Carrie Ann Inaba reveals she'd love to see Bruno Mars compete on 'DWTS'
As a diehard "Dancing with the Stars" fan (and with the March 20 premiere fast approaching), I couldn't contain my excitement when I found out I'd be chatting with longtime judge, Carrie Ann Inaba.
We didn't only talk about my obsession with the show, though.
With the Chinese New Year beginning on January 28, Inaba dished on everything from her recent partnership with P.F. Chang's Home Menu, the significance of the upcoming Chinese holiday and how her engagement to actor Robb Derringer is changing the way she'll celebrate this year.
And of course, I had to ask her which star she'd love to see compete on "DWTS" -- because how could I not?
Check out my conversation with Carrie Ann Inaba below:
Tell me a little bit about your partnership with P.F. Chang's Home Menu and why were eager to work together.
I'm excited to be working with P.F. Chang's Home Menu, because first of all, I love P.F. Chang's Bistro food -- and I am part Chinese. What's exciting for me right now is that the Chinese New Year is coming up, and it's a time when we celebrate the new year, and it's a two-week celebration that's been going on forever. It's one of the most important traditional holidays in Chinese culture. It's when you wish your friends and family good luck and prosperity for the new year, and it's one of my favorite holidays ever.
What's great is P.F. Chang's Home Menu is launching four new dishes. When I plan my party -- which I do every year -- I'm going to be able to serve restaurant-style food flavorings and have this ambiance of the P.F. Chang's Bistro and all this wonderful, authentic Chinese food with bold flavorings. But I get to do it in the convenience of my home, because everybody who knows me knows I'm not the best cook. [So] I'm really excited to be working with them.
Do you always host or is this a first-time thing for you?
Well, I got recently engaged -- with Robb Derringer ...
See photos of Carrie Ann and Robb together:
Thank you! It's a very exciting time. And we love to have parties. When I was growing up, we used to do a lot of celebrating, and every year I celebrate still with red envelopes, which are passed to people who are unmarried. You put a little money in them, they're called lai see, and you give them to family members to wish them good luck. I always do that, and I always get on the phone and wish everybody a happy new year, and then we'll sometimes go down to Chinatown and watch the lion dance. When I was in Hawaii, we used to watch the firecrackers, because these are wonderful ways to ward off the evil spirits, because in Chinese culture, we're very superstitious. [Laughs]. We have all these traditions.
Now that Robb and I are together, we wanted to start something really just for us, so from here on out, we're going to be doing this every year. It's kind of a nice way to get everybody together after the holidays. We're going to put together a family-style Chinese feast, which will include a lot of the communal dishes, because I'm not sure if you know this, but in Chinese culture, we don't serve one appetizer or one main dish -- we do a lot of different dishes. It's really fun, because the various food in Chinese culture have different meanings. For instance, dumplings and spring rolls represent wealth, noodles [represent] long life -- and fruits are meant to bring you good luck and good fortune. So when we plan our party, we're going to be serving all of that, and it'll be a wonderful plethora of authentic flavors. It's just going to be really exciting, and we're going to put red and gold, because they symbolize good luck and good fortune, as well. It's a nice way to just get together with close friends and wish them the best of luck and health and happiness for the new year.
That sounds so fun! And speaking of your recent engagement, has wedding planning started yet?
You know, what's great is wedding planning ... is on the way! [Laughs]. We're planning hopefully maybe the summer, but we're not sure yet. We just got through the holidays, and right now, we're just getting ready to plan our next party. We just had an engagement party last week to celebrate the engagement, and now we're getting ready for our Chinese New Year party.
So, it's coming, yeah! That's the first question everybody asks when you get engaged. I didn't know you're supposed to come up with a date so quickly. We're older, we're both in the golden years, [as] we like to call [it]. We're in no rush, but at the same time, it's going to happen probably pretty quickly.
The "Dancing with the Stars" premiere date was just announced, so I have to ask, who's the No. 1 star you'd love to see compete?
Oh, the No. 1 star I'd like to have? You know, I would love to have Bruno Mars. He's just such a fantastic performer, full of life, and he's from Hawaii -- and there's just such a cool vibe about him. I don't know if we could ever get him, but I think he would be so much to fun to have on the show.
He would be good, don't you think?
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Yeah, he's an amazing dancer! He, and I also think, Ne-Yo ...
Ne-Yo's great. We've had Ne-Yo perform on the show a couple times, he's been wonderful. He's such a nice guy. And we always get Pitbull, and he comes up and gets judges -- he's always such a joy, as well.
So fun! Do you have any behind-the-scenes secret to share? The show's been on for so long, longtime viewers probably feel like they know everything about it -- but is there anything you feel even the biggest fans don't know?
I feel like maybe even the biggest fans don't know that the judges are kept completely separate from the dancers. People always ask me, "what are the secrets?" and I don't really have any, because the judges' trailers are on the opposite side of the CBS lot. We're on the opposite side, and we're not allowed into the studio ... ever. You know how we do the judges' pick and we go in and choreograph? That's the only time we're ever allowed in the studio before the show starts.
Yeah, so people think we know all the secrets, but we know nothing! We're totally separated. It's hysterical. I guess we have Standards of Practices, so we have to.
Lastly, I love when you guest co-host "Live! with Kelly." I think you two are great together. Is that something you'd ever consider doing permanently if given the chance?
Oh my goodness, if given the chance, yes that would be a great thing to do. I love Kelly. In fact, I'm going out there again on February 2nd and 3rd. We get along so well. It's so much fun to hang out with her. We just have so much fun. She actually sent me the most beautiful flowers for our engagement. She's a great friend, and I'm so proud of her for all of her success, and that would be a really fun job, too.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
PHOTOS: Carrie Ann in the kitchen with P.F. Chang's Home Menu