Val Chmerkovskiy Says Not Winning 'DWTS' Season 16 With Zendaya Was a 'Huge Heartbreak' (Exclusive)


Val Chmerkovskiy wishes he could redo season 16 of Dancing With the Stars.

Chatting with ET's Keltie Knight on Monday at the Tatiana Restaurant and Nightclub in the Brighton Beach neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, ahead of the March 6 release of his new book,I'll Never Change My Name, the 31-year-old dancer opened up about his heartbreaking season with Zendaya.

"My biggest heartbreak was on Dancing With the Stars, not winning with Zendaya, honestly. That was a huge heartbreak for me because she was 16," he confessed. "I wanted this to be such a huge moment for her. She worked so hard, and I really wanted her to lift that trophy and jump-start her career. And she didn't lift the trophy and I felt heartbroken about that,"

"But it jump-started her career anyway," he continued. "That's when you learn that it's not necessarily always about winning or losing, it's really about learning through the process and then using those tools to further yourself down the road."

Of course, Zendaya is now conquering many showbiz realms, but Chmerkovskiy still feels like he "dropped the ball a little bit" with the Greatest Showman star. "I wish I could go back and have another chance at that season, because I feel like she was an incredible talent and I could've done better. I think I wasn't as good as I am definitely now as a choreographer and as a teacher and dancer."

"I would've loved to give her another shot at that, but outside of that, she turned out pretty fine," he happily expressed. "It's just great to see people through to [that] kind of feeling of accomplishment. To accomplish something yourself is one thing, but to be able to guide someone else to that moment is even better. And to see them feel so fulfilled? I love that."

Chmerkovskiy has previously been partnered with celebs like Elizabeth Berkley, Fifth Harmony's Normani Kordei and Rumer Willis.

"It's crazy how the universe works though, how it all brought these characters back into my life. I saw Showgirls when I was 12 years old," he shared. "I'm not going to admit on camera what happened after I saw it, but it was definitely a coming-of-age moment for me -- and to then have cross paths with Elizabeth Burkley in real life!"

Another great moment for the dancer was when Bruce Willis teared up on the show when he was with his daughter, who went on to win season 20.

"That was a great season. [Rumer] was my first win on Dancing With the Stars, and for me to have won and also won the heart of the hardest person in the world, Bruce Willis, it was incredible," he expressed. "It was a highlight of my career on Dancing With the Stars."

Meanwhile, the dancer's new book also gives fans an inside look at his life, separate from being paired with "the stars."

"Dancing With the Stars is not a show about me -- it's a show about my partner, it's a show about celebrities that join the show," he explained. "For me to talk about my accolades before joining Dancing With the Stars would be silly, but that's why I'm excited for this book."

He also revealed that the book's title was inspired by a conversation he had about keeping his name after joining the show, even if it's difficult for some people to pronounce.

Hear more of what he teases about his book in the video below.


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