Tragic Details About Julianne Hough's Life

Julianne Hough is beautiful and talented and she has enjoyed great success, but her rise to fame was filled with personal struggles. Hough was raised as a Mormon in Salt Lake City, Utah, but her life would change at 10 when she moved away to pursue her passion: dance. She has made it big, but at what cost? Hough had a challenging childhood and was bullied by her peers.

"I got bullied in high school big-time. I had just come back from London and was the new kid. People looked at me like, 'She thinks she's all that,'" she told Redbook in 2014. "And because I didn't know how to talk to them, maybe I did come across that way? I don't know. I got asked to prom by a guy, and he ended up ditching me that day because the girls had told him to do it."

As an adult, her public relationships and breakups, a distasteful Halloween costume, and accusations of body shaming have also made headlines. Hough is a strong and resilient woman who has overcome her personal tragedies to become who she is today.

Julianne Hough endured childhood abuse

In Julianne Hough's quest to become a professional dancer, she moved to London to attend the Italia Conti Academy of the Arts (her older brother, Derek Hough, was already enrolled in the program). "I was 10 years old looking like I was 28, being a very sensual dancer," she told Cosmopolitan in 2013. Hough had to grow up quickly, and without the supervision of her parents, she was vulnerable.

"While I was in London, I was abused, mentally, physically, everything," she told the publication. She chose not to go into detail about the abuse but admitted she has worked to move on from it. "I'm a very forgiving person, and I don't want to hurt anybody. What's past is past."

Years later, she discussed what happened to her again in an episode of "The Goop Lab" in 2020 (via HollywoodLife) and how treatment had helped her overcome buried trauma. Speaking of her time at the academy, she said, "It was not the best living situation, and so I had this, like, really just pissed-off anger literally attached in my foot. This method [energy experience] works incredibly well for me because it helps me experience and go back to things and be able to shift them."

Her parents' divorce would change her life

Julianne Hough has discussed how the divorce of her parents, Marriann and Bruce Hough, would alter her life. "It was a very difficult time for our family," Bruce told People in 2014. "We didn't want them to have to choose between their parents, and they had a great opportunity in England."

Julianne has touched on her decision to move. "At 10 years old, my parents went through a pretty aggressive divorce, and I lived with my dance coaches," she said in an episode of "The Goop Lab" in 2020 (via HollywoodLife). Since Julianne and her brother Derek Hough are celebrities, there is an increased interest in their childhood, with the details of the Hough's divorce being made public in 2014.

According to RadarOnline, the former couple were granted joint legal care of their four children (they have five in total, but their eldest was not a minor at the time). "The parties both have loving and valuable relationships with their children and agree to work together to support those relationships," the divorce document reads (via RadarOnline). Julianne has been vocal about the effects the divorce had on her, and she and Derek even gave fans a glimpse into their pain with a beautiful and emotional dance that they performed together on an episode of "Dancing With the Stars" in 2017.

Julianne Hough felt pressure as a child

Derek Hough and Julianne Hough's decision to move away from their home in Salt Lake City, Utah, benefitted their careers, setting them up to become the talented professional dancers they are today. However, Julianne endured a tough schedule and felt pressured to look a certain way. "I remember one of my first days there, I got off at the wrong train station," she told People in 2014. "I was just standing there thinking, 'Where am I?'" In the same chat, she discussed competing. "When I look back, I think it's so sad I have no pictures of me with a cute, bare, 10-year-old face," she said.

But good did come from the move, because she and Derek share a close bond. "People will say, 'How could your parents let you go off to do that?'" Derek told People in 2014. "I think it's great that they saw an amazing opportunity. That is the reason we are here today." The brother and sister have also had a successful professional relationship. "We actually work pretty well together," Derek said in an appearance with "Good Morning America" in 2016. "We kind of have like this hidden language where we don't really talk ... it's actually great. We're very privileged; we feel very lucky to do something that you love with somebody that you love and care about."

