Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue, just before Rock of Ages was released.
By Elizabeth Rahe
Yellow caution tape held the paparazzi back, but their telephoto lenses zeroed in on Julianne Hough splashing off Hollywood Beach in a purple bikini. Sure, her Rock of Ages co-star, Mexican singer/actor Diego Boneta, was there, embracing her in the surf for the movie scene. But the focus – not surprisingly – was on Hough and her dancer-perfect form.
During Rock of Ages filming last summer, photographers seemed to follow her everywhere – relaxing with friends by the pool, running on the beach with her trainer, riding a WaveRunner with her boyfriend, producer and American Idol host Ryan Seacrest.
Not that we were looking.
The camera loves blond, blue-eyed Hough, but the 23-year-old backs her cover-girl looks with accomplishments in dance, singing and acting. She garnered her first headlines in 2007, winning Dancing with the Stars twice, with speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno and IndyCar champion Helio Castroneves.
Next she turned to country music, releasing a self-titled album and taking the Top New Artist award at the 2009 Academy of Country Music Awards. Her 2010 single, Is That So Wrong, spawned a video featuring a racy striptease.
Hough’s current focus seems to be on film. In the past several years she has gone from playing a seductive burlesque performer (Burlesque) to a wayward preacher’s daughter (Footloose) to a small town dreamer turned exotic dancer (Rock of Ages).
She has described the South Florida filming of the musical as fun, crazy, totally unpredictable. “Everyday would be like, ‘Wait – we have a monkey on set? Wait – we have prostitutes? Wait we have…what is going on?…It was fantastic,’ ” she told Access Hollywood.
Her latest project is an untitled Diablo Cody film in which she plays a young evangelical woman who gets burned in a plane crash, loses her faith and heads for Las Vegas to experience life on the wild side (expected in 2013).
Does anyone else detect a running theme here?
Perhaps her fall-from-grace role choices are in reaction to her conservative roots. She was born in Sandy, Utah, the youngest of five children in a Mormon family with a legacy of ballroom dancing. Her brother, Derek Hough, 26, is a three-time Dancing with the Stars winner. Their father, Bruce R. Hough, is a business executive, blogger and national Republican committeeman from Utah. After Burlesque Julianne expressed concern about his possible reaction to her scanty wardrobe in the film.
From all appearances, however, Hough confines her wild living to the big screen. She has the image of a hard-working artist who stays out of trouble.
One of her Twitter posts last June speaks to her self-image: “LOVE Reese Witherspoon!!!!! Good Girls do exist and CAN make it in “Hollywood”! [Thanks] for being a great idol! And one of mine!”
Her tweets are filled with messages about family and friends, her work and her dogs. A YouTube video from her trailer on the Rock of Ages set reveals yet another talent – training her Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Lexi and Harley, with warmth, discipline and grace.
These traits seem to have worked quite well for their master so far.