Julianne Hough and Brother Derek on Tough Childhoods, Today’s Success

By: Kimberly Ripley - June 23, 2014

Julianne Hough and older brother Derek Hough spoke recently with PEOPLE magazine about their tough childhoods and how that time led them to where they are today. Dancing With the Stars was essentially the catalyst that moved the brother and sister pair from simply being professional dancers to becoming household names. Derek was this season’s champion. Julianne has gone on to add ‘actress’ to her impressive resume as well. It all started, however, when they were just young kids.

It was back when Derek and Julianne Hough were only 13 and 10, respectively, that their parents sent them from their sheltered home life in Utah to London where they would study at the prestigious London dance school Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts. They lived with family friends Shirley and Corky Ballas, whose son Mark Ballas is one of the current DWTS pros.

Julianne recalled leaving the house early in the morning to catch a London train.

“I remember one of my first days there I got off at the wrong train station,” she said. “I was just standing there thinking, ‘Where am I?’”

She was taken advantage of as a young girl in a sensual world–most likely because her parents weren’t nearby keep a watch over her.

“I was 10 years old looking like I was 28, being a very sensual dancer,” she said during a recent interview with Cosmopolitan. “I was a tormented little kid who had to put on this sexy facade because that was my job and my life. But my heart was the same, and I was this innocent little girl.”

Both Derek and Julianne Hough acknowledge that they made lots of sacrifices–ultimately their childhoods–but that without those sacrifices they wouldn’t be where they are today. The dancing duo is presently on tour with their own show called ‘Move,’ in venues across the U.S. Julianne posted photos from a rehearsal for their Connecticut show on Instagram.

“People will say, ‘How could your parents let you go off to do that?’” Derek said. “I think it’s great that they saw an amazing opportunity. That is the reason we are here today.”

Do you suppose that’s how Julianne and Derek Hough really feel or might they harbor resentment they’re reluctant to share because of how it might mar their professional personas? Will giving up their childhoods and being separated from their family at such a young age one day come back to haunt the brother and sister?

Image via Instagram

Kimberly Ripley

About the Author

Kimberly RipleyKimberly Ripley is a freelance writer and published author from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A wife, mom of five and 'Nana' to Lilly and Aiden, she loves cooking for her big family and watching HGTV in her spare time. Kim is guilty of starting way more home design projects than she can finish. Visit her at Twitter and Facebook.

View all posts by Kimberly Ripley
  • kc

    Derek was not this year’s champion on DWTS.

    • Carolyn

      It was finally Max ! Yippee !

  • jerimiah69

    I am so sad for these poor little rich kids, boo hoo, hoo, hoo!!!

    • Carolyn

      Hahahaha, I thought I was going to read about some family domestic issues ! It sounds nice to be shipped off to England at such a YOUNG age ! I would have settled for a day at ” Six Flags Great Adventure ” !

      • whatever

        Hilarious… Thanks for the laugh; ditto!

    • Carolyn

      Ain’t NO PITY in the NAKED CITY ! ( wink, wink ).

  • Carolyn

    ” Where am I ? ” Gee, I ask that question in Washington, D.C., as well as in New York City ! It’s a jungle out there !

  • Carolyn

    Where was the part about a TOUGH childhood ?

    • Lex

      I don’t think we should be so quick to discount it. Absent of abuse (and sadly, sometimes even then) young children HATE being separated from their parents. They suffer all kinds of anxieties when it happens even when it is for their “good”. They perceive it as being sent away. Not being kept. I can see how it could be traumatising for them both. And clearly there are some things that they are not saying, which I am very grateful for in this new world of over-sharing.

      • Carolyn

        I wonder if either of them were sexually abused while living in a foreign country or when they lived with their parents, afterall they are strikingly good – looking !

  • Caligula

    It all paid off in the end. That’s all that really counts. Without those “sacrifices” (if you wanna call going to London a sacrifice) they would probably be in some cubicle wanting to hang themselves, like the rest of us. Now comes the hard part, handling all the fame and money.