Her blackface Halloween costume caused backlash

Julianne Hough's Halloween costume in 2013 was in poor taste. She attended a party dressed as the "Orange Is the New Black" character Crazy Eyes. The backlash was swift, resulting in Hough making a public apology on X (formerly Twitter). "I am a huge fan of the show 'Orange is the New Black,' actress Uzo Aduba, and the character she has created," she wrote. "It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way. I realize my costume hurt and offended people, and I truly apologize."

Uzo Aduba portrays Crazy Eyes on the show, and she commented on Hough's decision. "I think maybe it was an unfortunate event, but she apologized, and I feel like we can all move on," she told E! News. Laverne Cox, who also stars in the show, addressed the criticism. "I don't think Julianne is making a specific informed choice to comment on blackness. I just think it's out of this ignorance. That's really sad," she told Us Weekly.

Years later, Hough's use of blackface made headlines again. This time, she was the one to address it in an Instagram post in 2021. "Wearing blackface was a poor choice based on my own white privilege and my own white body bias that hurt people and is something I regret doing to this day," she wrote. "However, the regret that I live with pales in comparison to the lived experiences of so many."

The star outed Jonathan Bennett

"Mean Girls" actor Jonathan Bennett competed in "Dancing with the Stars" in 2014. At the time of his performance, he had not openly discussed his sexual orientation. "I've been gay my whole life, but when I was a young actor, and it was a different time in Hollywood, I was told by the majority of people that I had to stay in the closet and not let anyone know that I was gay," he said in an interview with Out in 2023. So, when Julianne Hough commented on him being gay, the news was met with shock, and she made headlines for outing Bennett.

Her comments were made in an interview with Mario Lopez for "Extra" in 2014 (via Cosmopolitan) when she said she had initially thought Bennett was hitting on her because he complimented her. "He tweeted at me last year and said I had a nice butt, and I thought, 'Oh, he's hitting on me — I should try to go on a date with him!'" Julianne said before telling Lopez, "He's gay — so I was like, ”That's not gonna work!'" 

Her split from Ryan Seacrest left her feeling 'lost'

Julianne Hough's relationship with Ryan Seacrest was very public. The couple dated from 2010 to 2013, and Hough was not shy about speaking about her affection for her boyfriend. "He is such an influential guy ... and what if it didn't work out? Our first date, I was so nervous that I just sat there and interviewed him with questions like, 'Are you loyal?' and 'Are you close to your family?'" she told InStyle (via Us Weekly) in a chat in 2012. "I'm very in love, and it feels great. I feel like I'm more comfortable in my own skin. You see me instead of all the makeup and hair."

The breakup would be challenging for Hough. "It was 2013, and I had just got out of a relationship that was very high profile," she said on Instagram Live (via ET). "I was on private planes and yachts and living in a very, very well-off house. My life was pretty different from where I grew up." She also admitted to not having any friends at the time of the breakup. So, following the split, she used the time to find herself. Over the next year, she would experiment, including heading to Coachella, saying, "We did certain things that I was not proud of." She would also feel "a little lost" confessing she didn't "really know who Julianne is."

Julianne Hough has dealt with body shaming

Julianne Hough has overcome many things in her life and is stronger for it. "Now I stand up for myself," she told Redbook in 2017. "The other day, I told off a bully at work, and that felt so good." In the same interview, she spoke about her body and how she tried not to be so hard on herself — this is a big change from how it was in her past.

"I would compare myself to everyone ..." she told Redbook of her younger self. "Later I did a film where I basically was told I was fat every day, yet I was the skinniest I'd ever been. Now, when I'm self-conscious, I'll do something completely crazy or goofy to get out of my own head — something fun that reminds me of the freedom I felt as a kid before all that happened."

Hough has discussed her love and acceptance of her body, but she has also posted photos on Instagram that show this. In 2017, she shared a snap of herself with a full face of makeup while posing in a swimming pool. "I had never felt more free, beautiful, and confident in my body. I truly felt like a woman for the very first time," she said of the moment.

