It’s time for the twice-annual tradition of saying “Who? when looking at the list of Dancing with the Stars cast members. While the cast includes two Olympians, Simone Biles and Nancy Kerrigan, plus major, household name, current stars such as Mr. T and Charo, there were a few who had me searching their bios to figure who they were and/or why I’ve never heard of them before.
I recognized six people by name—just half of the cast.
The list is surprisingly light on reality TV stars—just Nick Viall, the current Bachelor, doing the hard work of extending his fame after The Bachelor concludes, and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Erika Jayne.
Here’s the list, along with their professional dancing partner. Their full bios are after the video, so you can read ABC’s rationale for casting them.
- Bonner Bolton with Sharna Burgess
- Charo with Keo Motsepe
- Chris Kattan with Witney Carson
- David Ross with Lindsay Arnold
- Erika Jayne with Gleb Savchenko
- Heather Morris with Maksim Chmerkovskiy
- Mr. T with Kym Herjavec
- Nancy Kerrigan with Artem Chigvintsev
- Nick Viall with Peta Murgatroyd
- Normani Kordei with Valentin Chmerkovskiy
- Rashad Jennings with Emma Slater
- Simone Biles with Sasha Farber
Dancing with the Stars 24 celebrity cast members’ bios
Here are the cast members’ bios, from ABC’s press release:
Bonner Bolton In the past 14 months, Bonner Bolton has gone from sitting atop the standings as the world’s No. 1 bull rider to being paralyzed to becoming an international fashion model. He had been leading the PBR’s 2016 season opener when he landed on his head when dismounting the bull. He splintered his C-2 vertebra, was temporarily paralyzed and given a one percent chance to walk again. Following spinal fusion surgery and during his remarkable recovery, IMG Models signed the cowboy from west Texas for global representation, and he’s been featured in major photo shoots and ad campaigns. Bolton, 29, joins “Dancing with the Stars” to continue to blaze a trail for PBR cowboys crossing into the mainstream while he evangelizes the cowboy code of hard work, honesty, courage and compassion.
Bolton grew up on a ranch in west Texas and started mounting steers when he was 10. Before breaking his neck, he had persevered through several serious injuries to rank among the world’s top bull riders. In 2008 he tore his right bicep clean off the bone, sidelining him for nearly a year. In 2015 he came off a collarbone broken in four places to finish seventh at the PBR World Finals. Prior to his nearly catastrophic injury, he played Scott Eastwood’s stunt double in the major motion picture, “The Longest Ride.”
Bolton credits his father, Toya, an old-school cowboy who rode bulls professionally for 20 years, with teaching him how to ride, take care of his body and maintain the toughness necessary to stay on powerful bucking bulls more than 10 times his size.
Charo Only a few people in show business are recognized by just one name. Charo is one of those people. A virtuoso guitarist, singer, composer, actress and comedienne, Charo is an American music and pop-culture icon.
Charo is instantly recognizable by her trademark expression, “CUCHI-CUCHI,” which has endeared her to millions around the world and made her name synonymous with music, fun and excitement. Charo is short for Rosario, her given name of Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza. Born in the town of Murcia, Spain, she learned to play the guitar at an early age and studied under the world-famous master of Flamenco guitar, Andrés Segovia. Becoming a recording artist in her early teens, Charo appeared in the Spanish film classic “Don Juan Tenorio” and was featured in a children’s television show that brought her to the attention of famed Latin bandleader Xavier Cugat. Charo joined Cugat’s band and traveled to Las Vegas, where the band played in all the major casinos, including Caesar’s Palace, The Flamingo and The Tropicana.
Soon, Charo began performing as a solo artist at the Congo Room at the Sahara Hotel and Casino, sharing the stage with the likes of Johnny Carson, Joey Bishop, Danny Thomas, Buddy Hackett, Jim Nabors and George Burns. During this time, she recorded her hit disco albums, “La Salsa” and “Flamenco Salsa,” on Capitol Records. The single, “Cuchi Cuchi,” went platinum and became a hit in nightclubs worldwide. Her follow-up album, “Ole-Ole,” on Salsoul Records, contained the single “Stay with Me” and became an international hit, achieving gold status. With the introduction of her international hit, “Dance a Little Bit Closer,” Charo created and established a new bilingual salsa style – “The Charo Rhythm” – which has been emulated by other performers.
In 1985 she and her husband, Swedish businessman Kjell Rasten, visited Hawaii and fell in love with the islands and relocated her family there. While in Hawaii, she executive produced and starred in the variety show “Tropical Heat” at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort in Waikiki, and for 10 years it was the most successful show in Hawaii. It was during this time that she began preparing her critically acclaimed album “Guitar Passion,” which earned her Female Pop Album of the Year at the Billboard International Latin Music Conference and reached platinum status worldwide.
