Keo Motsepe on Healing From Heartbreak and How His 'DWTS' Family Has Supported Him (Exclusive)
By Desiree Murphy
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Keo Motsepe is opening up about how he's found comfort and healing in a difficult year.
While speaking to ET via Zoom on Tuesday, the Dancing With the Stars pro shared some of the lessons he's learned about himself amid the coronavirus pandemic, what activities he's relied on to find peace in heartbreaking situations and why he's "just doing Keo" right now.
The silver lining in this heavy year, he says, is that he's learned how to be more patient with himself, and "focus on the things that matter most -- nurturing family, friendships and myself more." He's also been working on being more present and in the moment.
"I feel like we always want to hurry, like, 'What's happening tomorrow?' What happened earlier this year with my mom, it kind of brought everyone even closer," he shared. "When you keep working all the time -- with the show, the tour -- you lose track of reality for a little bit."
Motsepe revealed the heartbreaking news in January that his mother, whom he referred to as "the queen of my heart," had suddenly died. The 31-year-old South African dancer is still grieving, he says, but has been finding more light every day.
"I haven't yet danced [out] my emotions, how I feel losing her. I haven't yet done that, but I have sang songs that reminded me of her and songs that have given me comfort," he shared. "When my mom passed away, I found strength in music. I would just sit on the balcony and [put] on a song that reminds me of her, or a song that she loved. I would start singing that and it would bring me close to her in a sense."
"I think music was a healing process for me this time," he continued. "This was, and still is, rough. It's still there. Sometimes I wake up and I'm like, 'Oh, it's just a dream.' I feel like the hard part is that I haven't been home yet to [see] that she's not there. But music, it's getting me through."
One month after losing his mother, Motsepe also found himself at the center of a highly publicized breakup. Dancing With the Stars fans seemed to be ecstatic last fall when they saw a relationship blossom between Motsepe and Gleb Savchenko's season 29 partner, Chrishell Stause. The two documented their date nights at home on social media and even spent the holidays together, but eventually went their separate ways in February. At the time, Stause briefly addressed the breakup on her Instagram Stories, while Motsepe dealt with everything privately.
"Everything that happens in life, people deal with things differently, and I deal with things differently," Motsepe explained. "So I think for me personally, with everything in my life, I [turn to] music or dance, it just depends on the feeling at the moment."
When asked how his DWTS family came through to support him through these difficult times, Motsepe said, "I think knowing that they're there, for me, that's enough. I don't ask for much. Just knowing that they're there for me in any situation, that gives me comfort."
"And Emma [Slater], I love Emma with my heart. She's the sweetest," he added. "There's just something about Emma's voice, when she calls or when I talk to her ... she just talks and I'm like, 'Yeah! Yes, I got you.'"
Motsepe and fellow pro Savchenko have also formed a tight-knit bond over the years. As fans have seen on social media, they've remained close over quarantine, meeting up for hikes, workouts, trips to Mexico and adventures with Savchenko's two daughters, Olivia and Zlata. The two have consistently had each other's backs through thick and thin, something Motsepe certainly doesn't take for granted.
"It's been through hard, good, bad, whatever, we'll always be there, and without judgment," Motsepe said of his friendship with Savchenko, who's personal life has also been making headlines amid his divorce from Elena Samodanova. "It's a very important thing. If you're a friend with someone and there's a lot of judgment, a lot of this, sometimes it kind of pushes you away in a sense. But I feel like with him, it's just being there. It's like chosen family."
"I admire him in so many ways, like the way he is with his kids," he added. "I feel like people don't see that side of him, but I see that side of him and it's so interesting. It's a beautiful thing to see."
Motsepe told ET that at this moment, he's just trying to focus on himself and the dreams he has for his future. Some of his professional aspirations include starring in a Broadway show, romance movies and Magic Mike.
"I'm just doing me, whatever that means. I'm just doing myself and what's best for me. So however the world interrupts that, I am just doing Keo," he joked, when asked if he's ready to date again. "That's the best way, just taking care of this guy."
"I don't know what God's plan is for me. Everything, it's up to him," he continued. "I just work hard and do my thing and when life presents itself, I go. When it doesn't work, great. If it works, great, awesome. So I leave it to the universe."
Motsepe is also manifesting a return to DWTS. He told ET that if he gets the call from producers, he'll definitely be back as a pro for season 30 this fall.
"Obviously!" he exclaimed. "Oh my god, I would love to be back, and I would love to win!"
As for who he'd like to be paired up with this season, Motsepe said he just wants someone who's "dedicated" and "willing to work hard" to win the mirrorball trophy. Plus, with it being such a milestone season, he's hoping the celebrity cast list will be unlike any we've seen before.
"One thing I know about the show is that it's always full of surprises. So you never know ... but I always leave the door to the unknown," he explained. "It would be dope if they got A-list celebrities for season 30. Beyonce, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie. People like Justin Bieber, Chris Brown or, oh my god, Natalie Portman."
Motsepe reiterated that he and the other pros won't know until the last minute whether they will return, but that doesn't stop them from still getting excited about the opportunity! He told ET that he has a text chain with the other pros, where they discuss the celebrities rumored to be on each season. Just as fans do on social media, the pros try to figure out who they'll be paired with before the season officially begins.
"We're always right! You walk into the room and you're like, 'Yep, that's exactly who I thought it was going to be. She's my partner!'" Motsepe shared. "I like that the show keeps us on our toes. They make us uncomfortable, and that's a good feeling. Because you get excited, and I think that's the beauty of the show. That's why people love it."
Motsepe also shared his thoughts on what it will like having four judges at the table this season, with Len Goodman, Derek Hough, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli returning.
"I look at it this way. Two will say not great things, and two will say good things," he said, bursting into laughter. "So you have two of both sides. I feel like Len is hard to impress. You just give Len what he wants and you're good. You give Bruno the drama, Carrie Ann the emotions. And then I feel like Derek looks at the whole thing, like telling the story from beginning to end."
"I think also because Derek's been on the other side, he knows what it takes and how it feels like," he added. "So his judgment is also putting himself in our shoes, like, 'I know what they did to get there.'"
Dancing With the Stars will return to ABC for its 30th season this fall. In the meantime, hear more in the video below.