The race for the Mirror Ball is on once again in Season 28 of Dancing with the Stars, and this time, former Bachelorette Hannah Brown is taking the stage with her partner Alan Bersten. This week saw Hannah channel her emotional Bachelorette experience into a contemporary dance and officially advance to the finals. Read on to find out more about everything that happened in the week leading up to this performance in Hannah's DWTS diary.
Tuesday, Nov. 12
We have a flight to catch at 10 a.m., so I didn't stay out late last night to celebrate a good night. I went out for a little bit, and then got up pretty early — 5:15 to be exact — because I had to get hair and makeup ready *before* going to the airport, because I am working for ABC's On the Red Carpet for the CMAs and we start filming early. I never look good at the airport, so this is new. It's kind of refreshing!
I met Alan at the airport, because he's going with me so we can start learning our dance as soon as possible. We're in the airport dancing. I'm trying to remember how to move my hips for rumba, because I'm doing a redemption dance from one of my weaker dances in the beginning that was a rumba, so we're working on that anytime we can. We don't just have to learn the rumba, we also have a contemporary to do, too. This is a really big week for me. Even though I'm excited to be headed to the CMAs and headed to Nashville, when we aren't in the studio, it adds even more pressure.
Once we got into Nashville, I went straight to work for On the Red Carpet at the Bridgestone arena, where everyone was practicing before the show tomorrow night. It was cool seeing all the celebrities' name cards on the seats and then seeing mine next to all these people that I have looked up to my whole life. I've always been a country music fan, so this is an ultimate dream for me. I did a little backstage access segment for On the Red Carpet and talked to some of the people that put on such an amazing show and got really excited about being a part of it, and then from there I went to practice.
We found a ballroom dance studio in Nashville, so I met Alan there and we started learning the rumba. It's to "Dancing with a Stranger," which I think is a really good song. The rumba is supposed to be sexy and passionate, and I felt like my last rumba song was very hard to do that to, so this is a way for me to really do the rumba and feel it, because I'm not very good at pretending to feel something. We spend like two hours in there learning the dance. I still have to work on those rumba hips, but we got done at 10 or 11 p.m. and I got in bed, ordered some barbecue, and went to sleep.
Wednesday, Nov. 13
Back to practice at 6 a.m. We practiced until 12 p.m. and learned all of the dance. I'm excited to do it, but I have been in heels already for a really long time for dancing and of course I'm wearing heels tonight for the CMAs, so my feet are not well, plus they swell really badly when I fly. It doesn't help that my dress is 50 pounds — I'm not just saying it's 50 pounds, it actually is. It has little plastic tiles on it, so it's so heavy. Pretty but heavy.
I got my glam done, and I'm being a little insecure about it because it's so different than anything I normally do. My hair is so sleek in a different way, and my hair is so dark right now because I have not had time to do anything to it in about a year, so I'm basically a brunette with some greys sticking out. I feel like I've gotten a lot more grey hairs the past year, and I don't think I had greys before. Oh god.
I was a little self conscious about it, but I love my dress. It's beautiful and I got a lot of compliments as soon as I stepped on the red carpet. I was working the red carpet, so I had to be ready by 4 p.m. and had to stand there until right before the show started. I kept having in and out interviews, so I took it upon myself to sit down on the actual carpet during my breaks. I really needed to preserve my feet and my dress was weighing me down. So I would just spread out my dress and sit down between the interviews that I was doing, and it all worked out. I didn't cause too much of a scene, I don't think. And if I did, oh well.
During the show, I was on cloud nine. Everybody was so kind, and I met people I admire who have sang songs that have gotten me through so much — through loves, through heartbreaks, through loss, sad times, everything. It was really wild when some of the artists would recognize me too. I was sitting by Kristin Chenoweth, and she is a doll. She's the cutest little thing: so tiny and beautiful and talented and super fun. Being in the audience, I was just thinking, My life is so cool. I've had some tough moments, but this one was so magical for me.
I also got to meet one of my heroes, Garth Brooks. If I could have dinner with anybody in the world, it would be Ellen DeGeneres and Garth Brooks. I've met Ellen already, and so meeting Garth, my dreams have definitely come true this year. He took off his cowboy hat and I just told him how much I admired him and how he's my favorite person ever. I don't know what I even said, but he was so kind.
I also met Eric Church, and got to tell him that my nickname Alabama Hannah comes from his song Mr. Misunderstood. My friends would make up words to it to make it about me, so it was cool to be able to tell Eric Church that that's how I came to be.
But one of the coolest things was seeing Pink again and having her recognize me. I met Pink at the People's Choice Awards, and I felt like I was such a weirdo then, even though people probably are so weird and gush to her all the time. I didn't think she would remember who I was, but she was at the CMAs to perform with Chris Stapleton and walked by me in the hallway. She didn't have to say anything to me, but she looked at me and said, "It's nice to see you again." I thought that was the coolest thing ever.
Also, Halsey's grandparents are big fans of Dancing with the Stars, so we took pictures together and we're basically best friends now. The night ended pretty late, but I didn't go to afterparties because I had to be up by 4 a.m.!
Thursday, Nov. 14
So I got three hours of sleep last night. I'm on my way back to LA today to meet Alan and I look so bad; my feet are so swollen and hurt badly. I slept a little bit on the plane, dropped myself off at my apartment, and went straight into rehearsals. I didn't take a shower, so I already don't feel great. This is already one of my really sweaty days.