She had a public misunderstanding with Amber Rose

Amber Rose competed on "Dancing with the Stars" with her professional dance partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy in 2016. Julianne Hough was a judge on the show, and her comments on one of Rose's performances did not sit right with her. Hough said "Oh, I'm uncomfortable" in response to Rose's tango. In response, Rose shared her thoughts on "Loveline with Amber Rose" on the Network show (via People). Rose said professional dancers "dress very sexy and they do the splits and they grind up on these guys and they look absolutely stunning and get a standing ovation ... and me, and my body, my hips, my ass, my breasts made her uncomfortable."

Hough responded to the criticism with a statement. "My comments were solely reacting to the quality of the dance I was judging," she told People (via Entertainment Weekly). "I have been a strong proponent of female empowerment and an anti-bullying advocate for years, and I take that very seriously. Any kind of body shaming is the furthest thing from who I am and what I stand for."

The misunderstanding was resolved later, with Hough explaining herself and Rose accepting. Rose posted on X (formerly Twitter), writing, "Rosebuds! @juliannehough did apologize to me for the way her comment came off. The crowd was clapping loud at the time #GirlPower."

She is honest about her depression and anxiety

Julianne Hough shares much of her life with fans. This includes Instagram posts with big smiles, beautiful pictures from events, and cute dogs. But she is also honest with her fans about other aspects of her life. "I struggled with anxiety and depression growing up," she told People in 2019. "I don't think a lot of people would know that about me because I come off as sunshine and happiness and positivity."

Hough has used the platform she is given as a celebrity to help bring awareness to mental health. In 2019, she attended the #WOW The Wonder of Women Summit and discussed her decision to be a part of it in an interview with People. "I just wanted to be involved and lend my voice but also to just meet incredible, powerful women who are making change and a difference in the world," she said. She also commented on how dance helped her express herself and referred to it as her "superpower." Hough continued, "[Dance] actually breaks the barrier so you get confidence within yourself, and it's for nobody else but you."

She has endometriosis

Julianne Hough has endometriosis, a painful condition that affects the tissue lining the uterus. She was diagnosed in 2008. "I found out that I had endometriosis and that I needed to get surgery that week," she told People in 2017. But there were signs of the condition since childhood. "When I was 15, I had symptoms of endometriosis, but I had never heard of it, didn't know what it was. I thought that this was just the kind of pain you have when you're on your period," she said. "For years, for I was just thinking that was normal and never really talked about it."

Endometriosis can affect fertility, and this is something she discussed with her then-husband, Brooks Laich. "We never actually tried to get pregnant. It was more of a precautionary measure: Let's do our due diligence for the future by freezing eggs," she told Women's Health in 2020. In the same interview, she also discussed how her symptoms had improved, which she believed was a direct impact of "the love and kindness I'm giving to my body." She continued, "I believe there's stress, shame, guilt, and suppression of female energy that's associated with endometriosis, so de-layering that has really helped."

But why speak about it? "It's common, and it's been super-empowering to get messages from women all over the world," Hough told Redbook in 2017 about her decision to go public and to encourage others to get checked out.

Julianne Hough and Brooks Laich divorced

Julianne Hough and Brooks Laich were planning a future together. They started dating in 2013 and got married in 2017. "Now I'm not holding anything back because I'd rather get my heart broken than never know what it is to be completely, madly in love," she told Redbook in 2014 of her new romance. Despite public declarations of how they felt about each other, the couple announced their divorce on Nov. 2, 2020 (it would become official on June 10, 2022). "They were trying to work on things, but Julianne realized she's happier having her freedom," a source told People at the time. "Brooks tried to give it to her, but he also hit his limit."

Another tipster echoed these sentiments, telling E! News: "She decided that at this point in her life, she wants too much freedom to be married. She couldn't make a commitment to move forward, and it wasn't fair to Brooks. He wants a family and to move ahead with his life." Even before publicly acknowledging their marriage was over, there had been rumors they had to contend with. In 2020, a source told Us Weekly they "were having problems."