‘Dancing With the Stars’ Veteran Derek Hough Honored for Work Against Bullying

Derek Hough GLSEN Fight Bullying Photo
Dan Doperalski for Variety

He may be known for burning up the floor and coaching celebs on “Dancing With the Stars,” but Derek Hough’s work extends far beyond the dance studio. Hough will be honored by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network at the org’s Respect Awards on Oct. 17 for his work to prevent bullying. Others set to be honored at the event are Julia Roberts and Danny Moder with the Humanitarian Award, and NBC Entertainment’s Robert Greenblatt, who will receive the Chairman’s Award. Hough will receive the org’s Inspiration Award.

As a kid, Hough found himself on the receiving end of such abuse, but instead of fighting back, he considered his tormenter’s perspective, and learned that bullying isn’t as simple as it seems.

“We associate bullying with a kid in a playground being picked on, but it’s so much broader than that,” he explains, stressing that those exhibiting the behavior are often victims themselves, and that the act can take many more forms that just physical violence.

On the Oct. 6 episode of “Dancing With the Stars,” Hough and celebrity partner Bethany Mota shed light on bullying, with a number focused on the subject.

Before making her mark on the Internet, the YouTube star said was also a victim of bullying and and was the target of words that belittled her confidence. Mota and Hough’s rumba, to a live performance by Colbie Caillat of her song “Try,” had the dancers literally wiping away hurtful words in exchange for positive messages and self-confidence.

“It’s really important to stress that, yes, don’t listen to the negativity but also don’t rely on the good things,” Hough says. “Accept them and enjoy them but don’t rely on them to make yourself feel good.”

That lesson is just one of the many that Hough shares in his recent book, “Taking the Lead: Lessons From a Life In Motion.” The dancer said that he was nervous when writing the tome, knowing that it would generate comments, but he says that he couldn’t ignore an opportunity to help others, and give them “shortcuts” for combating bullying and shakeups in confidence.

“Hearing some of the responses from adults, and especially kids, it’s amazing to hear the feedback and hear how it’s affected their life in some way, even if it’s just for that night or a moment.”

Dan Doperalski for Variety

However, Hough admits that it can sometimes be a challenge to be the bigger person.

“We’re all guilty of being a bully at some point,” he notes. Hough adds that he’s even caught himself acting out of line on occasion. “Growing up in the dance world and having to be a perfectionist, it suddenly becomes acceptable to behave a certain way, because it’s ‘for the art,’” he says, “And the truth is, it’s not.”

Teaching is one of the tools Hough advocates for prevention. “The more collective knowledge (about bullying) that we have, the less a person wants to bully and the more a person being bullied understands what’s really happening. But to get to that point, it’s about enlightening and educating kids, and even adults.”

By sharing his own experiences, Hough hopes to inspire tolerance, and encourage kids to be unafraid to raise their voices. Accepting GLSEN’s Inspiration Award is “amazing – it’s a massive honor,” he says, and it’s “incredibly fulfilling, because it’s one of those things where you feel strange accepting an award when it’s something personally driven, especially when you’re still working on yourself and striving to be better. But I’m very, very honored,” he says.

“If I’m able to share any of the things I’ve learned it’s an amazing feeling.” Hough explains of being a role model – a title that he’s still not used to. “It’s an incredible gift that I don’t plan on wasting. I want to share as much as possible, with as many people as I can.”

The GLSEN Respect Awards will be held Oct. 17 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, beginning with cocktails at 5:30 p.m., followed by the program at 7:30.

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  1. Dawn H says:

    Everytime I read something about Derek I fall more in love with him. He has a huge heart and is such a breath of fresh air. Congratulations on your award, Derek! Enjoy every moment of it and keep up the great job!!

  2. Barbara Hendricks says:

    Derek: This is your “wish she was” grandma I have written you so much. I love you like my son and I even made my son jealous because I have a huge picture of you on my wall at my computer and I saw you dance in person here in Clearwater, Fl. on your tour. I wanted to get close to you but the guards would not let me talk to you. I love you like a son so very much and am so very proud of you and your book. I will buy it and put it at my bed. Please never leave me on DWTS because, as an old lady, you are the only one that makes my day. God bless you!!!!

  3. Mary says:

    Your a great role model with a wonderful message. Everyone deals with bullying and as a parent its my job to raise my child to rise above and to help others. You should make some sort of an antibullying, confidence building program through Art, introduce a program like that in schools.

  4. motough14151819 says:

    Thank you for doing what is right Derek Hough. ………STOP BULLYING

    • Jan Taylor says:

      Derek it is such a joy to watch you dance. Thanks for sharing your experience with bullying and the work you do!

  5. JoAnn Freund says:

    Bullying can be done by those who disagree with your religion, too! Proud of you, Derek! You are a joy to watch & read.

  6. Faith says:

    I was bullied all the way through school because of my weight. My mother taught me that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. From first grade through college and even in adulthood I was teased and bullied. My mother also got me by the shoulders one day and said, “God doesn’t make junk, so remember that. It worked and I don’t really let anyone bother me these days. Keep up the good work Derek. Thank you for your work!

  7. well said Derek u are focus on attention about Bully congrats

  8. Liz Young says:

    Derek I love you before. And I love more now. God Bless you.

  9. Marlene Rudge says:

    Derek, thank you for standing up for what is right and voicing your opinion. It really does matter to those who are being bullied. They need encouragement to step up and say who is bullying them. Please check out my daughter’s website at BullyBan.com. She sure could use your help in promoting against these bullies who think they can get away with it. Thanks!

  10. Kristina Pierce says:

    I have twin boys that have been bullied so much , that they finally gave up on their young dreams of playing basketball . It broke my heart because we couldn’t and still can’t get anything done about it.

    • Marlene Rudge says:

      You need to find out who is doing it and really push the issue of having something done. Even pressing charges against those kids. My daughter has started BullyBan and she is trying to make a difference. Check it out. BullyBan.com

  11. Derek…I am so proud of you. I wish I could adopt you as my son. You are an inspiration …and so much fun to watch.

  12. PETER JAY says:

    You’re doing a great job, Derek. Keep up the wonderful work. All of it!

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