Episode 227: Make an Impact by Following Your Passion with Val Chmerkovskiy

As some of you know, my husband and I are huge fans of ballroom dancing, so it’s only natural that we’re huge fans of Dancing with the Stars’ Val Chmerkovskiy. After spending time with him earlier this year in Guatemala with Pencils of Promise, I just knew I needed to have him on the show to share more about his story and why making an impact is so important.

Born in Ukraine, at age 8, he and his family immigrated to Brooklyn, NY. As you can imagine it was a challenging transition but his parents inspired him to meet challenges by never backing away from theirs. To help occupy him and his brother’s time, they were enrolled in both violin and later on ballroom dancing. This soon became a passion for the whole family. In addition to Val and his brother Maks’ successful dance careers, they have since opened 14 other dance studios.

I cannot wait for you to hear Val’s inspiring story. Not only is he so passionate about his own life and what he does, he also hopes to inspire others to do the same. Tune in to hear how’s he connecting with others to do just that and how he’s making an impact in the world today.

Question Highlights:
• What did your life look like growing up and where did your passion for what you do now come from?
• What is most exciting in your life right now?
• Was not giving up or quitting a mindset that you were taught growing up?
• What do you think it takes to be a good leader/mentor?
• What have you learned from being on your 50-city tour?
• Do you still get nervous before you perform?

• How can I possibly dwell in my own success without having the energy of wanting to pass it forward and reciprocate?”

• “A blessing isn’t realized until it’s passed forward.”

• “I feel most fulfilled when I have a purpose.”

• “Trust your track record.”

• “Be nervous because you care, but don’t sell yourself short.”

Valentin “Val” Chmerkovskiy was born in Odessa, Ukraine to an engineer mother and marine merchant father. At 8 years old, Val’s family immigrated to Brooklyn, NY as refugees seeking asylum from the corrupt ex-communist nation. It was in a small Eastern European community in South Brooklyn where Val first picked up ballroom dancing as an after-school activity that his parents hoped would keep him out of trouble. Soon after, Val found another passion in playing the violin, further easing the nerves of his parents as the arts kept their curious son off the South Brooklyn streets.

Although he resisted the temptation of Hollywood for a few years, in 2011 Val eventually joined his brother Maks as a member of the cast of professional dancers on Dancing with the Stars for its 13th installment. The 14-time US National Champion and two-time World Dance Champion quickly rose to stardom, becoming a fan-favorite for his impeccable performances and unique demeanor. Val won his first Dancing with the Stars Mirrorball Trophy with partner Rumer Willis during the ten-year anniversary season of the show. He later took home his second title in 2016 while partnered with Olympic Gold Medalist Laurie Hernandez. Most recently, Val was partnered with Paralympic swimmer Victoria Arlen, making it all the way to the semi-finals for which he choreographed a dance that brought a wheelchair into the world famous DWTS Ballroom for the first time.

Val is the first and only American to ever win the IDSF Junior and Youth World Championship, along with the prestigious British “Blackpool” Open, the German Open and the Asian Championships in Shenzhen, China. After overseeing the biggest youth ballroom dance program in the US, the Rising Stars Dance Academy, Val co-founded Dance With Me, one of the nation’s leading social dance studios, where he also lends his expertise as Art Director. Longing to continue his work with kids, Val implemented the Dance With Me Juniors program with the mission of keeping kids active, healthy, and creative.

Val supports numerous educational organizations and children’s charities, including the Children’s Hospital of LA and Pencils of Promise, for which he helped build two schools in Ghana using the funds he raised for the organization. He also spent the last two years mentoring kids at the KIPP Scholar Academy in South Los Angeles and brought his most improved mentees along to live tapings of Dancing with the Stars to inspire them to continue working hard.

As a classically trained violinist, Val has performed at Carnegie Hall and at Lincoln Center as a concertmaster for the ISO Youth Orchestra. He is fluent in English and Russian.

Val recently finished writing his first memoir titled “I’ll Never Change my Name,” set to be released in March 2018.

Follow me on social media @LoriHarder on Instagram and Lori Harder on Facebook.