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my interview with rumer willis

Rumer Willis and Val

The new season of Dancing With the Stars doesn’t start for another couple of  months and, I don’t know about you, but I need a fix so I’m posting my phone interview with Rumer Willis, who won Season 20 with cutie pie Val Chmerkovskiy. 

According to Rumer, being named champions meant so much more to the pair than simply taking home the coveted Mirror Ball trophy.

Not only did it push them both out of the shadows of their famous family members (Rumer’s parents, Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, and Val’s older brother and DWTS fan fave Maks) but it helped Rumer overcome years of low self-esteem due to bullying.

I caught up with Rumer at Dancing With the Stars Live! in Costa Mesa last summer, where she gave an impassioned speech that had audience members in tears. An old soul, Rumer is serious and thoughtful. Because she fractured her foot, she was singing instead of dancing on the tour, and her voice has a deep soulfulness that reaches way beyond her 26 years.

“Don’t let anyone limit you,” she told the sold-out crowd. “People always put me in a box, labeling me as this tattooed, edgy girl. Well, sometimes I want to be a princess, too.”

Here’s what else she had to say about her experience.

Rumer Willis and Val

What made you decide to do Dancing With the Stars in the first place? Have you always been interested in dance?

I’ve never danced before. When the opportunity arose, I thought, “What a wonderful chance to learn how to ballroom dance with someone who’s a world champion.” It just sounded like a lot of fun.

How was your first meeting with Val?

I was really excited because I thought he was one of the best dancers. With his particular style of teaching and his attitude and personality, I felt like we immediately gelled. We’re very similar and we have a very similar sense of humor.

You became a contender right from the beginning. What was that first dance like?

We put a lot into that first dance. You get three weeks to prepare, and I grew quite dramatically over that period. When we finally got to perform, it was one of the best times of my life. To have worked so hard for something and have it come to fruition was amazing.

Did you believe you had a shot at winning then?

I think everyone goes into it hoping they can win. I knew that I had a great partner.

What was the hardest part of Dancing With the Stars for you?

Being on a reality show was definitely outside my comfort zone. Plus, dancing six or seven hours a day was quite a big change for me. Once I got into the swing of it, though, I loved it.

Rumer Willis and Val

How did the experience differ from what you expected?

I try to go into any new experience without expectations. That way, you’re more surprised and you can’t really be let down. I was actually very happily surprised with the experience and what it gave me.

What did it give you?

Confidence and a desire to continue to strive to challenge myself and try new things. I not only made a great friend, but the partnership Val and I had was incredible. We taught each other a lot and I don’t think I would have gotten to the end with anyone but him.

What did the win mean to you?

It meant the world. It was such a validation of everything we had worked toward. Everything that I’d worked toward and everything that he’d worked toward for so many seasons. It was especially rewarding because there was a particular drive and motivation we both had. We weren’t trying to win for ourselves. We were both really trying to win it for the other person. I think when you have a desire and a passion for something to happen that’s not for yourself, it’s easier and more in your reach.

Rumer Willis and Val

You’ve been very open about your struggles with bullying, and have become a real role model for many girls. Can you talk a little about that?

One of the biggest blessings of the show was that I found the ability to have a voice and give people a chance to get to know me. And without it necessarily being my intention, I became a role model. That’s such a great gift to me because if anything can come out of all my hardships and struggles that will help and inspire others and make them not feel so alone, that’s incredible. That’s all I could ever ask for.

Are there any stories from fans that really touched you?

So many. I actually had a girl come up to me after the show the other night and her mom pulled me aside and told me her daughter had been struggling with bullying. She was in a really dark place and when she watched the show, it made her feel better. It was actually the first time in a long time she’d felt any hope. That meant everything to me. I know what it’s like to be in that place. To hear that something I said or something I did helped her get out of that place was very fulfilling.

I would imagine you feel so empowered by your victory. You can do anything! What’s next?

I don’t know what’s next for me yet. I hope I’ll be able find something I love that pushes me as much as this did.