This contemporary dance is going to be really hard for me. I'm doing it to "Lose You To Love Me" by Selena Gomez. I've had breakdowns throughout this process of dancing that have definitely stemmed from my heartbreak(s), but in those times I would have a cry and set it aside. This dance, though, has to channel that emotion. Alan is asking for that, and it's making me really nervous. I told him I don't know if I'm ready to do that. Basically, I'm just realizing how much I still haven't completely dealt with everything that happened to me on and after The Bachelorette.
When we're creating this story for the dance and Alan is asking me what it felt like when all the events of The Bachelorette happened so we can use those feelings in the dance, I just started crying. I cried a lot. This is going to be a tough one, but I know it deserves my all, because what I went through definitely resonates with a lot of other people who have been through similar heartbreaks, even if they weren't on national television.
It's a really hard dance, too. It's really athletic and requires a lot, and I've hurt my ribs and I fell on my toe wrong and now my toe is swollen and really hurts. So it's been a physically and emotionally difficult day.
Friday, Nov. 15
Today we met the judge who is going to help us, and it's Carrie Ann Inaba. Carrie Ann has been pretty tough on me. She's really hard to please. She kind of came at the wrong time, because I was already really emotional getting done with a cry, and I kind of just broke down on Carrie Ann and explained how I felt about the judges' critiques. As I've said, I'm totally OK with criticism, and I know a lot of the things they say are right: I don't use the floor always, I can dance high and need to really finish my hips, my hips are very difficult for me to move, and all of that is all great feedback.
But I think the feedback that is hard to take is when it's a little bit personal. It just doesn't encourage me to be vulnerable on stage like I think she wants me to be. I'm definitely someone who needs words of affirmation, and so I really feed well off of positive reinforcement, and that's been lacking in some of the past weeks. Carrie Ann asked me a few questions that just allowed me to be candidly honest about how I felt, so that brought more tears.
It's been a day, but I learned both the dances. I'm leaving practice pretty late, and I just want to take a shower and go to sleep. I'm going to try to go to the physical therapist in the morning because I can't really move my toe, which is not good. Not good at all.
Saturday, Nov. 16
Saturday we had practice as usual. My ribs are really hurting again, my toe is freaked up, and I'm emotional. Alan's really hurt too. We're just emotionally and physically whooped. But practice went really well today, at least. We ran both dances and cleaned them. I've been working a lot harder on my hip action. Alan literally played the beginning of the rumba song probably 15 times to get me into the rhythm of the dance, because the way you count the rumba and move to it is very different than other dances. I know that I've improved a lot, so I think we'll be good for the camera blocking tomorrow and for the show.
We also had our cold open shoot for the first little scene of the show. We're doing an infomercial of the kinds of albums you could get in the '80s, and it was honestly so much fun. We all are just excited to be the in the semifinals, and to have that time to be silly and goofy was great. We really got into our band; even when the camera wasn't on us, we were rocking out. We put on these ridiculous costumes — I didn't have any pants, because I forgot to bring them — so I had to wear this little bitty bodysuit and I just had to own it.
My ribs were hurting already, and then I was laughing so hard that I was in a lot of physical pain because of how funny it was. Things like that I can really get into. That's when I know that I have that performer in me, it's just that with the dancing it's just so hard for me to bring that out. Shooting the cold open was something goofy and silly and I could just let loose. If only I could do that in my dancing, there's no telling what I could accomplish.
Then I got home and had some wine delivered to my house. I drank a little bit of wine, and a friend came over to help me look at apartments for me to move into after the show. So we figured that out, which was a relief. I started watching Euphoria for the first time too, and it's heavy, man, but it's good. Then I went to sleep.
Sunday, Nov. 17
Camera blocking! It went pretty well. I'm in a lot of pain, so I was kind of crying through my rumba the whole time, but we got it down, and I know that once the show starts I'll be able to take some medicine and it'll be OK. It's just been a hard week on Alan and I.
After that I went to get my nails done. My friend from home is in town, so we got to hang out and drink wine.
Monday, Nov. 18
Oh my gosh. I made it to the finals!!
I am so excited. This has been my goal the whole time, and to know that I've made it is just so exciting. I feel a sense of relief after tonight.
I'm a little shocked by how tonight has made me feel. The dances this week have made me really emotional. At the beginning of the day today I was really in my head about it, as per usual. But then watching James Van Der Beek dance and finding out about his wife's miscarriage really put things in perspective for me about the tragedies that people go through. Trying to get into an emotional place for my dance when someone before me just revealed that they lost a child was tough, because my life lately has been emotional and difficult, but there's nothing that I've gone through that can compare to James' experience that I would dance for. While I do feel like my dance went great, seeing James' sorrow, I feel like my perspective changed so quickly and drastically.
Right before I went on stage, I was trying to get back into the dance headspace after wanting to be there for James — he's been such a big part of this experience for me, he's such a great human and a great dad — and I heard people screaming my name. I thought, you know, people know my name now. And I had to lose all of the things that I wanted to gain such an incredible opportunity and influence that will allow me to do a lot of good.
I just had a reality check. Yes, being on camera in front of millions of people every week has been draining, but I'm still so blessed because I got so much good out of it. Maybe that changed my attitude towards my dance, and I'm thankful for that — but it changed my attitude towards my life, too, in a really cool and out-of-the blue way.
Watch Hannah and Alan's rumba and contemporary below:
Reporting by Samantha Rollins.