In one week, she's gone from buzzed-about sideline reporter to favored competitor on ABC's Dancing with the Stars. But there's one thing Tampa-raised ESPN star Erin Andrews still won't do, even while facing off against Kate Gosselin and Pamela Anderson for the show's fabled mirror ball trophy. Watch herself on TV.
"Every time it's been on in front me, I walk out of the room, I put my hand over the screen," she said, calling on her cellphone while traveling to a rehearsal session with dance partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy last week. "Let's just move on and hope I do better next time."
Now tied for third place with Anderson behind Olympic skater Evan Lysacek and singer Nicole Scherzinger, Andrews emerges as her own toughest critic; aware of her problems before the judges speak and working hardest at relaxing enough to enjoy the experience.
Before the show's first ejection episode airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday (and the teams dance again at 8 p.m. Monday on WFTS-Ch. 28), here's a few quotes from the Bloomingdale High School and University of Florida graduate, edited for space, on joining TV's highest-rated dance contest.
On why she asked to be paired with the show's most demanding dancer, Chmerkovskiy:
"I had heard about him making a couple of people cry … Denise Richards and Debi (Mazar). (But) the one thing I really love about the coaches is that they don't take any crap from anybody. That's something I wanted from him. Because I knew that at times I would try to weasel my way out of stuff. I want somebody to push me. I wanted a guy who would be like (notoriously demanding University of Florida football coach) Urban Meyer."
On how she decided to do the show:
"I was kinda talking myself out of it. I felt I was going to get really judged, and I didn't want to have to deal with that. (But) I watched a Larry King Live episode with Kelly Osbourne and she talked about how this show gave her so much confidence and just being around this family of dancers was something in her life that was missing. I called my agent and my parents and said I'm doing this."
On how the public seems less judgmental since the man who admitted secretly recording video in her hotel room was caught:
"People saw how disgusting this sexual predator was that stalked me, and that he did it to 16 other people as well and the lengths that he put in to do it. I think people finally realized, 'Wow, she didn't do it to herself for publicity.' When the FBI came forward with all the evidence, I think people said, 'Maybe we shouldn't have judged this the way we did.' "
On the results of surgery which has kept her father, WFLA-Ch. 8 investigative reporter Steve Andrews, from attending the show:
"He's recovering well, and it's also motivation for me to stay in the competition so he can get out here in a plane and root me on. My parents want to be out here very, very badly, but right now, my dad's health is more important."
On her friendship with Anderson:
"Pam Anderson sent me flowers, and it was the coolest moment. I think she sent them to all the female contestants. The card was so cute; it said, 'Break a lash, Pamela.' How cool was that?"