The Stunning Transformation Of Julianne Hough

What can't Julianne Hough do? According to her biography, the answer seems to be pretty clear: nothing. Although the star is perhaps best known for being a dancer on ABC's hit reality television show Dancing With the Stars, she's also an accomplished country music singer and an actress.

In 2008, about four years after premiering on the TV dancing competition, Hough released her first country album and started making her way into the film industry. That's not to say she gave up dancing, though. In 2014, she became a judge for the popular dance show, and, in 2015, she took home a well-deserved Emmy for outstanding choreography. Hough has only become more of a household name since her prime time television debut back in the early aughts, and she has no plans to slow down anytime soon. Because Hough has been a mainstay in pop culture for so many years, it can be easy to forget just how she became the triple threat we've come to love. Here's a reminder.

She was bred to perform

Born in Utah in 1988, Hough grew up in a Mormon household alongside her four older siblings. "We were bred to perform," Hough revealed to Women's Health. Her mother enrolled Hough along with her siblings in pretty much everything available: piano lessons, singing, tap-dancing, ballet. And those dance lessons sure paid off.

At just 10 years old, Hough, along with her 13-year-old brother Derek, were accepted to train as ballroom dancers at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, an esteemed dance school in London, England (via People). Of course, that meant the siblings would have to leave home. While away at school, Hough and her brother lived with friends of their family, but they quickly became independent. Each morning, they rose early and headed to school via public transportation — all on their own. "I remember one of my first days there I got off at the wrong train station," Hough told People. "I was just standing there thinking, 'Where am I?'"  By the time she was 11, Hough was already fighting for her right to fair pay, demanding those who hired her for shows pay her what they promised (via InStyle). That's what you were doing at that age too, right?

Her childhood was rife with abuse

To say Hough grew up fast would be an understatement. Not only did the young dancer not have time to be a regular kid, but the environment in which she spent her formative years wasn't exactly appropriate for a child. Hough, who was already no stranger to spray-tanning at 10 years old, wore makeup when participating in dance competitions. "When I look back, I think it is so sad I have no pictures of me with a cute, bare, 10-year-old face," she divulged to People

When speaking to Cosmopolitan, Hough further revealed, "I was 10 years old looking like I was 28, being a very sensual dancer." She added, "I was a tormented little kid who had to put on this sexy facade because that was my job and my life." Hough also told the publication that she was abused — "mentally, physically, everything" — while she was living and training abroad. The dancer said this abuse only intensified when she began going through puberty and, as she explained, "started becoming a woman and stopped being a little girl."

She was bullied throughout high school

After training for five long years in a different country, Hough finished out her scholarship. And Hough never considered leaving early to even be a viable option. "I was told if I ever went back to the United States, three things were going to happen," she divulged to Cosmopolitan. "One: I was going to amount to nothing. Two: I was going to work at Whataburger. And three: I was going to end up a sl*t." Fear, it sadly seems, was used as a motivator.

At 15 years old, Hough finally returned to her home state of Utah. But Hough's abuse didn't stop. It took on a different form instead. "I had a hard time with bullying. I ate lunch in the bathroom," she revealed to Teen Vogue. "I'd get invited to parties, and instead it would be these abandoned houses." How did she deal? Although her experience in London was traumatic to say the least, she said her time at the prestigious dance school taught her to "have thick skin."

She was diagnosed with this condition

Although Hough didn't know it for some time, she was suffering from endometriosis around the time she returned to the U.S. "When I was 15, I had symptoms of endometriosis, but I had never heard of it, didn't know what it was. I thought that this was just the kind of pain you have when you're on your period," Hough revealed to People. "For years, I was just thinking that was normal and never really talked about it."

It wasn't until 2008 that Hough would be officially diagnosed. While on the set of Dancing with the Stars, she had to be rushed to the hospital due to severe pains in her stomach. Not only was she diagnosed with endometriosis — an often painful disorder in which "tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus ... grows outside your uterus," as explained by the Mayo Clinic — but she was also told she would need to have surgery. 

Even after the operation, Hough continues to deal with endometriosis pain. "I still live a healthy, active life and do the things the I love," she explained, but she's also realized the importance of being "kind to [her] body" and taking "a day off" when needed. Hough is also involved in spreading awareness about the condition.

She got engaged as a teen

By the time Hough graduated high school, she'd already lived a lifetime. At just 18 years old, she was engaged to Zack Wilson — who, at the time, was a 25-year-old college student at Bringham Young University in Provo, Utah. According to Wilson, the two met at a dance studio in Utah some ten years prior, but didn't start dating until 2006, as he told TV Guide.

The couple's wedding was scheduled to take place in August 2007, but, in May, Hough announced that they would be postponing their big day. "We're going to get married," Wilson told TV Guide at the time, "just not this summer. We haven't fallen away from each other at all." The timing — with his schooling and her career — just wasn't right, he explained. Not long after Wilson's interview, however, Hough and her fiancé went their separate ways. "I'm 19. I'm really focused on my career. We're really good friends," Hough confirmed to Inside (via Boston Herald).