    • Carolyn

      Perhaps that is why she and Ryan Seacrest broke up . . . because she does not know how to handle FAME ! Probably because of a lot of pent up anger towards her parents ! He is the host of American Idol, who seems to know how to handle success . . . . VERY WELL !

  • myself

    So your parents disowned you guys? Because there going threw a divorce but don’t want you to see you go threw that you go to different states or country? Seems child abuse or neglect hmm. can’t believe or understand why or any parents position but i get believing in your dreams and going for themselves to conger them but i think they really didn’t want to see any child go threw a Divorce in all but did have the heart to see it either way

  • Mimmi

    Is part of the article missing??? Because I’m still looking for the tough childhood part.

    • Mr_D

      She had to ride the train.

      • Carolyn

        That couldn’t have been any worse than riding the subway trains of New York City !

        • Mr_D

          I don’t even want to THINK about that.

    • Carolyn

      EXACTLY !

  • jeff

    and not one thank you or shout-out for the Ballas family for all they did

  • m.

    A comparison of Career Management styles: Brother Derek is a professional dancer. Sister Julianne is a Jack of All Trades, and master of none. She needs to make up her mind what she wants to do, and stick to it … sink or swim.

    • Carolyn

      Didn’t she date Ryan Seacrest ? I believe she claimed to have LOST some expensive jewelry that he gave her, right before they broke up ! Well, she and her brother certainly were blessed with Good Looks ! Um hum !

    • Carolyn

      She could sustain an injury from dancin, so it is smart that she has oter intersts ! Acting or Modeling may be in her future, and she should take advantage of her Good Looks before they fade !

  • Annie

    Wow…everyone is missing the point. To have to be away from you parents at such an early age, is so sad and in a country that your not familiar with, they must of had many nights that they cried themselves to sleep. To also be on a strict schedule of dancing many hours a day and going to a strange school (away from friends), riding a bus alone at 10yrs. old. Dressing sexy and being around strange adults on a bus…the comments and stares…it must have been a frightening experience at that age!! Thank-goodness they at least had each other, I would have wondered why my parents would send me away and wished every night that they were coming to take me home. :(

    • Carolyn

      It seems that their parets were like the RICH people who send their children off to Boarding School at a young age ! I heard that the singer / actress, Cher’s son hates her for having done that to him ! To do something like that amounts to NO LOVE or a way of not being bothered ! It is hard enough to see a GROWN child go away to college, let alone see a MINOR child go live in a foreign country. Weren’t the dance schools in the U.S.A. good enough for them ? It is apparent to ME that their parents wanted them ” out of their hair ” for whatever reason(s) !

  • Italia49

    My family sent me to Italy when I was 17. I came from a small, upstate NY city. I did speak Italian (4 years of it in school), but other than that I was a hick kid. However, it was the very best experience of my life. I tried to do it for my children, but they spent the money on other things

  • Cullo Veron

    I’m sorry where did it say my dad lost his jobs constantly for being an alcoholic? Where did it say we missed meals because the house payment was more important that month? Where does it say we didn’t answer the phone due to bill collectors? You rich spoiled a holes have no idea what sacrifice and tough childhoods are about.

    • Carolyn

      You sure told them ! By the way, the house payment is most important, because without a home you are homeless, but you can get a meal from a nearby ” Soup Kitchen ” ! If you’re not going to answer the phone, then get rid of it, and that is money left for food. To get rid of the ” bill collectors “, file bankruptcy !

  • nightfury85

    That is not a tough childhood… you want to hear tough? Splitting a piece of bread with your brother for dinner, and leaving another piece for the next morning so you could have breakfast before school. That’s tough, and I lived it. Going to bed hungry is tough, having an absent father is tough. Having privilege lives where you get sent to Europe to take dance classes at prestigious schools is not tough.

    • Carolyn

      Thank you ! I sure KNOW where you are coming from, but there were 14 kids in my family, and we often went to bed hungry ! We drank several glasses of water before going to bed to quiet down the hunger sounds, otherwise we sounded like a house full of TIGERS ! Heehee. That was not great – t – t – t !

  • lucky

    Go see their show! IT IS AMAZING…not are they just talented but soooo

  • jaime

    Maks won this season!! Not Derek!! Nice fact checking.