When Dancing with the Stars debuted in the mid-2000s, it was a weird time for reality TV. We were seeing a lot of series that took C- and D-list celebrities and put them in unusual situations, be it having them box with each other, jump from a high dive, or try to survive in the jungle. So there was little reason not to assume that Dancing with the Stars was cut from that same cloth, and would be another short-lived novelty show that everyone quickly forgot about.
That assumption couldn't have been more wrong. Not only does it have 27 seasons under its belt already, but Dancing with the Stars also still averages over 10 million viewers per episode. As such, the caliber of celebrity that the show attracts has also improved considerably, going from consisting mostly of washed-up stars of yesterday to people who are still relevant—and in some cases, even A-listers. Furthermore, DWTS has also breathed new life into the careers of celebrities who had been out of the public eye for some time, a far cry from the career-ruining stigma that many other reality shows carry.
Most of the celebrity contestants on DWTS appear to be having the time of their lives on the show, but it's always tough to trust what you see on screen on a reality show. That said, it seems that the majority of the famous faces that have calypsoed, tangoed, and foxtrotted on DWTS were genuinely enjoying themselves...though there have definitely been a few that have been very vocal about what they considered to be a bad experience on the show.
20 Regretted It: Mischa Barton
After claiming that DWTS's producers literally spent years trying to get her on the show, season 22 contestant Mischa Barton (The O.C.) finally agreed to compete on the condition that she be given full creative control of her costumes and the various design aspects of her dance numbers.
Barton later said that she was indeed promised that control in advance, but didn't end up getting much of it once she was on board. She complained not only about her creative input being ignored but claimed that she was treated poorly by dance partner Artem Chigvintsev. Barton says the show is more about popularity than dancing prowess, even likening the experience to participating in The Hunger Games and saying she was relieved to be voted off so quickly.
19 Loved It: Chris Jericho
After being reluctant to put on his dancing shoes until former WWE colleague Stacy Kiebler talked him into it following the fun she had on the show, pro wrestling icon Chris Jericho had nothing but good things to say about his stint on Dancing With The Stars.
Beyond just being appreciative of learning a new performance art form, Jericho was thankful for the way DWTS bumped him up to that next plateau of celebrity. As he explained in an interview, "You do Dancing With The Stars for a couple weeks, and you're on The Tonight Show, you're on Ellen, you're on Entertainment Tonight, all those things." In fact, his biggest complaint is that the show chose to portray his rehearsals with his dancing party as being super serious, when the two were actually having a blast.
18 Loved It: Rumer Willis
In just a few short years, Rumer Willis went from the seemingly shy daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore to a household name in her own right, for her own reasons. And there's no denying that one of her first big acts on her rise to stardom was when she won season 20 of Dancing With The Stars.
Despite the fact that her stint on the show helped her fulfill her dream of being on Broadway by earning her a starring role in the latest production of Chicago, Willis says she still misses being on DWTS. She told E! News: "For me, I wish I was still dancing and learning. It's so much fun and I wish I could have done an entire season just so I could keep learning all the different dances."
17 Loved It: Jennie Garth
While the cast of Beverly Hills 90210 have been a hot topic as of late given the combination of the announced reunion show/special/whatever it's going to be and the untimely passing of Luke Perry, many of them have remained in the public eye in various capacities since the series went off the air. For Jennie Garth, one of her most noteworthy post-90120 performances was in the DWTS ballroom during season five where she made it all the way to the semi-finals.
Garth's husband, actor Peter Facinelli (Twilight), says that she is more comfortable hiding in characters when she is "performing," and that her experience on DWTS helped her overcome that. She has since gained a new confidence to be herself in front of the cameras and discovered that she is more of a natural performer than she thought she was.
16 Loved It: Mr. T
Many of the celebrities who appear on DWTS do so for the career boost, the challenge, or just because they think it'll be fun. But some do it for much more noble, much more personal reasons.
The actor who has spent nearly five decades being known to the world simply as Mr. T battled lymphoma in the '90s, and saw DWTS as an opportunity to support cancer research. He said that he was dancing to benefit the Shriners Hospitals for Children and the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and moved even the show's most cynical judges (and surely many of its viewers) to tears with his emotional performance to the song Amazing Grace followed by telling his own story of tragedy and triumph. "It was a great experience," Mr. T said during his farewell speech on his final night during week four.
15 Loved It: Melissa Joan Hart
Fans of the classic Nickelodeon sitcom Clarissa Explains It All who were looking forward to the reboot got some discouraging news recently when it was announced that the upcoming revival was on hold, with no further information given as to the status of future prospects of the project.
