He's a sensation: 'Bachelorette' Gabby Windey talks Joe Burrow, 'Dancing with the Stars'

Gabby Windey isn’t afraid of the spotlight.

Even before starring on “The Bachelor” and later becoming one of two leading women on season 19 of “The Bachelorette,” Windey was an NFL cheerleader for the Denver Broncos. So, her successful run on the 31st season of “Dancing with the Stars” wasn’t all that surprising.

But performing in front of a live audience that was completely focused on what she was doing, rather than one watching the game behind her sparked totally new feelings.

“I think performing in front of a live audience is like a drug,” Windey said to The Enquirer while discussing the “Dancing with the Stars” tour, which stopped at Cincinnati’s Taft Theatre earlier this month. “I think that’s why so many people do it. It gives you such a rush that you want more and more of.”

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Gabby Windey (right) and Val Chmerkovskiy during the season 31 finale of "Dancing with the Stars." The pair finished second to Charli D'Amelio and Mark Ballas.
Gabby Windey (right) and Val Chmerkovskiy during the season 31 finale of "Dancing with the Stars." The pair finished second to Charli D'Amelio and Mark Ballas.

Windey wrapped up her stint on the hit show with a second-place finish. She's now performing in front of live audiences across the country with "Dancing with the Stars Live." The Enquirer caught up with the television star and discussed a range of topics, from the tour, “The Bachelorette” and more.

We also tested her Queen City knowledge with our Cincinnati Trivia segment on Instagram and TikTok. Windey didn’t know all that much about the town, but she was well aware of Joe Burrow.

After answering the question, “Who is the starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals?” correctly, Windey said, “He’s been like a sensation. I mean, more like a heartthrob, which is why I know.”

She gets it.

Check out our full conversation with Windey below. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Gabby Windey discusses 'Dancing with the Stars,' Vinny Guadagnino friendship and more

After starring on "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," Gabby Windey thrived on season 31 of "Dancing with the Stars."
After starring on "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," Gabby Windey thrived on season 31 of "Dancing with the Stars."

How has the tour been so far?

Gabby: We are in a new city every day, so that’s been kind of wild. You never know where you’re going to wake up. Well, you do know, but I don’t because I don’t keep track. But it’s been great.

I think performing in front of a live audience is like a drug. I think that’s why so many people do it. It gives you such a rush that you want more and more of. But sleeping on the tour bus is a challenge. Not everyone has that problem, but I do. Other than that, it’s really fun.

You did really well on “Dancing with the Stars,” finishing second. What has been the most rewarding part of this entire experience?

There’s been different kinds of rewards, for sure. One big one during the show that was very tangible was just learning a new skill. The amount of time it takes to learn a new skill to this level – not just ballroom dance, but as an adult we don’t really pick up new things – and we were practicing dance like 5-7 hours a day, so it’s like nobody has that time. But I was getting paid to do something fun.

You just watch your body change and got to see yourself do this new thing that you never thought you'd be able to do. So, that in itself was really rewarding. And, of course, just the relationships that come with it, meeting new people, and “Dancing with the Stars” has really been a family.

Gabby Windey (center) and Val Chmerkovskiy (right) finished second to Charli D'Amelio and Mark Ballas on season 31 of "Dancing with the Stars.
Gabby Windey (center) and Val Chmerkovskiy (right) finished second to Charli D'Amelio and Mark Ballas on season 31 of "Dancing with the Stars.

Who was the coolest star?

Everyone was really great. You kind of do keep to yourself, especially with COVID; they try and keep us separate. But naturally, I got to know Vinny (Guadagnino) pretty well. He was great. Everyone’s been really amazing to work with.

I saw you and Vinny jokingly flirting on Instagram.

I know. Everyone ate that up. We just built a friendship, we have similar senses of humor. We were at the studio around the same time a lot, so we naturally got to know each other. He was great. And when he came on tour for those couple days it’s nice to just have a friend, an outsider, because (performing on tour) isn’t our world. Normally, I’m here by myself, so it’s nice to have a comrade.

How was it working with your partner, Val Chmerkovskiy?

Val's amazing. We built a friendship like right away. And he's really, really great at what he does. I think anyone who watches him dance knows how talented he is, and he trained me really well – if I do say so myself.

But he was amazing. We had such a great time together.