All photos courtesy of Faculty/ABC.


  1. Bullying is really terrible. I’m glad Rumer is able to inspire young kids who are also victims of bullying. She is so beautiful.

  2. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    Oh cool! I have never seen this show, but how cool that you got to interview her 🙂

  3. Rumer is so amazing. I loved watching her on Dancing With the Stars. I can’t believe how fantastically she can dance!

  4. My daughter has been picked on a few times with some of the kids in the area and it saddens me to see it happen all I can do is keep her away from them. Rumer is showing all of those bullies that no matter what they try they can’t hold her back and that is what I am teaching my daughter too. I love when stars are being excellent examples for kids to look up too.

  5. I love this interview. I’ve never really been a big Rumer fan – not before DWTS. I didn’t know much about her except she was a child of celebrities, and that was that. But I love love Val. Adore him, and so I found myself rooting for her, too. Plus there’s real talent there! Great post, Lois. Thanks for sharing some of Rumer with us all. 🙂

  6. Nice interview! I didn’t know anything about her before DWTS and I applaud any celebrity child who can make a life of their own.

  7. She really was a great dancer. I like what she said about not labeling or putting people in boxes.

  8. Catherine S says:

    What a terrific interview. I was happy to hear that she won. I watched a couple of episodes and she is a great dancer.

  9. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    I loved watching Rumer and Val dance. They were so well matched and he brought out the best in her. I was thrilled when they won!

  10. Great interview, Lois….she felt comfortable opening up to you! I got the impression from watching her that she had an old, sensitive soul. Do you think she and Val are together; a couple? Seems there are always rumors around dance partners! Thanks for sharing this!

  11. What a great interview! I imagine she’s had so many interviews and yet she was so open and sweet with you. I was really impressed with her – she seems truly lovely.

  12. I do not watch Dancing with the stars so I was thrilled to read this interview. I can see how Rumer can be so inspirational to an entire generation.

  13. I don’t keep up with this show, but am happy to hear that Rumer Willis was a participant and won! She seems very authentic and genuine and like she’s come to terms with who she is despite the bullying (which I’m sure is extra-complicated with celebrity parents)!

  14. Nice interview. I love how she found something she loved and it pushed her in the right direction.

  15. Wow! I love her she is so real and talented, great interview 😀

  16. Rumer is so talented and it was great seeing them dance! She sounds like such a positive role model too.

  17. What an inspiring interview. I didn’t see that episode but I’m going to look it up now I’m sure I can find it out there. Rumer is very talented for sure. Thanks for sharing!

  18. I can’t imagine being on a reality show. I love watching them dance.

  19. I can’t believe they have to spend 6-7 hours a day dancing! What a huge commitment. I guess that explains why they look so good dancing.

  20. This is a so cool. I’ve not watched this competition, but it is great to interview someone like him.

  21. Interesting. I have my own thoughts about the offspring of stars and what they do or don’t do…but this was interesting.

  22. That’s lovely that she is using her platform to draw more light on bullying. It shows that even celebrities feel the pain from it too. I am glad she was able to help a young lady feel a little better about her situation.

  23. I voted for her! So happy she won. Awesome interview

  24. This is so awesome that you got to do this interview! I love the show.

  25. Great interview! I missed watching her on the show. I know how difficult it is to step out of the shadow of her famous parents but she did great!

  26. Her whole life is a reality show! I would love to have a chance to sit down and talk to her and learn about the “real her,” not the stuff you read online and in magazines. She is quite a remarkable young lady! Glad she found something she can be passionate about!

  27. Insightful questions posted here.
    I also love your pictures!

  28. What a great interview. I haven’t been following dancing with the stars so I didn’t even know that Rumer was one of the contestants. She is pretty awesome and totally deserved winning.

  29. Awesome interview. I still can’t believe that she hadn’t danced before and she won. Incredible!

  30. This is a fun interview. I watched last season to see Nick Carter- but hadn’t watched it much before that. It is a fun show and my kids love to watch it and try the dances, lol.

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