But anyone who is specifically a Melissa Joan Hart fan have had plenty of ways to see the actress on-screen pretty consistently since her '90s heyday, including a memorable turn during season nine of DWTS. Hart called landing a part on the show "a dream come true" during her final speech, saying she had a great time with dance partner Mark Ballas as well as having formed a friendship with fellow contestant (and pro snowboarder) Louie Vito.
14 Loved It: David Arquette
Actor David Arquette was going through a personal rough patch just prior to his joining the cast of DWTS in season 13 that included some legal troubles and a separation from wife Courtney Cox (they would officially divorce two years later). As it turned out, appearing on the show couldn't have come at a better time for him.
Arquette said that his DWTS experience really helped him find a positive outlook during a dark time, telling PEOPLE, "I learned a lot about myself on this show. I learned a lot about self-appreciation and finding joy in my life and doing things that are positive for me." The actor, who has also dabbled in professional wrestling, had an impressive seven-week run on DWTS with partner Kym Herjavec.
13 Loved It: Bill Nye
Bill Nye has taught generations of people about science in a way that is fun and easy to digest. While nobody knew whether or not he had the actual dancing chops to succeed on DWTS, there was no doubt that he'd be a joy to watch with his trademark brand of infectious enthusiasm.
Many celebrities like to do routines on DWTS that reference what they are famous for, and few examples of this have been more hilarious than Nye boogieing to "She Blinded Me With Science." The ever-game Nye even worked a leg injury into a performance, doing an intentionally stiff, robot-like routine to Daft Punk's "Get Lucky"— though that's the performance that sent him home. Still, Nye told Good Morning America the morning after his DWTS exit: "It was the coolest thing. It was great."
12 Loved It: Margaret Cho
Movie paydays and TV contracts might be well-publicized, but what we don't hear about very often is how much money celebrities bring home when they appear on shows like Dancing with the Stars. Well, if that's the kind of thing you don't want getting out, you definitely shouldn't want to write a check to an outspoken star like Margaret Cho.
Cho has spoken fondly of her time on DWTS during its 11th season, but she also hasn't been shy about admitting that the nice payday didn't hurt in making her glad she appeared. In an interview on The View, Cho said she earned $200,000 from her time on the show, not bad for someone who didn't even make it past week three. That makes you wonder how well-paid the people must be actually who make it to the end.
11 Loved It: Steve-O
The career and life trajectories for everyone who was a member of the hit MTV series crew have been inconsistent at best, and downright tragic at worst. Though not the worst off of the former figures, Steve-O has had some high-profile struggles since the franchise wrapped up after the third film.
Steve-O might have initially seemed like one of those novelty DWTS contestants that was destined to only make it a week or two and is brought on just to spark some extra buzz for the season, the performer admirably lasted five weeks and even bested early favorites Belinda Carlisle and Denise Richards. While Steve-O says his agents had to drag him into it, he is ultimately glad he did DWTS as it proved to the world he was sober and was getting his life together.
10 Regretted It: Dorothy Hamill
Dancing with the Stars has seen several Olympic skaters and gymnasts compete, which makes sense as those sports involve very similar types of talent to and a lot of overlapping skill sets with ballroom dancing. In fact, among the show's season-winning champions are figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi (season six) and gymnast Shawn Johnson (season eight).
Two-time Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Dorothy Hamill was hoping to follow in the footsteps of the athletes that came before her when she entered the DWTS competition in the 16th season, but had to withdraw shortly after due to a severe spinal injury that required major back surgery and led to permanent damage. Hamill was a good sport about her withdrawal and doesn't blame the show for her injury, but she certainly regrets it leading to a serious and permanent back injury.
9 Loved It: Robert Herjavec
Several of the sharks from ABC sister show Shark Tank have tried to see if they could dance as well as they can invest— Mark Cuban in season five, Robert Herjavec in season 20, and Barbara Corcoran in season 25.
Herjavec, at the time separated from his first wife, apparently got along quite well with pro partner Kym Johnson (who was previously Mark Cuban's dance partner, coincidentally) as the pair became romantically involved, got married, and had twin boys within just three years of meeting on the show. The already-famous Johnson even took Herjavec's last name. It's safe to say Robert is ecstatic that he signed on to do DWTS.
8 Loved It: Jaleel White
Rising to fame as both Steve Urkel in Family Matters and the voice of Sonic the Hedgehog in three separate TV series, Jaleel White has already had a full career for an actor who is only in his early-40s. And, like many stars who were at their most famous in the 1990s, White saw a resurgence in notoriety in the 2010s which led to various TV appearances—including joining DWTS for its 14th season.
Initially, media reports about White's time on DWTS painted a negative picture and portrayed somehow who wasn't having the best experience. But White later told Glamour "I have absolutely no regrets going on this show," and said he was thrilled to get to spend time with music legend Gladys Knight (who previously played his mother in a short-lived sitcom called Charlie and Company).
