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Mar
22

I love love love the new Beauty and the Beast movie. One of the best parts, of course, is the Beast’s library, so I wrote “Belle Would Be Enchanted by These 10 Lovely Libraries in Hotels” for USA Today 10Best.

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emma slater, “dancing with the stars” and me by jillian walsh

Emma Slater with fan Jillian

One of the best parts of Dancing With the Stars Live! was seeing the pure joy on so many fans’ faces as they got to finally see their favorite dancers in person.

One of those fans was Jillian Walsh, a sweet and bubbly 13-year-old from San Diego, who Sara and I talked to at the Meet and Greet, where she was hoping to present a gift to pro Emma Slater. We felt terrible when security told her she wouldn’t be able to give it to her, and were thrilled when we saw her quietly pass it to Emma on stage during the show.

“It wasn’t really the ideal time,” Jillian admits, “but I saw it as my last chance.”

I totally admire a girl with such passion and determination, and wanted to see what it was about Emma that made her such a role model for Jillian. Here’s what she had to say:

I started watching Dancing With the Stars when it was on its 14th season in March 2012. I instantly fell in love with the show, waiting eagerly for every Monday. I would watch it with my grandmother (I still do!) and I guess it was kind of a way for us to bond. We would both look forward to it, and we would often talk about the dances during the following week.

I believe Dancing With the Stars is a very special show. Not a lot of people my age watch it because, apparently, it’s perceived as a rather “older” show. I believed that rumor but once I watched it, I was proved so wrong.

What those couples do each week is simply breathtaking and I still don’t understand how they do it all. Since season 14, my love for the show has grown stronger day by day.

Emma Slater and Melissa Rycroft

I only knew one competitor during that season, so most of it was kind of boring to me. So I turned my attention to the troupe. All the members were amazing but Emma was just a ball of energy. She was so passionate for the strong dances, so elegant for the slower ones, and so vibrant with the fast ones. I really wanted to get to know more about her (because the show doesn’t really get into the troupe dancers’ lives).

Watching her grow and develop as a dancer over three seasons was so beautiful to me. Then in season 17 she became a pro. Seeing her take Bill Engvall to the finals was amazing. Their journey was so precious. She was such an amazing teacher and friend, I couldn’t help but idolize that! She never gave up and always pushed her partners to do the best they could. It all started from there and has just flourished!

I’ve watched every season, I often talk about the show in my daily life, I watched all of last season’s live streams and often re-watch my favorite dances on YouTube. I’ve learned some of the dances, and I’ve even made fan pages for Emma on Instagram and Twitter. I guess you could call me a little obsessed!

When they announced they were going on tour again this season, I just HAD to go.  So I got my parents to agree, and I got to attend this show as a VIP! When I met Emma at the Meet and Greet, she told me she knew who I was and she appreciated what I do. Her words made me so happy. She made all my time put towards the fan page worth it.

My favorite number in the show was the rumba that Emma and Keo did. It was so beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes. I still couldn’t believe I was seeing them dance live, right in front of my face.

Dancing with the Stars Live Keo and Emma

Photo courtesy of Faculty/ABC

Emma has basically kept me sane. Whenever I am feeling down, she comments on my posts and makes me feel better. She’s such an inspiration to me because she always keeps her head up and works so hard in order to achieve her dreams.

I figured since I was going to meet her and see her dance live, it would only be right to give her a gift, as a thank you for all she had done for me. So that’s exactly what I did. I filled a crate with some things I thought she would like and wrapped it up all nice and pretty.

Emma Slater with gift

Security didn’t let me give it to her at the Meet and Greet, so my only choices were to give it to her during the show or when it was over. I didn’t want to risk missing her and I definitely didn’t want to interrupt the show but there was a point when she was alone on stage and the crowd was occupied by the other dancers.

I stood up, held the gift out to her and she accepted it, thanking me in front of the whole audience. It felt insanely good. Words can’t even describe the feeling.

Emma Slater with fan Jillian

After the show, she stayed to take selfies with the fans. A couple of minutes later, despite the security guard yanking at her and telling her that time was up, she turned to me and personally thanked me for her basket. She told me she “loved the beautiful little dancing fairy” that I made for her myself, and that she would tag me in the picture that she would post.

We took some pictures together and when she was leaving she said, “Thank you again, Jillian. I love you so much.” I instantly began crying happy tears. My idol and inspiration just told me that she loved me and loved what I gave her. Those words coming out of Emma’s mouth made me unbelievably thankful for her.

It was the best experience of my life, and I will never ever forget it.

Comments

  1. Chavonne H says:

    What an amazing experience to have. I’ve been watching DWTS since the first season and I look forward to it every year. I agree that the dances and dancers are out of this world incredible, how do they do it? I love to dance myself but I can’t imagine dancing the way they do, such an inspiration for me.

  2. My in laws like Dancing With the Stars. They are always telling me about it.

  3. I used to love Dancing with Stars. Well, I still love it just don’t have time to watch much of it anymore. It amazes me the talent that they end up having.

  4. Catherine S says:

    What a wonderful experience. I will have to watch the next season of Dancing With The Stars.

  5. What an awesome experience for Jillian. It’s so nice that she was able to give Emma her gift.

  6. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Awww, how exciting for Jillian to meet someone so special to her. And so sweet of Emma to take the time to show a young fan how grateful she is for her support. Very touching.

  7. To see DWTS live had to be so much fun. I love to watch them dance.

  8. Such a sweet story. Thanks for sharing it.

  9. Amanda V says:

    What an experience! I like watching DWTS and So you think you can dance.

  10. what an awesome time this must have been so awesomely exciting any adventure like this would be terrific for anyone

  11. Dancing with The Stars is such a great TV program. I like how connected the dancers are to their fans. I’m happy that she had a great experience.

  12. Sounds like a lot of fun. I used to watch DWTS religiously!

  13. What a great experience. I will have to start watching DWTS

  14. Your story is very touching. It is so good when people get to meet their heroes and their heroes are nice to them. I am so happy for you!

  15. Catheryn says:

    I just love it when a “star” make that extra effort and reaches out to their fans. True appreciation for the people that support them 🙂

  16. How cool was that. What a awesome gift you made her as well

  17. So cool!! I am sure it was a great time for you both!!

  18. brianna says:

    I absolutely LOVE it 😍

  19. What a wonderful experience. I used to watch this before, but i got too caught up with a lot of things.

  20. I can’t believe there are that many seasons of this show! I’m not an avid watcher, but have caught a few clips here and there and it really is impressive what these celebrities achieve in such a short time. The best part is that this show has inspired and engaged people (and youngsters). Such a sweet story!

  21. Debbie Denny says:

    That looks like so much fun. Love that they are friendly with fans.

  22. Coolchillmom says:

    What a great experience! I am so happy you got to be there, love. I have to watch more of the show!

  23. Everyone loves Dancing With The Stars. It is such a lively and fun show.

  24. I love DWTS and watch it all the time. I wish I learned to dance like that when I was younger.

  25. Dancing with the Stars is such a fun show to watch. Must’ve been awesome to be there.

  26. I used to watch dancing with the stars with my mom, who was a great dancer during her younger years. It must have been a very memorable time for you and I am happy that you were able to meet your idol.

  27. Surprisingly even though this show has been on for quite some time I still have yet to see it. I’m happy that she was able to pass along her little gift.

  28. Oh wow.. I am sure this is one memorable experience encountered indeed. I am happy for you 🙂

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