Last week, I saw the beginning segment of my mom’s favorite guilty pleasure: Dancing with the Stars. For the next 10 weeks, she and much of America will be watching as stars ranging from pop singer Gavin DeGraw to Super Bowl champion Donald Driver, legendary Gladys Knight, and Steve Urkel (ahem, I mean Jaleel White) struggle to pick-up complicated ballroom dances.

Why do celebrities join DWTS?

Every season I wonder – why do the stars do this? Here are people who have succeeded in their chosen profession, and who are really good at what they do. Many of them have staff whose entire job is to figure out how to present that star’s personal brand in the most advantageous way possible.

So how could doing Dancing with the Stars have a positive effect on a star’s personal brand? Almost every single one of the stars is doing something that they’re not naturally good at. Some stars will succeed and become amazing dancers. But most of the others will fail. And some of them fail really, really badly – while the world is watching.

With the athletes and performers, at least they have either the athleticism and showmanship to have a chance. But how in the world could a Dancing with the Stars stint be good for the Personal Brands of people such as Kate Gosslin, Tom DeLay, 82 year old Cloris Leachman, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak?

Stacy Keibler, previous Dancing with the Stars contestant

How it helps their personal brand

The answer is that Dancing with the Stars lets people in behind the careful veneer that most stars project. For a couple weeks, we get to see these idols struggle to learn something new. We see their frustration and emphasize with them when they stumble during a performance or get a bad review. And that’s GOOD for their personal brand – because it reminds their fans that they are human. And the audience loves them for it – and even vote to keep some participants on the show far longer than their dancing skills deserve!

To me, the biggest lesson I get from Dancing with the Stars is that you don’t always need to project a perfect personal brand. In fact, it actually helps when you let people in to see what it takes for you to achieve something. Especially if it’s hard. Especially if you fail.

When the audience watches Dancing with the Stars, they don’t want to see a cast full of accomplished dancers in the first episode. Instead, they want to see a raggedy group of stars that’s struggling to get through their first dances. Then, with each episode, the audience sees how the stars work hard at something new, and they cheer with each accomplishment and sympathize with every failure.

Dancing with the Stars seems to tell us that we don’t have to always project a perfect image. After all, the struggle and risk of failure is what makes the stars on their show so appealing.

So take heart in that, and know that if the stars (advised by highly-paid image consultants) feel like it’s good for their Personal Brand to let it slip that they’re human, you can too.


Katie Konrath blogs about creativity, innovation and “ideas so fresh… they should be slapped” at She works for leading innovation company, Ideas To Go.

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