Elizabeth Smart stepped outside her comfort zone in a big way when she decided to do The Masked Dancer. The 33-year-old was unmasked as Miss Moth during the Jan. 13 episode. Elizabeth made headlines when she was kidnapped in 2002 at the age of 14 by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. She was held captive for 9 months until she was rescued in 2003.
Since then, Elizabeth has spent her life trying to “end the victimization and exploitation of sexual assault through prevention, recovery, and advocacy,” according to the Elizabeth Smart Foundation. HollywoodLife talked with this incredible woman about doing something totally different like The Masked Dancer, her connection to panelist Ashley Tisdale, and her plans for 2021.
What did you want to do The Masked Dancer?
Elizabeth Smart: So this is way outside of any comfort zone I’ve ever had in my entire life. It’s definitely nothing I’ve ever done before. But the inspiration behind saying yes was actually my grandma. She has been a huge influence on my life. I did a study abroad in London, and she came out and picked me up. We toured around Spain afterward. I’ll never forget that she arranged for us to go to these little caves up on a mountainside where they had flamenco dancers. They were trying to get people from the audience to come up and dance, and my grandma tried to pull me out. But I wasn’t going up. My sister wouldn’t go up. But she got up and started dancing. And that was just who my grandma was. She ended up passing away this past summer, right around the time that the people at Masked Dancer asked me to participate. Initially, my first reaction was just to say no. But I was sitting at my grandma’s funeral, and she had actually been dancing when she fell down and broke her hip. It was all downhill from there and a matter of weeks before she passed away after that. As I was sitting at her funeral, I was crying like an absolute baby, but I was also laughing so hard because that was just who my grandma was. She meant so much to me. While I was sitting at the funeral, I just thought, you know, I should do this. I live a pretty serious life. I work and have dedicated really my life to an incredibly serious, sobering cause. And it’s okay to have a little bit of fun. It’s okay to do something purely for the sake of enjoyment. Honestly, it was terrifying. In fact, I can still feel the adrenaline running through me right now just thinking that my finale will be airing. But I’m so glad I did it, and my grandma was the inspiration behind doing it.
You are no stranger to public speaking, but dancing on television is a totally different world. What was it like for you when you were on stage performing as Miss Moth?
Elizabeth Smart: It was terrifying. It was exhilarating. It was nerve-racking. It was just the whole spectrum of emotion. Because, of course, I want to do my best. I kind of went into it with this thought that as long as I know that I do my best, I won’t feel bad. Whenever the time comes that I am eliminated, I feel like I did my best. I did not grow up dancing. I am not a dancer. I definitely reached so far beyond my comfort zone. I’m so proud of myself for doing it. I had so much fun and the choreographers and my dance partner and everyone that I had any interaction with were honestly so kind and so supportive. They made the experience such a great experience for me. I will walk away from it with nothing but good memories and good feelings.
The Miss Moth costume was so beautiful. What was it about the costume that stood out to you the most?
Elizabeth Smart: Honestly, they presented it to me and they said, what do you think of this? Back then it was just kind of a rough sketch. And I was like, sure, why not. But then when I actually saw the costume in real life, when I went in for my first fitting, I was amazed. It was so beautiful, and it didn’t end there. After the first time, I thought that every time I saw it again, it honestly got more and more beautiful. I mean, even up to the last day that I was dancing, they were still adding more crystals and more hand-beading. I wish everyone could get up close and see it so that they could really truly appreciate all of the talent and the time that went into creating that. Obviously, none of that talent or time is mine because I didn’t create it. But the wardrobe team who honestly created this masterpiece, it’s so beautiful. I feel like a lot of things in life when you get really close to inspecting you’re a little bit disappointed. With this, there is no level of disappointment. It only gets better.
The panelists dished out a wide variety of names, but Brian Austin Green actually guessed you. What was your reaction in that moment when you heard your name come out of his mouth?
Elizabeth Smart: I felt like the clues in the second show… I was like, whoa, if this doesn’t give it away short of saying her name begins with Elizabeth and her last name ends with Smart, I don’t know how many more clues or hints you could give. So I wasn’t surprised when he said I know who it is. Actually, I kind of thought that maybe Ashley [Tisdale] would have guessed who I am because she was in High School Musical, which was filmed at the high school that I went to. She clearly spent quite a bit of time in Utah, so I remember initially thinking if anyone is going to guess me it’s going to be her. But she didn’t. She was surprised. There was Brian that guessed me, but I wasn’t surprised by the time he finally guessed me that they guessed me.
The Masked Dancer was filmed in 2020, which was such a crazy year. Now that we’re in a new year, what are your plans? You take on the incredibly important task of advocacy on behalf of survivors, and you had your Finding Justice specials last year, so what are some of the things on the horizon for you?
Elizabeth Smart: Those are still endeavors and goals that I plan to continue to work on. I have my nonprofit, Elizabeth Smart Foundation, that I have spent so much time working on. We have a few new initiatives that we will be rolling out this year. One of the initiatives that we actually rolled out at the end of last year and will always be there is our We Believe You campaign, and that one is probably one of the ones that is nearest and dearest to my heart. I have spoken extensively around the United States. I’ve been to every state. I’ve met victims and survivors from around the world. And without a doubt, the number one comment that I get is that nobody believes me. This campaign is so special to me because we want to change how we react and how we treat our victims and our survivors. I want them to know that there are people who do care about them and who will believe them and who will support them. Honestly, one of the blessings of working in this field is that I have been able to meet the kindest people who honestly sacrifice their lives to try and make a difference. I’m trying to help the survivors. This is not an easy subject to talk about. It’s not an easy subject to come back to work to every single day. It’s very hard, so being able to meet the people who keep doing it, who decided to do it maybe not because they had personal experience, but just because they’re good people. That’s pretty amazing. The We Believe You campaign is so special to me personally. I just hope that this year as we continue to push it and try to grow it that we really are able to promote education and change. For all the dark things that we see in this world, I feel like this also helps me see the good in it as well.