Who Is Derek Hough?

Derek Hough was one of the professional dancers on Dancing With the Stars for multiple seasons between 2007 and 2016, winning a record six times with his celebrity partners. A gifted choreographer, he's received two Emmy Awards for his choreography on Dancing With the Stars. Hough spent his teen years in London, where he perfected his skills as a ballroom and Latin dancer; he was the Latin world champion by the time he was 18. He's toured with his younger sister, fellow dancer Julianne Hough, and has been in stage productions, movies and television shows, including as a judge on World of Dance. Hough also wrote a New York Times bestselling memoir, Taking the Lead: Lessons from a Life in Motion (2014).

Early Life and Family

Hough was born on May 17, 1985, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hough grew up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints along with his three older sisters, plus younger sister Julianne. His parents, Mari Anne and Bruce, met on a college ballroom dance team; all of his grandparents were dancers as well.

Hough has been open about being bullied as a boy in Utah. Describing his experiences to People magazine in 2014, he said, "I was punched in the face, pretty aggressively in the stomach. I was tied up in trees and left in fields." Hough also noted he'd since forgiven the perpetrators.

With encouragement from their parents, Hough and Julianne began dancing together as children and went on to perform at schools and state fairs. When Hough was 13, he and Julianne moved to London to attend the renowned — and demanding — dance school Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts (while in London, Hough and Julianne lived with fellow dancer Mark Ballas' family). This not only advanced their careers, it offered a personal respite as Hough's parents were going through a divorce.

'Dancing With the Stars'

In 2007 Hough became one of the dancing pros on Dancing With the Stars for season 5 (joining Julianne, who was already a pro dancer on the show). This job not only called for Hough to teach celebrities how to perform dances like the rumba, tango, paso doble or jive, he had to choreograph a variety of routines. Hough went on to receive multiple Emmy Award nominations in the choreography category for his work on the show, winning in 2013 and 2015. After a decade — during which Hough became a six-time recipient of the Mirror Ball trophy alongside different celebrity partners — he left Dancing With the Stars in 2016.

Hough returned as a judge in season 29.


In his first Dancing With the Stars season, Hough partnered with 90210 actress Jennie Garth. The next year, he paired up with American Pie actress Shannon Elizabeth in season 6 and Brooke Burke in season 7; Burke and Hough won that season. 2009 saw Hough work with rapper Lil' Kim in season 8 and model Joanna Krupa in season 9. In 2010 Hough had back-to-back wins with singer Nicole Scherzinger in season 10 and Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey in season 11.

Hough was not in season 12, but came back to dance with talk-show host Ricki Lake for 2011's season 13. In 2012 he partnered with Maria Menounos in season 14 and Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson in season 15. In 2013 Hough achieved another set of back-to-back wins with country star Kellie Pickler in season 16 and Glee actress Amber Riley in season 17.

Hough and Paralympian Amy Purdy impressed viewers in 2014's season 18; later in the year he danced with YouTube star Bethany Mota for season 19. His first partner in 2015 was gymnast Nastia Liukin for season 20; in season 21, Hough triumphed for the sixth time with his partner, conservationist and Crocodile Hunter progeny Bindi Irwin. Hough danced with Taxi actress Marilu Henner during season 23 in 2016.

Movies and TV Appearances

Hough's film career includes both background work and a leading role.

'Harry Potter'

While living in England, a young Hough appeared as an extra in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001). He portrayed a Hogwarts student who was in Ravenclaw; though he hadn't read the Harry Potter books, Hough decided to keep part of his costume — then later lost the items he'd taken.

'Make Your Move'

In Make Your Move (2014), Hough and South Korean pop star BoA starred as two dancers from different worlds who are drawn to one another. The film, originally titled Cobu 3D, was one of the reasons Hough was absent from the twelfth season of Dancing With the Stars.

'Nashville,' 'Hairspray Live!'

Hough landed a straight dramatic role when he guest starred on the TV show Nashville as an actor who gets entangled with Hayden Panettiere's character of Juliette. And he got to sing when he portrayed Corny Collins for NBC's live musical production Hairspray Live! in December 2016. Hough also danced the salsa with Gina Rodriguez in a fantasy sequence on Jane the Virgin.

'Family Dance Off,' 'American Ninja Warrior'

Hough hosted the competition Family Dance Off in 2013, and in 2015 he joined Mark Ballas for HGTV's Mark & Derek's Excellent Flip, in which they worked together to renovate a house so they could make a profit by flipping it. Hough also has competed in the celebrity edition of American Ninja Warrior for NBC’s annual Red Nose Day charity fundraising campaign.

'World of Dance'

In 2017 Hough was seen as a judge on NBC's summer TV show World of Dance, along with Ne-Yo and Jennifer Lopez (Lopez, also an executive producer, chose Hough for the panel). The show features dancers from around the world competing for a $1 million prize. A ratings success, World of Dance was still going strong by the time of its season 4 premiere in 2020.

Music Career

In addition to his great success as a dancer and choreographer, Hough makes music, such as when he and longtime friend Mark Ballas formed the Ballas Hough Band.

Hough also directed and starred in the video for Michael Bublé's "I Believe In You," and danced with violinist and friend Lindsey Stirling in the video "The Arena."

'Hold On'

Hough's song "Hold On" was originally inspired by a struggling friend. However, after hearing about the suicide of Linkin Park's Chester Bennington, Hough decided to re-record the song and create a video. His goal was to bring attention to the problem of suicide — which also claimed the life of his uncle — and to encourage men to discuss their feelings. The updated song came on out November 1, 2017.

Breaking Benjamin

A fan of the band Breaking Benjamin, Hough covered their "Ashes of Eden" after he had vocal cord surgery, and has recorded with them.


In 2006 Hough was the lead in a West End production of Footloose. He appeared in the New York Spring Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in 2015, though an injury kept him from some performances.

Hough was slated to star in a Broadway production of Singin' in the Rain in 2017, but the project was delayed.


In addition to his Emmy wins, Hough's choreography skills were recognized by ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White. The pair did a routine choreographed by Hough at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, where they won the gold medal (a first for the United States in that sport).

When he was 22, Hough was a choreographer for the BBC reality show DanceX.

TV Specials and Tour With Julianne

Since then, Hough and Julianne have often worked together. Their time on Dancing With the Stars overlapped, and they also headlined the successful dancing tours Move Live on Tour and Move Beyond Live on Tour. In addition, the two faced off on Lip Sync Battle in 2015 (Julianne won), and the siblings later co-hosted The Disney Parks’ Magical Christmas Celebration in 2016 and the variety special Holidays With the Houghs in 2019.

Personal Life

After Hough and actress Shannon Elizabeth were paired on Dancing With the Stars, the two began a year-long relationship that ended in 2009. Hough dated designer Lauren Conrad for about three months in 2011.

Among the other women that Hough has been romantically linked to are actresses Nina Dobrev and Nikki Reed, and British singer Cheryl Cole.

Hough and Hayley Erbert, a troupe dancer on Dancing With the Stars, have been a couple since July 2015. In July 2017, she accompanied Hough to the wedding of his sister Julianne and Brooks Laich.


  • Birth Year: 1985
  • Birth date: May 17, 1985
  • Birth State: Utah
  • Birth City: Salt Lake City
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: Derek Hough spent a decade as a pro dancer on 'Dancing With the Stars' before becoming a judge on 'World of Dance'; he's also appeared in movies, stage shows and TV productions.
  • Astrological Sign: Taurus
  • Nacionalities
    • American

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  • Article Title: Derek Hough Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/movies-tv/derek-hough
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: September 16, 2020
  • Original Published Date: May 23, 2018