7 Loved It: Bindi Irwin
While it's hard not to discuss Robert and Bindi Irwin without also remembering the tragic passing of their famous father, the two definitely carry on both their dad's passion for animals and enthusiasm for life.
Among the already-long listed of accomplishments the young Irwins have achieved, Bindi managed to win season 21 of DWTS at only 17-years-old. During her victory speech, Bindi talked about how much being on the show meant to her and how it has been yet another way to ultimately bring attention to the continued work of her and her family in animal conservation. To make her win all the more impressive, her season was especially musical performer-heavy and included Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys) and Carlos PenaVega (Big Time Rush), among others.
6 Loved It: Mario Lopez
Another star who says he turned down DWTS several times before finally coming around, Mario Lopez told Larry King in 2013 that he relented because DWTS was his mom's favorite show. And considering how well he did on the show—finishing in second place—it turns out that sometimes mother really does know best.
Lopez talks about his time on DWTS with great pride, bragging how one of his routines was voted in a fan poll one of the best in the show's history. Lopez also found love on the show, dating dance partner Karina Smirnoff for two years after their season wrapped—though it ended in a messy break-up amid accusations that Lopez was unfaithful.
5 Loved It: Jerry Springer
Jerry Springer may have built a career out of appealing to the lowest common denominator, but nobody can accuse the guy of not being a smart businessman. The Jerry Springer Show outlasted just about all of its talk show contemporaries and stayed on the air for an astonishing 27 years.
Appearing early on in the show's run, Springer managed to make it to the top five of DWTS's third season. In a surprisingly poignant exit speech that even had him choking up, Springer graciously thanked DWTS for having him and expressed hope that everyone is able to have the kind "moment in life" that he was lucky to have on the show. But of course, that was after he threw out some of his usual brand of cheesy one-liners, including "At my age, we don't shake hips... we replace them."
4 Loved It: Jennifer Grey
In just repeat VHS viewings alone, Jennifer Grey's iconic dance scenes in Dirty Dancing have even been watched millions— if not billions— of times. It's a lot to live up to, and it's perhaps not surprising that her subsequent acting career didn't revolve much around dancing roles.
But Grey finally decided she was ready to show the world that she still had the moves even if she was at an age where nobody was calling her Baby—or putting her in corners—any more. Sure enough, she took home the crown as the winner of the eleventh season of the DWTS with a mix of fresh routines and ones with overt nostalgia. Unfortunately, her Dirty Dancing partner, Patrick Swayze, had passed away just a year prior and didn't get to see her big win.
3 Loved It: Steve Guttenberg
Steve Guttenberg's infectious smile has been on television a lot lately due to his recurring role as an endlessly optimistic teacher on 1980s nostalgia-based sitcom, The Goldbergs. As it turns out, Guttenberg is basically just playing an only slightly-exaggerated version of his real self on that show, ever-smiling and always grateful to be where ever he is at any given time.
It's not at all surprising, then, that he felt the same way about his time on DWTS. Guttenberg clearly loved every minute he spent on the show, and he beamed wider during his exit interview than many season-winning champions do as they are hoisting their trophies. If DWTS ever implemented a good sport award for most gracious loser, it should be named the Steve Guttenberg Award.
2 Loved It: Lea Thompson
If Lea Thompson literally retired from acting upon completion of her role in the Back to the Future trilogy, she'd be just as well-remembered and well-respected as she currently is. Plus, her career survived being not only the female lead but the inter-species love interest in Howard the Duck, so that proves Thompson is something pretty special.
Thompson joined DWTS in 2014 for the show's 19th season, and very nearly made it to the semi-finals. On Good Morning America the day after her final episode, she said that her and dance partner Artem Chigvintsev "had a really great time" and that they were "always laughing." She then went on to praise the show for what it did for her physically, saying, "I feel so much better than I've felt in 15 years."
1 Regretted It: Wendy Williams
Even among the celebrities that haven't gushed about their time on DWTS, most of the complaints are fairly tepid. Such is not the case for TV personality Wendy Williams, who could barely manage a single kind word about the show and has thrown some pretty unsettling accusations at it.
In an unfiltered appearance on TODAY in 2014, Williams claimed that DWTS scripts what the stars say during the confessional-style clips. She also claimed that the show was trying to shape her into a stereotypical "Angry Black Woman" type of figure, and that her time on the show was conveniently cut short when she made it clear she wasn't interested in conforming to their fabricated narrative for her. Williams also pointed out that her claims echo similar sentiments from fellow DWTS competitor NeNe Leakes (The Real Housewives of Atlanta).