Charo returned to mainstream show production and headed for Las Vegas. In 2001 she headlined and produced “Bravo,” at The Venetian Hotel & Casino. It was named “Best Variety Show in Las Vegas” by Time Magazine. She recently starred in several episodes of the CW’s “Jane the Virgin.” She and her family also recently appeared on an episode of ABC’s “Celebrity Wife Swap,” bringing to millions the antics and hilarious situations in her crazy Beverly Hills household. She also appeared in such films as “Moon Over Parador,” with Richard Dreyfuss, and “Airport 79: The Concord.” She is also currently at work on her latest album and other projects, including an exercise video, “Ejercicio.” Charo also enjoys huge popularity among gay audiences and has appeared several times on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” She also teams up with world famous DJs and producers from around the world, who add their dance mixes to her virtuoso guitar performances and come up with dance hits, one of which earned her a World Dance Music Award Nomination.
Charo is a humanitarian and an activist for animal rights and is a member of PETA, who speaks out against animal cruelty. She was recently back on the Billboard charts with her latest single dance club hit, “España Cañí,” the traditional bullfighting song, which she recorded in protest against bull fighting. She also teamed up with World of Wonder to produce the video entitled “España Cañí: Dance, Don’t Bullfight,” which became a viral hit. Charo’s efforts eventually led to a ban on bull fighting in the Catalonia region of Spain.
Charo’s other accolades include being the recipient of the 2014 Ricardo Montalbán Lifetime Achievement ALMA Award, twice voted “Best Classical Flamenco Guitarist in the World” – Guitar Player Magazine, vice president of Muscular Dystrophy Association, winner of the prestigious Golden Eagle Award for Outstanding Entertainment of the Year, received the Key to the City of Las Vegas by Oscar Goodman (03/14/04), and honored with the “Charo Week Proclamation” from the City of San Francisco (08/02/05).
Chris Kattan Chris Kattan is best known for his many characters on “Saturday Night Live,” which he joined in March 1996, completing his seventh and final season in 2003. He will soon be seen in Jesse Thomas’ “Walk of Fame,” opposite Scott Eastwood. He recently appeared in “The Last Film Festival,” a comedy in which he stars opposite Leelee Sobieski, Jaqueline Bisset and the late Dennis Hopper, and “Hollywood & Wine,” with Norm MacDonald, Horatio Sanz and Chazz Palminteri. He was also seen in “Scouts Honor,” as well as in “Tanner Hall” and “Undead or Alive.” He provided the voice for the character Polar Penguin in the animated film “Foodfight!” which also featured the voices of Eva Longoria, Charlie Sheen and Hilary Duff; starred in the Christmas special “The Year Without Santa Clause,” opposite John Goodman; the Independent Film Channel’s three-part miniseries, “Bollywood Hero,” in which he played himself in an otherwise fictional comedy; and the VH-1 movie “Totally Awesome,” opposite Tracy Morgan.
Kattan received rave reviews for his performance in the independent romantic comedy “Adam and Steve,” opposite Parker Posey, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. Other big-screen credits include “Undercover Brother,” “Corky Romano,” the script of which was based on a character Kattan developed, and “A Night at the Roxbury,” written by Kattan and Will Ferrell and produced by Lorne Michaels and Amy Heckerling. Kattan was also seen in “Monkey Bone” and in “The House on Haunted Hill,” opposite Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Ali Larter and Taye Diggs, produced by Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis.
David Ross David Ross is a two time World Series Champion, having won World Series titles in 2013 with the Boston Red Sox and with the Chicago Cubs in 2016. During his 15 year Major League career, he played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs. Recently retired, Ross now serves as a special assistant for the Chicago Cubs and also works as a TV Baseball analyst for ESPN. His book, “Teammate: My Journey in Baseball and a World Series for the Ages,” will be published by Hachette Books on May 9, 2017.
Erika Jayne You know you’re a music success when you’ve raked in a whopping nine #1’s on the US Billboard dance club chart without a major label machine behind you. That is exactly where dance-pop/reality TV star Erika Jayne is today.
The artist hit the dance club scene with 2007’s “Rollercoaster,” which quickly hit #1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart, followed by eight more #1’s: “Stars,” “Give You Everything,” “Pretty Mess,” “One Hot Pleasure,” “Party People (Ignite The World),” “Painkillr,” “Crazy,” and most recently, “How Many F—ks.” She has crisscrossed the globe on tour several times, including headlining the nation’s hottest clubs and festivals through her own label, Pretty Mess Records. Today, Jayne is ranked #42 on Billboard’s 100 Greatest of All Time Dance Club Artists. Her brand new single, “XXPEN$IVE,” which was trending on iTunes on its first day, is out now.