She wasn't always so health-conscious

In 2016, Hough told Shape that she was happy with, and confident in, her body — but she didn't always feel that way. "When I look at pictures of myself when I was 19, my body was bangin', but I was killing myself," she admitted. "I was working out two and a half hours a day and eating the bare minimum to survive." She added that she was both unhappy and unhealthy. "To be honest, I looked like a kid," Hough explained. "Now I'm embracing the fact that I'm a woman with curves."

Instead of being constantly hungry, Hough turned to eating healthy and exercising anywhere from three to six days a week, often with five days being devoted to "hard-core training." She's a fan of yoga, SoulCycle, and hiking, but you won't find her doing those things on Sundays, her day of rest. "I relax, enjoy the day, and get mentally and spiritually prepared for the week. It gets me excited for what's ahead," she told the magazine.

From dancing to singing to acting

While Hough's acting career technically began in 2001 as an unnamed Hogwarts schoolgirl in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, her first major role was in the 2010 film Burlesque. Hough was cast as a supporting character, a dancer named Georgia. Hough told Reuters that she "learned the logistics of filmmaking and figured out [her] comfort zone" — which prepared her for her next big role as the female lead in the 2011 remake of Footloose. Hough continued to pursue acting and went on to star in Rock of Ages in 2012 and the romantic thriller Safe Haven in 2013.

Before Hough even started pursuing acting, though, she released her first country album — which won her an American Country Music Award and a spot on country music legend George Strait's 2008 tour. And you thought we were joking when we said there's nothing she can't do. Ha.

She's dealt with body-shaming

When Hough's fame rose, so too did the criticism she faced. One tabloid, for instance, captured a photo of the star getting some sun while wearing a bikini. "It kind of sucks," she told Women's Health. "I was thinking, 'Oh, crap, maybe I should've sucked in a little.'" Hough added that it was the first time she'd gotten upset about being photographed by the paparazzi. "It really messes with you," she shared.

Unfortunately, it wasn't just gossip mags that were slamming Hough. She revealed that people were leaving harsh comments about her on blogs. "Growing up, I could eat anything," she explained. "But the minute I hit 22, I stopped dancing and kept eating whatever I wanted, and I gained weight." When people commented about her weight gain, she admitted that she got "caught up in it." At first, she tried staying away from the foods she craved, but that only led to binging. "Now if I want something, I'll have it and I won't feel guilty," she revealed. "Then the next day I won't crave it."

Her views on relationships changed

It feels like forever ago, but Julianne Hough once dated famed TV host Ryan Seacrest. And it wasn't just a fling — the two dated for about three years (via Us Weekly). In 2014, Hough provided a little more insight into what transpired between them. "Every relationship, there was nothing wrong or bad, but there was nothing right," she said of all her past romances when speaking to Redbook. "I had one foot out because I didn't want to get hurt. And I didn't say what was on my mind because I didn't want to ruffle any feathers." 

Hough eventually decided to drop down her guard, stop fearing the worst, and speak her mind. She explained to the publication that she realized she'd rather deal with a broken heart than "never know what it is to be completely, madly in love." She continued, saying, "If I had been this open in my last relationship, who knows?"

She couldn't have met Brooks Laich at a better time

After Ryan Seacrest and Julianne Hough called it quits in 2013, she and her family attended a "six-day seminar ... about creating your own destiny," the star revealed to Redbook. It was there that she started piecing together why her past relationships hadn't worked out. The dancer said that she ended up learning a lot about herself. "I was seeing a couple people, but immediately [started texting them], 'You are nice, but this is going nowhere,'" Hough shared. The very next day, Hough met hockey player Brooks Laich. The two were introduced by their mutual friend Teddy Sears. "It couldn't have been a better time," Hough stated.

The actress had worked with Sears on the set of a horror movie that never ended up getting released — something she now feels was kismet. "I'm convinced the only reason I was meant to do that movie was to meet my fiancé," she dished to Cosmopolitan. Laich and Hough said "I do" in July 2017.

She's okay with not being Miss Perfect

When discussing her past relationships with Redbook (via Us Weekly), Hough said she once believed that she "needed to be perfect." Thankfully, Hough has stopped holding herself to impossible standards — and not just when it comes to relationships, but with regard to her health and fitness too. "I want everyone to know that I'm not Miss Perfect," she proclaimed to Shape in 2016.

The star divulged that a publication posted a picture of her leaving the gym and noticed people leaving comments like, "We could have abs like this, but we love pizza too much." She told Shape, "I started laughing because pizza is my favorite food. I eat it a lot!" She added, "You can still have a fit body as long as you work out regularly and eat relatively healthfully throughout your life." Hough also believes that health is not about being skinny and that she loves her shape because she feels "strong and fit."

An updated beauty philosophy

Hough has been wearing makeup since she was 10 years old, but, as she's gotten older, she's started to change up her look. "Back when I was on Dancing With the Stars at 18 years old, I think I look older than I do now," Hough told People. "I've definitely gone for a 'less is more' standpoint [today]. I cut back on hair and makeup and all that stuff." 

