autographs and Q&As," Burke said. "When it comes to dancing, it's been rare that I do a performance."
In addition to their ballroom demonstration, Burke said she will talk about her autobiography, "Dancing Lessons." Ballas will sing and play guitar.
Sebastian said the pair will hold a fan photo session either before or after the 3 o'clock show; the time will be announced later this month.
The expo offers women the chance to shop more than 150 vendors, try out spa services, watch a cooking demonstration and meet their favorite celebrities all in one location. Saturday's programming will feature author Nicholas Sparks and reality TV couple Bill and Giuliana Rancic.
Burke, 28, began dancing lessons at age 4. By age 13, she was competing. She was discovered by the DWTS producers while competitively dancing in New York City, and she says she was hesitant to accept their television offer.
"I was living in New York City with my dance partner at the time, and I really didn't want to leave my world to do 'Dancing With the Stars.' My goal was never to be on television or to even do anything like I am doing today," she said.
"They approached me when we were dancing at a competition and said they wanted me, but they weren't interested in adding another guy. It was really hard for me to have to choose between leaving my dance partner or coming to Los Angeles and doing the show."
But in 2007, Burke joined the reality competition for its second season. She won Season 2 with Drew Lachey, then earned the mirror-ball trophy again Season 3 with Emmitt Smith.
"Emmitt Smith was one of my all-time favorite partners. I had a great time with Drew Lachey because he was my first partner and it was all so new and fresh to me, and he was amazing," she said.
She names Wayne Newton as another of her favorite partners -- "We still keep in touch" --and Rob Kardashian as the partner who surprised her by how quickly he caught on.
"On the first week, I thought we'd be lucky to make it past week three," Burke said, laughing, about her pairing with Kardashian, who finished second to J.R. Martinez. "He was such a shocker to me in his progress."
"I've had amazing partners and I've also had not-so-amazing partners, but that's part of the process. Every time I do this show, it's a new challenge," she said.
Last year, Burke made headlines when she released her autobiography, "Dancing Lessons," in which she revealed she had been molested at age 6.
"I've always been really open with my life; it defines who I am today and how strong I am as a woman. I wanted to send the message to women and girls that just because you've had something traumatic happen to you, you can still follow your passion, that getting help really helps you, it heals you. Part of writing that story was the process of healing for me," she said.
She said after the book's release, she still had numerous dancers asking her how to pursue their dreams of becoming professional dancers, but a new group of women was seeking her advice as well.
"Women were coming up to me and asking 'How did you work through that abuse? 'What was your escape?' or 'How are you dealing with it today?' I definitely believe you can move on and (abuse) doesn't have to ruin the rest of your life," said Burke.
Having established herself as the top female professional on DWTS, what's her next goal?
"My mission is to be able to do what I'm doing now: to really influence and be a strong role model to girls and women. That's what I feel like my calling is: to bring entertainment to people's homes but to also have a voice for women as well. So I'm really trying to tell my story to everybody."
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...