In 2015 Jayne made her national television debut in the hit Bravo series, “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Joining famous cast members like Lisa Rinna (a “Dancing with the Stars” semi-finalist alum), Eileen Davidson, Kyle Richards and Yolanda Hadid, Erika became the undisputed breakout star and fan favorite of the series’ 6th season.
Heather Morris Heather Morris is both a talented actress and dancer. She is best known for her role as Brittany Pierce on FOX’s hit series, “Glee,” and she also appeared in the feature film “Spring Breakers.” After college, Morris was invited to join Beyoncé’s “I Am…Sasha Fierce” world tour. She has appeared on “How I Met Your Mother” and “Comedy Bang! Bang!” and recently starred in the feature films “Folk Hero & Funny Guy” and “Most Likely to Die.”
Heather lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two young sons.
Mr. T – Born in Chicago, Illinois, Mr. T is the youngest boy in a family of 12 children. His father was a minister who left the family when Mr. T was only five years old, leaving his mother to raise him and his siblings. In high school, he excelled at athletics and became a football star and three-time wrestling champion.
In the mid-70s, he found a job as a doorman. His days as a military policeman helped him gain a reputation as one of Chicago’s toughest, and most infamous, bouncers. Always the consummate showman, he adopted a Mohawk hairstyle inspired by a National Geographic photo of an African Mandikan warrior. He started sporting piles of gold jewelry, which he claimed to have taken from misbehaving customers. He also adopted the name Mr. T, claiming the new moniker would force customers to show him respect.
Mr. T’s position as a bouncer for one of Chicago’s hottest nightclubs frequently put him in contact with celebrities. His outrageous reputation and his famous connections earned Mr. T the new job of celebrity bodyguard, and he began protecting stars such as Steve McQueen, Diana Ross and Muhammad Ali. The job lasted nearly 10 years, until Sylvester Stallone watched Mr. T on a TV series in which he won World’s Toughest Bouncer.
Stallone decided to cast the bodyguard in his film, “Rocky III.” Mr. T played Clubber Lang, a boxer pitted against the film’s main character, Rocky Balboa. It was during the filming of this movie that Mr. T coined the catch phrase, “I pity the fool!” The film became a blockbuster hit, and his performance made him an overnight sensation. Taking advantage of his newly found fame, Mr. T landed a starring role in the film “D.C. Cab.” He also premiered in his own cartoon series, “Mister T,” which aired on NBC. On television, he starred on “The A-Team.” He later starred in his own reality show, “I Pity the Fool,” and voiced the character of Officer Earl Devereaux in the animated movie “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”
In 1985 Mr. T entered the world of professional wrestling. He became the tag-team partner of wrestling legend Hulk Hogan in WrestleMania I. Around this time, he also began starring in his own show, “T. and T.,” about a streetwise kid who became a city detective. In 2015 Mr. T was inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Gaining a reputation as an advocate and role model for young people, Mr. T began aiming more of his work around helping youths. In 1984 he released a music album entitled “Mr. T’s Commandments,” which encouraged children to make good choices. He followed the success of this album with a motivational video and film soundtrack, entitled “Be Somebody… or Be Somebody’s Fool,!” aimed at encouraging children to make responsible decisions.
Nancy Kerrigan Nancy Kerrigan has been one of America’s most recognizable sports icons for over 20 years. Her rise to competing at a national level began when she placed 3rd at the 1991 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, allowing her to qualify for the 1991 World Championships, where she won the bronze medal as part of an American sweep. In 1992 she earned a bronze medal in the Albertville Winter Olympics and the silver medal at the 1992 World Championships. In 1993 Kerrigan became the United States Ladies Champion and followed that up with her historic silver medal performance at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics.
Along the way, Kerrigan became known for her groundbreaking fashion on the ice, teaming up with Vera Wang and others to create some of the most memorable skating outfits in the history of the sport.
The Nancy Kerrigan Foundation has raised significant funds for the vision impaired in honor of her legally blind mother, and she has been recognized for her excellence on and off the ice (US Figure Skating Hall of Fame, Mother’s Day Foundation Mother of the Year, New England Sports Hall of Fame). More recently, Kerrigan has focused on her family (three children, ages 8, 11 and 19), choreography (“Halloween on Ice,” “SkateNiagara,” “Bryant Park Holiday Show”) and is currently executive producing the upcoming documentary “Why Don’t You Lose 5 lbs,” which examines the silent epidemic of eating disorders in sports.
Nick Viall When Bachelorette Andi Dorfman said goodbye to Bachelor Nick Viall just as he was preparing to pick out a ring for her, he was devastated. When Nick walked up to Kaitlyn Bristowe with an engagement ring in his pocket, only to be sent home, he was crushed. And when Nick took another chance to find love on the latest installment of “Bachelor in Paradise,” viewers were excited and truly happy for him. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, leaving everyone to wonder if the sensitive and self-made Midwestern salesman would ever find the woman he would spend the rest of his life with. How could one man endure so much heartbreak?
