Drew Lachey - The Big Dance

Drew Lachey gives new meaning to the word multi-faceted. Perhaps once best known as one-forth of the boy band 98°, the Cincinnati native has gone from serving in the Army to working as an emergency medical technician in New York City to Pop star to the newly crowned champion of the star-studded, top-rated Dancing With the Stars competition. But while there are plenty of offers rolling in for the dance champ, this easygoing, Cornhole playing, Michigan lovin’ Ohioan recently signed on for the biggest role of his life - fatherhood.

During the peak of his band’s reign in the late 90s, Drew Lachey, along with his bandmates, older brother Nick, Jeff Timmons and Justin Jeffre, had their record-sellingly dreamy mugs covering more real estate in Beats, both Teen and Tiger than all three of the Coreys combined ever dreamed of. Throngs of girls lurked around every corner, each one screaming their favorite’s name, while grappling desperately for a handful of shirt, hair or even the foil wrapping from a discarded burrito.

Since then, the younger Lachey has kept a relatively low-profile, at least from a personal standpoint. He married his long-time hometown sweetheart, Lea, and only popped up occasionally on his brother’s MTV show Newlyweds, allowing his elder brother to absorb all the parasitic paparazzi attention. He took a turn on Broadway in Rent and later signed on to do Dancing With the Stars. He and his dance partner Cheryl Burke, an acclaimed Filipino American choreographer, ultimately danced the Cha-Cha all the way to the championship.

Even with all those career accomplishments under his belt, Drew Lachey still stands out as the definitive boy next door. However, behind that there’s a little quick-witted, smart-ass mixed in for good measure. C Magazine sought to exploit said smart-ass, by goading him about his irrational support for Michigan Athletics and asking him to elaborate upon his plan to bring “Cornhole” to Southern California. We managed, and we also found out a lot about his easygoing side, his contribution to the world of dance, and his favorite job of all time: being a father.

What made you want to do Dancing With The Stars in the first place?

I just thought I would go and have a new experience for my life and just have fun with it. That was my main focus going into it and it just kind of took on this whole world of its own. I mean, we beat out the Olympics at one point. It was unbelievable.

Are you worried you are going to be labeled the “dance guy” now?

Not really. You are always going to be labeled something. I could be the boy band member. Nick’s younger brother. The dancer. It’s nice to be labeled as something that I really wanted. It’s odd, because you can sell millions of records, star on Broadway and now be known for ballroom dancing. It’s a humbling experience, but I had a great experience.

What was the hardest dance to learn?

There were a lot that were hard, but for different reasons. The ChaCha was hard, because it was the first week and it was very foreign. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know how to use my body to a certain degree.

We read somewhere that there has been a significant increase in dance lessons across the country since this show aired.

Yes, that’s true. I think it’s something crazy like a 300% increase. Even a friend of mine wants to go take Ballroom Dance lessons now. It’s great to expose more people to the art form. At the same time, I think the show is something that is new and it hasn’t been done over and over again. It’s fresh and it’s something new for people to watch.

You have such a diverse background with what you have done in your life. So, what’s your criteria for what you do next?

My criteria? It’s definitely not whatever comes along. I’ve been asked to do a bunch of crap shows and I didn’t do them because they were crap. It just has to be a good opportunity. I could go back and do Broadway again, I love doing that. There are a few TV shows being developed with me in mind and there are also some hosting things coming along. (Editors’ Note: Drew co-hosted the Miss USA 2006 Pageant in late April.) It’s like the world is there and whatever comes along that feels right. I’m just in a position right now that I don’t have to take the next gig that comes along to pay my rent. I can do what’s right for me and for my family. Whatever you do in your life, you need to fill it with a lot of experiences. Make sure you have lived a full life.

You’ve been in the Army, an EMT in New York City, in a boy band, on Broadway. How has each one prepared you for your next role?

Everything I’ve done has definitely prepared me for the next step I took. The discipline, the focus and the work ethic from being in the Army definitely prepared me. There is a headspace you have to be in to be successful and productive in the Army. Just being able to do that and have that anal work ethic where everything needs to be perfect, the floors, your footlocker... It all translates. I just think that work ethic and focus and the attention to detail that came from the Army helped me learn how to handle myself. Being an EMT in New York, you see people dying everyday and taking that with you, you know it doesn’t matter if you mess up a dance step or not. I also think it taught me how to keep my nerves in check and stay calm under stressful situations. Then with 98°, you deal with a wide range of things. You deal with lack of sleep, traveling, the performance aspect, television – everything. Then you have Broadway, which is eight shows a week and you have to learn how to let your guard down a little bit and not worry about what other people think about you. I was playing a nerdy little video director in Rent who couldn’t get laid. It wasn’t the image I would want people to think of when they thought of me, but when you go you…

You have to learn to just take it on as a role…

Right, you just have to learn to let everything else go, take it on and not be intimidated by the situation. You have to not be embarrassed by the situation. But every experience has been hugely educational.

You seem to be a very easygoing guy, especially during our photo shoot and the tight shooting space we were in. Nothing seems to bother you, even though everyone else around you might be freaking out about things.

I don’t know how I would ever act differently. It’s a photo shoot and we’re having fun. It’s not that deep. You go in and shoot and then you’re done. It’s laid back and easy going. I mean, if we were trying to cure cancer and we were bumping into each other, it would be a whole other story. But everyone up there at the shoot is fortunate enough to be in this industry and to be making a living at it and there is nothing to get mad about in the first place. And even if there was, I probably wouldn’t, because it’s not worth it. This is my job.

Where do you think that easygoing nature comes from, is it from the way you were brought up or where you are from?

Absolutely. Ohio is my home and a lot of my friends and family still live there. The Ohio work ethic and Midwestern work ethic and how you treat people is completely different than any other place in the world. I think it’s a huge part of who I am and why I am the way that I am, because I grew up in Ohio. I wouldn’t trade my childhood or where I grew up for the world.

How often do you go back?

I went back about three months ago and I normally go back about four or five times a year. There are things there that you don’t get to do here that I enjoy. You know, the restaurants you don’t get to go to anymore, hanging out with your friends and playing Cornhole, going to a Bengals football game. It’s different going to an SC football game with the sun beating down as opposed to going to a Bengals game in the freezing cold and you’ve got to get bundled up. It’s a different situation. It’s much more sentimental to go to that or to a Bearcats game.

Ever ship Graeter’s to California?

Absolutely, we get Graeter’s shipped in. Frisch’s Tarter sauce. We import it all here.

Now the last time we interviewed you, which was years ago, we uncovered that you were more of a Michigan fan than you were an Ohio State fan. Still true?

Yeah, my grandfather was from Michigan and my dad went to UC, so there wasn’t really a tie for me to Ohio State. When we watched college football, it would be Michigan, because of my grandfather and UC basketball is Cincinnati sports. I think it was never engrained in me, but, of course, now, depending on who they are playing, I will root for Ohio State. But just, well, GO BLUE. It’s just been in me since I was little.

Do you think you could out dance Travolta?

I don’t know. He’s got Grease and Saturday Night Fever and he had some moves. I think it would be a good little challenge. He plays the mother in the new Hairspray movie. I don’t know about before, but I might be able to give him a run for his money now. He’s just an amazing actor. People who just know how to move and are aware of their body just have a better presence and just seem more coordinated and graceful.

Your biggest role these days is as a dad to your new daughter Isabella. How is that treating you?

It’s amazing how you can love someone so much who you’ve just met. They are just developing their personality and just kind of came into your world. This is the job I’ve been looking most forward to.

It’s hard not to mention again how obvious it is that you come across as though you really haven’t been affected at all by your celebrity.

I have a nice blend of celebrity and anonymity. I can get into places without getting my balls busted too badly, and I can still chill at home with my friends. I have the best of both worlds. I live in a family neighborhood and we have friends over and have some beers and play some Cornhole. (Editors’ Note – Just in case you were wondering, Cornhole is similar to horseshoes except you use wooden boxes called cornhole platforms and corn bags instead of horseshoes and metal stakes. Contestants take turns pitching their corn bags at the Cornhole platform until a contestant reaches the score of 21 points. )

Cornhole? Looking to bring it to the West coast?

I was actually looking to start up a business with my friends. I was looking for ways to make the boards lighter and change up the design. Now if my friend’s want a set I build them a set.

I’m sure most people in L.A. don’t have any clue what you are talking about when you say, “Do you want to play some Cornhole?”

Yeah, I was going over to someone’s house from Dancing With The Stars and I said, “I’ll bring over my Cornhole set.” They were like, “What are you talking about?” I was like, “Just trust me!” But it’s starting to catch on out here and creeping up. SoCal Cornhole.