DWTS Carrie Ann Inaba Discusses Her Favorite To Win, Maks Chmerkovskiy, Being The Lift Police, And More

Time.com interviewed judge Carrie Ann Inaba about Dancing With The Stars Season 16. They ask her straight up about being the “lift police”, punishing the star for what the pro is doing, and more. Below is a take about who is her favorite is to win the season. She also answers a question on whether Maks Chmerkovskiy will be back to dance in the future.

Who is your favorite to win this season?

As far as my scores go, I think Zendaya [Coleman] has gotten the highest scores from me. I love the way she interprets music when she dances. It’s a full-body interpretation. I think Kellie Pickler is a fantastic dancer. I don’t know if she’s always really in tune with her emotions. She’s always very concerned with the technique. I think she had a breakthrough on the paso, and I hope it continues. I’m hard on her because I know the finals are coming,and if she thinks there’s nothing else to work on, she’s not going to improve. In the finals, people vote for you when you surprise them and you give them something new. If you’re the same, the audience gets bored very quickly. The audience loves to see a breakthrough, they love to see something unexpected. I push people to do that, because I’ve been on the show for 16 seasons, and I know what works. I’m always trying to give people hints on how to win.

Speaking of Zendaya, when you’re pitting a 16-year-old against someone like DL Hughley who is 50, do you think the show is stacking the deck a bit?

No, because not all 16-year-olds could handle the pressure. Our show is tremendous on your emotions. It’s physically exhausting, the hours are crazy, and she’s also going to school. I worked on a show called American Juniors, and it was so hard for the kids to balance. She’s able to grasp that it’s a television show, which isn’t always easy. She’s able to grasp that the comments are about the dancing, not her. When it’s a younger child or a teenager, I worry that they will misinterpret what’s said on the show or on social media, because there is a lot out there.

Kellie Pickler’s experience facing a panel of judges on American Idol must give her some advantage when it comes to weathering criticism. Even when Len’s at his worst, he’s no Simon Cowell.

I worked with Kellie on Idol [as a choreographer] and that is a different situation, because on that show, it is everyone’s dream to become a singer. It’s not everyone’s dream to become a ballroom dancer. It’s not nearly as hard on your soul to get negative feedback. Although some people really get into it and forget that they aren’t going to be a professional ballroom dancer, but I do think that’s a big difference between our show and a lot of other shows. There’s nothing at risk, except your ego. We give a really cheap trophy. It’s a big old mirror ball, that does not cost that much, but it means a lot to people, because it’s a good old-fashioned sporting competition.

Is Maks Chmerkovskiy coming back? He was always a fan favorite.

I don’t know. I don’t know what the producers will choose. He came back once this season, so I don’t think there’s any bad blood necessarily. I try to stay away from it. As a judge, we don’t have any meetings on the set, we don’t go to the set, we’re never allowed near the dancers. We’re never near the celebs. We aren’t allowed in the studios during rehearsals. It’s nice, because as a judge I don’t want to know what’s going with the dancers. As a judge you want to stay neutral. Tom [Bergeron] has a party in the middle of the year for the cast, but we never go. I want to support Tom, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to mix with people. I don’t want it to affect my judgment.

More at Time.com. Let us know what you think?

My thoughts: Carrie Ann may try hard to be neutral, but, I think she needs to try a little harder!!!