'Dancing' star Derek Hough is now an author
Derek Hough is a dancer, a singer, an actor, an Emmy-winning choreographer. He never envisioned himself as an author.
"The idea of writing a book wasn't on my plan of things to do," he said. "I never really saw myself as somebody writing a book.
"But as I was looking back on certain things, I thought, 'You know what? I could do this.' "
The Utah native and five-time champion on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" will be at the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City on Saturday at 7 p.m. to sign copies of his new book, "Taking the Lead: Lessons From a Life in Motion." It's half autobiography, half self-help book.
"I didn't want it to be just about me," he said. "I wanted to be able to maybe use some of my experiences and draw from lessons from them and the things that I learned from them."
So when he writes about some rather severe bullying he suffered when he was a kid growing up in South Jordan, he ends the chapter expanding on the ideas that you need to "Speak up," "Power over others is weakness in disguise" and "Bullies come in all shapes and forms."
And that chapter about bullying is horrifying for any parent to read. Hough recounts how, when he was 6, he was tormented and physically abused by neighborhood boys several years older than he who "made it their mission to torture and torment my family." They ripped his sister Sharee's earrings out of her pierced ears, "severing her lobes." They grabbed Derek, tied him up, dragged him and hung him by his feet from a tree, spit on him and held a gun which he feared might be real to his head.
"It was difficult to remember and sort of go back and recall the details," Hough said. "But the perspective of the whole thing really changed for me.
"Instead of being upset or thinking, 'Oh no! It's me,' I was really more intrigued wondering, 'Wow, I wonder what was going on in their lives that made them feel like they had to do that to somebody.' "
That's but one story in "Taking the Lead," and Hough doesn't dwell on it. He also opens up about his parents' divorce; about moving with his sister Julianne to London to live with professional dancers Shirley and Corky Ballas and their son Mark; about his youthful uses of alcohol and tobacco.
"It is tough to be vulnerable and open up, especially to a wide audience, and putting yourself out there," Hough said. "But there have been times when I've talked to some kid about what happened to them and I might relate one of my stories and we would talk about it together. And it was good to be able to share something with somebody.
"With this book, I just wanted to have that same sense of sharing. I'm hoping people will relate to my experiences."
"Taking the Lead" is full of funny stories, too. Including the revelation that when Hough first met his best friend/bandmate/"Dancing with the Stars" foe, Mark Ballas, they couldn't stand each other.
"We were young kids like 10 years old. We just didn't get along at first," he said. "He was the outsider. He was the world traveler, and I was very much the local Mormon kid.
"We got into a little fight, and then we were best friends."
It was Ballas who introduced Hough to hard rock music. The two attended a Korn concert in London's Wembley Stadium "when my first concert before that was a Neil Diamond concert. I really had nothing to compare it to."
Almost two decades later, Hough is a bit of a world traveler himself. He's a world champion dancer. He's performed on Broadway and in London's West End. He's appeared in films. He and Ballas released an album (as the Ballas Hough Band).
And returning to Salt Lake City for the book-signing feels sort of like a homecoming, although he hasn't actually lived here full time since he was 10.
"Going back to Utah definitely has so much sentimental value," Hough said. "That is like home to me, I suppose. But London is as well. I feel very safe there. Comfortable. Very nostalgic.
"It's weird because I'm trying to make Los Angeles my home right now because I've been here for the last six or seven years."
No matter where he goes, fans are there to greet him.
"They do a double-take, and then they run up to me," Hough said. "They feel like they know me.
"Sometimes they grab me or hug me and catch me by surprise. And scare me," he said with a laugh. "But it's always out of love. It's always wonderful and positive. I try to embrace it."
Derek Hough book signing
Five-time "Dancing with the Stars" champion Derek Hough will sign copies of his new book, "Taking the Lead: Lessons from a Life in Motion."
When • Saturday, Aug. 7, at 7 p.m.
Where • The King's English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City
Note • Places in the signing line are reserved for those who buy a copy of "Taking the Lead" from The King's English Bookshop.