For weeks “Dancing With the Stars” fans, as well as the Season 23 judges, have been blown away by gymnast Laurie Hernandez’s ability in the ballroom. On Monday, during Week 10, it was her personal strength that left everyone in awe.
Before she took the stage in the “DWTS” semifinals, it was revealed to ABC viewers that Laurie’s grandmother — who, according to her pre-performance package, played a large role in her life — had died just one day after sitting down to record an interview for the show. Her final message for Laurie aired, for the first time, before she and partner Val Chmerkovskiy performed. With tears in her eyes Laurie committed to the competition, later telling Us Weekly that it was no easy task. She said that she felt her grandmother would have been elated with her performances in Week 10, both of which garnered perfect scores from the judges.
“I think she would have been really happy with the dances tonight — just because the first one was soft and elegant,” she said. “And the second one had that Latin flavor, so she would have loved that one too!”
During the episode Laurie, and the other remaining competitors, were tasked with sharing a little about their background before performing a routine that embodied their story. The chipper 16-year-old was joined in her pre-performance package by her mother and father, Wanda and Anthony Hernandez, and oldest sister Jelysa, who opened up about the sacrifices they made to help the Olympic gold medalist pursue her dreams. Wanda said that it was at the urging of her own mother that she did so, never thinking twice. Footage showed Laurie visiting with her grandmother before telling viewers that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s and had not been doing well as of late. A text card then revealed that just one day after recording her interview with “DWTS,” Laurie’s grandmother died.
Despite the devastating blow she suffered, Laurie appears to be just as committed to “DWTS” as she was when she first joined the cast. She has been open about how difficult the competition is, even with her background as a gymnast. In a blog on Us Weekly’s site last month she wrote that she was having a much harder time nailing down her footwork and facing criticism from judges and Val than she thought she would. Laurie noted that while she thought she may have a leg up on the competition, she quickly learned that dancing and gymnastics are not one in the same.
“Coming into ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ I thought it would be a lot easier,” she wrote. “I didn’t think it would be just a breeze, I knew it would be difficult, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this hard. It’s really hard to stay patient with myself and realize this is a whole different world than gymnastics.”
Laurie and Val will dance in next week’s finale and remain hopeful that they will win the Mirrorball Trophy for Season 23. Sasha Farber and Terra Jolé were last eliminated from the competition in Week 10.
Tune in to “Dancing With the Stars” Mondays at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.