LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Best known as a two-time winner on the hit reality TV series "Dancing With the Stars," Julianne Hough blossoms into a Hollywood movie star when her first feature film, "Burlesque," debuts on Wednesday.
Hough, 22, has already earned a fair share of celebrity in recent years, owing to her winning ways on "Dancing," which for years has been among the highest rated shows on U.S. TV. She is forging a career as a country singer and even has more movies planned for her future.
But the high profile of "Burlesque," which stars Academy Award winner Cher and pop star Christina Aguilera, could vault Hough to global stardom.
"Burlesque" tells the story of a small-town girl named Ali (Aguilera) who moves to Hollywood and becomes famous for dancing in a nightclub owned by the glamorous Tess (Cher). Hough plays Georgia, one of the club's dancers, who befriends Ali.
While at first thought, it might seem easy for a professional dancer to step into a movie role as a dancer, Hough said it wasn't all that simple.
"On 'Dancing with the Stars,' you learn the dance, you dance the dance on TV, and then you're done," she told Reuters. "'Burlesque' was months of preparation, and each number was shot over and over again, over 16-hour days."
Not that Hough minded. She shared a pivotal and emotional scene with Cher and sang alongside Aguilera, whom she's admired since childhood. And Hough is featured in a show-stopping number, which was unlike anything she had done on "Dancing with the Stars."
"When I sang 'Diamonds Are A Girls' Best Friend,' sliding down those beads was probably the coolest thing I've ever done," said Hough. "And the most painful! I had welts on my sides, my legs, my arms and my neck for weeks!"
Looking back, Hough said the entire 'Burlesque' experience prepared her for playing the lead female in the remake of the 1984 dance movie "Footloose," which recently wrapped shooting. The film is slated for release next year.
"On 'Burlesque,' I learned the logistics of filmmaking and figured out my comfort zone," said Hough. "By the time I shot 'Footloose,' I felt prepared and could focus on the acting."
Playing Ariel, a role originated by Lori Singer in the original movie, involved some dancing, but ironically the character -- a rebellious preacher's daughter in small town Georgia -- is not supposed to be a good dancer.
"I actually had to, not quite 'dumb down' my dancing, but try not to dance as full out as I usually do," Hough said.
That was hard for someone who has been a champion much of her life. Growing up in Utah, Hough was dancing competitively by age 9, and at 12-years-old she was singing in a pop band with her brother, Derek, and Mark Ballas (both also on "Dancing With the Stars"). By age 15, she was crowned Junior World Latin Champion and International Latin Youth Champion.
Moving to Los Angeles after high school, Hough appeared in commercials before joining "Dancing" in its fourth season. She was partnered with Olympic gold medalist speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno. They ended up winning.
"That was the defining moment of, 'We know who this girl is now,'" said Hough of her big break on the show. "I remember we were dancing the Samba, I had my little tiger outfit on and it was like my coming out party. The recognition factor and the opportunities just started coming in after that."
Though back-to-back movies have left Hough with a desire to do more films, she is currently working on her second country album. It's a follow up to her self-titled debut in 2008, and her hope is to have it out sometime in mid-2011.
Despite her busy schedule, Hough has had time for romance. She has been dating "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest since the spring, and said he is "very inspiring" given his "Idol" duties, radio shows and job as a producer of reality TV programs such as "Keeping Up With the Kardashians."
"I'm so driven and motivated on my own, so to be in his presence is, like, 10 times more," said Hough. "We complement each other very well."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte