Julianne Hough on New Life in NYC, Broadway Debut in “POTUS”

It’s one of those perfect spring days — 70 degrees and nothing but blue skies — that New Yorkers can’t get enough of before the cold drabness of winter blends with the sweltering humidity of summer. Julianne Hough’s blonde hair and bright smile sparkle in Greenwich Village, just a short walk from Washington Square Park, where she’s living her New York dream. No doubt she is soaking up the sun in this manifested moment.

Even before making her Broadway debut in new political farce POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive, the 33-year-old dancer, actress, singer and entrepreneur choreographed a Big Apple move.

“I remember calling my manager in October. I was like, ‘Okay, I want to dive into what’s happening on Broadway because they’ve obviously had the roughest time through the pandemic,'” Hough says of a Salad Nicoise and fries at Petite Boucherie. “I said, ‘Keep an eye out to see if anything happens. But I think I just need to get close, so maybe in March I’ll just move there.” Then in February I got this script out of nowhere and it was an offer for the role. So I released it a lot, manifested it, not really knowing what it was going to be – just that I wanted to be here.

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Photos by Kurt Iswarienko

After her big break on 2007’s Dancing With the Stars, Hough has led to films like Footloose and Rock of Ages, judge appearances on DWTS and America’s Got Talent, and even a country album Right There Now, where she wants to be – just months after her divorce from former hockey star Brooks Laich was finalized in February. It’s not lost on Hough that she’s embracing her new life as part of both the Broadway and queer communities just steps from the birthplace of LGBTQ rights in Stonewall. “It’s a fresh start,” she says.

In this next chapter, Hough shares the stage at the Shubert Theater with an all-female cast including Vanessa Williams, Lea DeLaria and Saturday Night Live alumnus Rachel Dratch in a play set in the White House that aims to satirize the patriarchy.

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“I read the first page and thought it was the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time,” says Hough. “That Selina Fillinger, our playwright, is 28 years old… and our director [Susan Stroman] is a legend and an icon – especially for me because she started out as a choreographer – before I even got to my character I was like, ‘Yes!’”

As Dusty, the President’s young and pregnant lover, Hough has learned much from the seasoned sorority in the cast. She has developed a special bond with Williams, who plays the first lady. “Our first conversation was about the fact that she was a ballroom dancer, and that’s how my career started,” she says. “I remember seeing her on ‘Dance With Me’ and I was like, ‘Wow — this woman can dance, be an actress, and sing.'”

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Hough is a triple threat herself, and her abilities have been honed in POTUS. “The great thing about being part of an ensemble with this kind of cast is that I don’t have to carry the show and feel the pressure or the responsibility,” she says. “I can be a student and soak up all the incredible information and teachings that I think they share without realizing they are giving me so much.”

Even among all of this impressive female talent, Hough has perhaps the show’s greatest moment when her character asserts, “Affordable, safe reproductive health care is a basic human right.”

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It’s a hot topic at a time when abortion rights are once again being questioned. “Even before that particular time associated with Roe v. Wade, it was such a strong line because the right to privacy and autonomy over our bodies is so important,” she says. “For that to be threatened again is just outrageous… When I first said that line, it was definitely Dusty, but [with] a bit of Julianne is certainly in there. And we were all kind of looking at each other and we weren’t sure if we were going to start crying on stage because it was so powerful to hear everyone in the audience. We got a standing ovation.”

But Hough is careful to note that the cathartic forces of performing “POTUS” — both awareness and comedy — have nothing to do with their divorce. In fact, she insists there is no bitterness in this breakup.

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“Brooks and I — we had the best breakup,” she says. “We approached things amicably. It was full of love and respect. As with any relationship that matters, you learn and grow, and you are blessed with the riches you have gained from that relationship. We both feel more than blessed to have had each other in our lives during this phase of life. I only want the best for him. I wish him all the best, whatever that looks like. And that’s really where we are.”

In 2019, Hough revealed that she told Laich, “I’m not straight,” in an interview with Women’s Health magazine. Looking back, she says it wasn’t meant to be her big coming-out statement — even if it happened that way.

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“I didn’t really have a moment like, ‘I’m going to do this.’ it just wassays Hough, who now identifies as queer. “I just said something and it just came out that way. And it’s my truth. everyone’s [coming-out] The experience is different, and I come from a Mormon background where… it wasn’t seen as something that was accepted. But I know that my parents, my friends, my family love me and are proud of me. And so I had a really good experience.”

Hough’s family support system has always included her older brother, Derek Hough, who joined Dancing With the Stars the season after her. “Somehow we’re never in the same cycle,” she says. “So when he has a low moment, I have a high moment; and when I have a low point, he has a high point. We can help each other and balance each other out.”

Julianne Hough dances on the streets of NYC.
Hough is ready to plunge into the new life in Manhattan that she has manifested.

These days, Hough’s own balancing act includes her fitness business, Kinrgy, and Fresh Vine Wine, which she co-owns with actress Nina Dobrev. She is also co-hosting The Tony Awards: Act One with good friend Darren Criss ahead of the main event on June 12th. But she’s hoping to find time in her busy schedule this summer for a few trips to the Hamptons and picnics in Central Park.

And she’s also open to hitting the dating scene again. “I lead with love,” she says. “I try to keep my heart open, but I just want to be the best version of myself. I really believe in energy and…when I’m at my best I will attract people who are right for me in that moment.”

Photographer: Kurt Iswarienko; Publisher: Serena French; Stylist: Anahita Moussavian; Fashion Assistants: Sean Rodriguez, Madeleine Shepherd; Hair: Leonardo Manetti at See Management; Make-up: Vincent Oquendo at The Wall Group with Chanel

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