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, with a double major in accounting and supply chain management, Nick is one of the most accomplished and successful Bachelors. One of 11 siblings, Nick maintains close ties with his family. His parents, Chris and Mary, have been married for 37 years. Nothing would make them happier than to see Nick find what they have found in each other.
When he’s not spending time with friends and family, Nick enjoys traveling, beach volleyball and rooting for his beloved Green Bay Packers.
Normani Kordei Normani Kordei is one-fourth of one of the most popular girl groups in the world, Fifth Harmony. The release of Fifth Harmony’s sophomore album, “7/27,” is the latest in a series of record-breaking accomplishments for the group. “Work from Home,” the album’s 3x-platinum certified first single, earned Fifth Harmony their first top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, notching the top spot on both the Billboard Rhythmic and Pop Songs charts. The group’s accomplishments on the charts add to an award-winning 2016, with first-time wins at the American Music Awards, iHeartRadio Music Awards, People’s Choice Awards and Much Music Video Awards; their second win at the Kids Choice Awards, two wins at the MTV Video Music Awards & Radio Disney Music Awards, and three wins at the Teen Choice Awards.
In 2015 Fifth Harmony released their debut album, “Reflection,” which debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and has since been certified Gold. “Reflection” includes two platinum records, “BO$$” and “Sledgehammer,” in addition to the quadruple-platinum success of the single “Worth It.”
Normani was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in the city of New Orleans. When she isn’t busy traveling the world on tour, acting as an Ambassador for foundations near to her heart, or volunteering her time to handfuls of charities, she enjoys spending her free time being a normal 20-year-old; dancing, jumping on the trampoline, tumbling, pretending to be a makeup artist, watching scary movies, writing down her inner most thoughts, watching “American Horror Story” and constantly working on perfecting her crafts.
Normani is the Global Ambassador to the American Cancer Society and recently started working with A Place Called Home, lending her name, time and talents to various events. In addition, she is also an Ambassador for The CyberSmile Foundation.
She currently resides in Houston, Texas.
Rashad Jennings Rashad Jennings was ranked one of the number one NFL safeties in 2015. In a breakout season in 2015, he started every game and set career highs in carries, rushing yards, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He was drafted in 2009 in the seventh round by the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he spent four seasons, was signed by the Oakland Radars in 2013 for one season, and signed a four-year contract with the New York Giants in 2014. Jennings set a Big South Conference record while at Liberty with 3,633 yards, 42 touchdowns, and averaged 5.7 yards per carry. He carried Liberty to their first two Big South Conference Championships.
Jennings was mentored in football by his two older brothers. They coached his private high school team for free in order for Jennings to attend the school. He left the University of Pittsburgh after one season as a true starting freshman there in order to be closer to home. He dedicates games to his father who has diabetes and both legs amputated.
He is the founder of the Rashad Jennings Foundation and is dedicated to inspiring youth by making education fun, providing mentorship for individual success, and promoting health and fitness. In 2016, 30,000 kids participated in his reading challenge, reading over 167,000 books. The foundation also creates and implements branded programs into schools for individual athletes throughout all 32 NFL teams to help other NFL players give back – rashadjenningsfoundation.com.
Simone Biles At 19, Simone Biles is already considered one of the best and most decorated gymnasts in the history of the sport. She was adopted by her grandparents at a young age, and they have been a major influence in her life, introducing her to the sport of gymnastics. She was always jumping around at a young age and was introduced to the sport on a school field trip to Bannon’s Gymnastix at the age of six. While she trains close to 35 hours per week, Biles knows how to keep things fun and is known for inventing new skills during training. One move, a complex flip that she incorporated into her floor routine during the 2013 World Championships, is now known as the “Biles.”
Biles’ career highlights include being an Olympic Gold medalist in vault, floor, Individual and Team All-Around, and a Bronze medalist on Beam at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She won the All-Around by a 2.1 margin of victory, larger than the margins of victory from 1980-2012 combined. She’s the first woman gymnast to win three consecutive World All-Around titles, most World Championship gold medals won by a female gymnast in history (10), most decorated World Championship American gymnast with 14 total medals (10 gold, two silver, two bronze), the first woman to capture four gold medals at a single World Championships (2014 & 2015) since the Soviet Union’s Ludmilla Tourischeva in 1974, the first female African-American all-around world champion, undefeated in the all-around competition since 2013, the First American woman in 23 years to win three all-around national titles, honored as the 2014 Women’s Sports Foundation’s “Sportswoman of the Year,” and named Olympic Athlete of the Year by the USOC 2015. Biles was also the first American female gymnast chosen by Team USA to be the flag bearer for the closing ceremonies.
Simone’s book, “Courage to Soar,” is a New York Times Best Seller, #1 under Young Adult Hard Covers.