Gabby Windey said Val Chmerkovskiy was "amazing" and they "built a friendship" right away. The pair finished second on season 31 of "Dancing with the Stars."
Gabby Windey said Val Chmerkovskiy was "amazing" and they "built a friendship" right away. The pair finished second on season 31 of "Dancing with the Stars."

It's obviously totally different, but how do you think your cheer background helped you with dancing?

Just performing. I do feel for people who have never performed because it is a little bit of a persona. It comes with confidence and kind of faking it until you make it. So, I think that part really helped me. When you step foot on stage, something does need to come inside of you to where you know you are putting on a performance. You have to kind of be somebody different for that minute-and-a-half, two minutes.

But, of course, ballroom dance was completely different. I've never performed this much or in this intimate of settings. The Broncos' stadium holds (around 76,000) people, which is an intimidating number, but you know nobody is really paying attention to you, so nobody really cares. Whereas (on "Dancing with the Stars") we're performing in front of like 2,000, 3,000, 4,0000 sometimes 10,000 people, but they're all really paying attention to you, so that is more intimidating.

Former "Bachelorette" star Gabby Windey had experience performing as a cheerleader for the Denver Broncos but, she said, "ballroom dance was completely different."
Former "Bachelorette" star Gabby Windey had experience performing as a cheerleader for the Denver Broncos but, she said, "ballroom dance was completely different."

What was the most difficult dance for you?

The paso doble definitely was the most difficult dance for me – to pick up. I think it clicked right in time, and it was really fun to perform. But learning it was really difficult.

It's not very feminine; they call it a man's dance. Me, especially as a cheerleader and just as a person, I'm very soft and feminine, so when I have to be really strong and assertive it feels like I don't as easy go into that character. So, that was kind of hard. And then our song, in particular, was an amazing song and it was true classic paso doble, but the tempo changed during it, so counting it was really hard. You didn't ever know what beat you were on.

You're performing all the time, practicing pretty much every day. What was your recovery process like?

I went to the sauna a lot, which helped. They have a great physical therapist there. I did have like a little shoulder, rotator cuff injury towards the end, so I was just trying to baby that. It's a common injury among ballroom dancers with your connecting hand.

And just trying to get rest, which was impossible. But really just paying attention to your injuries. As a nurse, I feel like I'm really in tune with my body, so just paying attention to it and giving your body whatever it needs at the time.

Now that you have completed three reality TV shows, which was more challenging, being one of the women on "The Bachelor," being the woman on "The Bachelorette" or "Dancing with the Stars"?

They were all really challenging in their different ways. I will say each one prepared me for the next. I don't know. Dancing was the most physically intense, obviously. And it was just as much time (as the other shows), but you had distractions. I would try and make plans with friends, but ended up bailing because I was just too tired. "Bachelor" and "Bachelorette" they take your phones, so that's all you think about during that time.

It's a hard question to answer. "Bachelorette" and "Bachelor" is more emotionally challenging, which I would probably take the physical over the emotional any day.

Former "Bachelor" and "Bachelorette" star Gabby Windey visited Cincinnati's Taft Theatre on Feb. 1 for the "Dancing with the Stars" tour. Windey finished second on season 31 of "DWTS."
Former "Bachelor" and "Bachelorette" star Gabby Windey visited Cincinnati's Taft Theatre on Feb. 1 for the "Dancing with the Stars" tour. Windey finished second on season 31 of "DWTS."

What's it like not having any contact with the outside world on the "Bachelor" and "Bachelorette"?

It's hard because you know your family is constantly thinking about you, your friends. But I would say it's probably harder for them. As the person, it's actually kind of refreshing knowing you can live life without your phone, and you do immediately. You're just way more present in life.

Once tour is over, what's next for you? Do you think you will go on any other shows?

I would love to be on any kind of show. I love TV. But I don't really know what's next. Tour goes for a while until March. So, I'm just seeing what comes my way and playing it by ear. That's what I've done for the last year-and-a-half, and it's led me here.

You're originally from the Midwest. Have you ever been to Cincinnati?

I don't think so. I've been to Dayton.

OK, not too far away. So, what are your thoughts on Ohio, if you can remember anything?

I think it's like the Midwest; the Midwest is great, great people, nice people. I heard there's really good food in Cincinnati.

I guess the true test is the show. So, hopefully, the crowd is loud, and I'm sure we'll have fun.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Gabby Windey talks 'DWTS' tour, Vinny Guadagnino friendship