‘DWTS’ Star Jeannie Mai Admits Brandon Armstrong’s ‘Tough Love’ Reminds Her Of Her Mom

Jeannie Mai and 'DWTS' pro Brandon Armstrong hit it off right from the start. The pair spoke EXCLUSIVELY with HL about the trust they have with each other, what Brandon's taught her, and more.

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Jeannie Mai and Brandon Armstrong graced the ballroom during the Dancing With the Stars premiere with a spicy salsa that earned them an 18 out of 30 score on the first night. The judges are already loving Jeannie and Brandon’s amazing energy together. Jeannie’s personality really shined in the routine. HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Jeannie and Brandon about how they’re feeling after week one.

“You know, I’ve done TV for so long, but I’ve never had this type of an emotional experience, probably because of 2020 and realizing how fickle life can be,” Jeannie told HollywoodLife after the Sept. 14 premiere. “So to be there in the moment with a beautiful ballroom and talented people like Brandon and celebrities doing things they’ve never done before, everybody out of their comfort zone, but making strides and making joyful moments for everybody else… that, to me, made me have to have personality because I was so happy.”

Jeannie Mai Brandon Armstrong
Jeannie Mai with her pro Brandon Armstrong. (ABC)

Jeannie and Brandon haven’t had a problem connecting in rehearsals and in the ballroom. They understand each other, which makes it very easy for them to work together. “Look, I am who I am 100 percent, and Jeannie is who she is 100 percent, so that was something that was very fortunate for both of us,” Brandon said. “I don’t feel like I ever had to, like, figure out who she was. I just knew who she was from the get-go after the first day of rehearsal. It was like we could talk with each other. She can bring up concerns or problems that she has that I’ll help. Plus, you have to trust each other. So especially after a night like this, the trust goes through the roof because it’s like, listen, I need you to pull up and hit your steps. You need to trust me that I’m teaching you to do the right things. And then both worlds collide and everything’s good.”

Jeannie added: “I also think Brandon is very empathetically stern. Especially for a woman, when a man can read you when you’re nervous and also tell you when you’re not doing your best, it takes a very certain type of respect to have that ability. He respects me enough to say, I know you’re better than this. You can give me more. And then he also knows, okay, you’re emotional right now, that’s fine. Take it out somewhere else, but right here, this moment matters. Being able to speak with such wise words was very comforting. Also, I have to be honest, he was very reminiscent of my mom. So coming from a Vietnamese background, my Asian mother is everything that that sounds like. She would tell me the same things with broken English, so he kind of gave that same type of tough love, I appreciated it.”

Jeannie Mai Brandon Armstrong
Jeannie Mai and Brandon Armstrong performing their salsa. (ABC)

There’s no doubt that Dancing With the Stars is very physically demanding. Jeannie admitted that she’s been “humbled” by the “grace and poise” that the pros have, and she’s already learned so much in just a short amount of time.

“Brandon actually taught me that I’ve been walking wrong in my heels,” Jeannie revealed. “I’m 41 years old, and I’ve been doing it since I was like 8. You’re gonna tell me I don’t know how to do my heels? But he’s like, you’re standing pigeon-toed. You need to lean more on this side, and you need your legs to be straighter. I’m like, it’s a knee. It bends. He’s like, not in dance. It makes me realize that when you really nail it right, and you look at dancers like Emma [Slater] and Jenna [Johnson], there’s a reason why they look so lithe and long and graceful because you have to challenge your body. You can’t say, oh, I have a bad back or the bad knee. No, you can put yourself ahead of whatever your setbacks are, and you always come out glowing. So that’s what I want to learn to achieve. It’s to walk like a lady at the end of this.” Dancing With the Stars season 29 airs Mondays on ABC.