Instead, the star said her personal beauty philosophy is to start "from the inside out," which, for the dancer, involves drinking a whole lot of water and striving to have a positive outlook. And although she took to the minimalist makeup trend, she said she can't guarantee that she'll always sport that look. "For me, I'm only gonna look like this this year and then I'm gonna look different next year, so might as well embrace that," she explained.

A true chameleon

Hough's hair has gone through some major transformations of its own. In 2014, she traded in her long, blonde locks for a gorgeous Twiggy-esque pixie. In early 2018, she surprised us all by dying her signature light tresses a fiery red. The celeb revealed on Instagram that she'd been considering going red for six years before finally saying, "Screw it!"

In an interview with E! News, Hough revealed, "It's funny because a lot of people are like, 'Oh, you changed your hair — how do you feel?'" She continued, "And I'm actually reversing it and saying, 'I'm actually feeling this way so I changed my hair so that's actually the reason why." Hough noted, "At this point in my life I feel so grounded, I feel so myself, I feel very happy, and this is how I feel! I want to express that through my hair."

Although Hough transitioned back to blonde, she stunned the masses yet again when she got her hair cut in what her stylist, Riawna Capri of the California-based Nine Zero One Salon, dubbed a "chic French bob." Capri told Allure that Hough is a "true chameleon" who "looks good with everything." She's not wrong.

She has awesome things in the works

Julianne Hough is not just changing up her appearance — she's also making some exciting changes in her career. In 2017, she decided not to return for the 25th season of Dancing with the Stars, but she certainly kept busy. In February 2019, the star revealed to Entertainment Tonight that she planned to release new music. "But [I'm] also [working on] wellness, self-discovery, fitness, empowerment, relationship stuff. So just keep a lookout," she added. "Some awesome things are coming, and I usually don't promote myself like that, but I'm so excited and so passionate because it's what I truly believe in, and so I'm putting it out there!"

Hough also reprised her role as a judge — but not on Dancing with the Stars. Meredith Ahr, the president of Alternative and Reality Group at NBC Entertainment, announced in a 2019 statement (via Deadline) that Hough was hired as a new judge on America's Got Talent. After all, who better to judge talent than the talented Julianne Hough?

Julianne Hough started connecting to the woman inside

After being diagnosed with endometriosis, Julianne Hough knew she could have trouble conceiving. Although her doctor never explicitly stated that she'd struggle with infertility, Hough and Brooks Laich decided that in vitro fertilization would up their odds of Hough becoming pregnant and decided to start the process in June 2019.

In an interview with Women's Health, which was published just two months later, Hough was feeling optimistic. "I've always put it out there that it's going to be okay," she told the publication. This attitude has served Hough well in the years since she and Laich said "I do." She even started to view her battle with endometriosis differently. "I feel I've created a more peaceful and harmonious relationship with it," Hough revealed.

In addition to shifting her mindset about her body, she also began to feel more confident and independent. "I was connecting to the woman inside that doesn't need anything," she admitted to Women's Health, "versus the little girl that looked to [Brooks Laich] to protect me."

Julianne Hough parted ways with Brooks Laich

Just four months after marrying Brooks Laich, Julianne Hough started on what she described as a "massive transformation," which involved letting her guard down in front of her new husband. Hough admitted to Women's Health in August 2019 that she was concerned that he may not love who she was becoming. However, her transformation had the opposite effect. "Now we have a more intimate relationship," she explained.

As Hough and Laich's relationship grew stronger, Hough decided the time was right to come out to her husband. "I [told him], 'You know I'm not straight, right?' And he was like, 'I'm sorry, what?' I was like, 'I'm not. But I choose to be with you,'" she said, recalling their conversation.

Despite developing a more intimate relationship, the two decided to part ways in May 2020. In a joint statement issued to People, Hough and Laich explained that they'd come to the mutual decision to separate. "We share an abundance of love and respect for one another and will continue to lead with our hearts from that place," they assured their fans.

Julianne Hough looks to this philosophy to guide her

Julianne Hough transformed into a "deeply different person than she was when [she and Brooks Laich] got married," a source reportedly told People. Hough herself recognizes that, of course. When speaking to Women's Health in August 2019, Hough admitted that she thought getting married was the be-all and end-all, but within that same year, she recognized she needed more and embarked on a complete mind-and-body transformation.

This led Hough to develop Kinrgy, which is described as "a movement experience inspired by the elements" that "focuses your mind, sculpts your body and ignites your life." Through Kinrgy, Hough told the publication that she'd "been de-layering all the survival tactics I've built up my whole life." She continued, saying, "Now, I feel limitless."

Hough's goal is to bring that same experience to others. "Now more than ever, people are searching for deeper human connections, and at its core the Kinrgy philosophy guides us to our inner knowing, that it all starts from within," Hough told Us Weekly in May 2020.