Naughty NeNe, as one judge dubbed Atlanta’s NeNe Leakes, earned her highest marks yet for her sexy, yet tasteful, rumba Monday night on the third episode of ABC’s ballroom reality competition “Dancing With The Stars.”
Her score of 21 last week fell in the bottom three of the celebrity pairings, but she escaped elimination then. Instead, endurance swimmer Diana Nyad and former professional hockey player Sean Avery were sent home from the ballroom.
Tonight, with the addition of guest judge Robin Roberts, anchor for “Good Morning America,” Leakes scored a 31 out of 40 possible points. She earned 8s for the first time from three of the judges.
"The Real Housewives of Atlanta” series star took to the ballroom floor with professional partner Tony Dovolani. “Star Wars” actor Billy Dee Williams was unable to dance tonight because of a back injury and is out of the show.
There were no eliminations tonight. The evening's scores will be combined with next week's to determine the next round of eliminations.
This week, the show asked each celebrity to focus on their most memorable year. To answer that question, Leakes said it was reconnecting with her husband, Greg, after their divorce several years ago, so she danced to the Whitney Houston tune that she walked down the aisle to when they remarried.
“Greg is my true love, my best friend,” Leakes said. “I’m happy to honor him.”
Before the dance began she said: “He gets me, he’s the one. Greg Leakes, this rumba is for you. There’s going to be a little bit of grinding, honey.”
A shirtless Dovolani and a barefoot Leakes sizzled in black with no obvious mishaps during the sultry Latin American dance.
When revealing their scores, the judges all complimented Leakes, a change from two weeks of tough criticism about her arm movements and other problems.
Guest Judge Roberts spoke first. “Honey, you are the life of the party.” She said Leakes showed a sensual side tonight that was daring.
Judge Bruno Tonioli called Leakes “Naughty NeNe, the Southern Siren.” The rumba is difficult to maintain the flow of movement for a non-dancer, he said, but praised her for doing it well.
Judge Carrie Ann Inaba said, “I know I’ve been giving you a hard time about those arms. … You were as large as your heart and your passion is in that dance. Gorgeous job.”
Head Judge Len Goodman said he was pleasantly surprised with her rumba, the dance had sensuality and flow. “I enjoyed watching it, it was very tasteful.”
Last week the pair scored a 21 out of 30 possible points for their jive.
Next week all the celebrities will switch up and dance with a different pro partner for a week, with viewers deciding the new pairings. The show hasn’t yet revealed who Leakes’ new partner will be.
The top score for the night went to Meryl Davis, Olympic gold-medal winner ice skater, who notched a 39. Close behind were paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy and Davis' skating partner Charlie White, both with scores of 36. "Price is Right" host Drew Carey had the night's lowest score of 30.
Leakes’ TV Background
Leakes has branched out into acting on shows like "Glee," “The Game” and “The New Normal.” She is also the author of “Never Make the Same Mistake Twice,” discussing her fractured childhood, abusive relationship and struggles with being a single mother.
Other celebrity contestants include:
· Actress and former “Full House” star Candace Cameron Bure
· Heartthrob singer with Big Time Rush James Maslow
· Author and former child star of “The Wonder Years” Danica McKellar
· Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy
· Teen singer Cody Simpson
Tune in to “Dancing With the Stars” Monday at 8 p.m. ET on WSB Channel 2 to see the new pairings.
How to Vote for NeNe
New to the show’s format this season, a twist called “The Switch Up” has been added. This lets viewers vote to change the pairings of celebrities and professional dancers, says ABC.
Viewers may cast their votes for their favorite teams via phone on Monday nights during and up to 60 minutes after the end of the “Dancing with the Stars” broadcast in each time zone. Online voting at www.ABC.com and on Facebook at https://apps.facebook.com/votedwts/ is open for 24 hours, beginning from the start of each episode on the East Coast at 8 p.m., ET.
Earlier DWTS coverage on Patch:
- Will NeNe Leakes Bring Home a ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Glitter Ball Trophy?
- 'Housewives' Star NeNe Leakes to Compete in 'Dancing With The Stars'
- Dancing With the Stars Results: NeNe Leakes Hits the Ballroom First
- UPDATED Dancing With the Stars Results: NeNe Scores First on Week One
- 'Dancing With The Stars' Results: First Elimination