Throughout season 29 of Dancing With the Stars, Carole Baskin will be guest blogging about her experience on the show with her celeb partner, Pasha Pashkov, for ET. This week, the Big Cat Rescue CEO discusses everything from her golden costume fit for a queen to what it was like facing elimination. Ultimately, it was NBA legend Charles Oakley and Emma Slater who judges sent home on Tuesday.
Hi everyone, I am thrilled to still be in the running for the mirrorball trophy after the first elimination!
There is so much I want people to know about why big cats should never be bred for life in cages and why captive bred cats can never legally or ethically be turned loose. The clips on Dancing With The Stars are short, as are most of the media interviews, and people seem to be obsessed with wanting to know what it’s like for me. The time I have to get across the far more important messages about why saving big cats in the wild is critical to saving our planet’s life support system is so fleeting that I need to stay in the competition for the full season if I’m ever going to do justice by the cats.
That being said, placing in the bottom two this week was a horrible, gut-wrenching experience for two reasons. One, really needing to win for the reason I just expressed, and two, feeling just awful that winning means someone else loses. I like situations that are Win / Win and I can’t think of anything that would make losing easier on the contestant who is voted off the show.
There was also a scare with Kaitlyn Bristowe this week, who is battling an ankle injury. Luckily for me, my worst injuries so far have been my hands.
I hit something by accident in the apartment I’m staying at within the first couple of days here in Los Angeles, and the only reason I can use it at all is because Pasha knows all the best tricks of the trade for sprains. I whacked my finger into the spinning camera on the dance floor and really felt that the next day, but thankfully, that was minor and over. Today, however, I did so many tippy-toe steps that my ankles feel like elephant feet, so I’ll probably be using more of that Arnicare gel.
Show days have also been turning out to be too busy to eat. I get a morning meal, but then the day starts at 8 a.m. and runs until 9 p.m. and there just isn’t time for food. Besides, Victor Del Castillo’s amazing artwork via makeup wouldn’t fare well if I did. I eat alone, mostly because I have developed some sloppy habits!
Speaking of hair and makeup, I thought the costume in Week 1 was the most amazing dress I’d ever seen, but the wardrobe crew really outdid themselves in Week 2. I felt like I was just dripping in gold! The crown was actually made from two props they had created but never used in another setting. When they asked which one to go with, someone (I think my hair stylist, Anthony Wilson), said, “How about both?”
Pasha and I did have a lot of concern about the crown. We both absolutely wanted it in the dance, but I didn’t know if the weight and pressure of wearing it all day would squeeze my brains out of my ears. Pasha wasn’t sure we could do all the turns under his arm and we didn’t get a chance to check that out until show day, just a few hours before the LIVE show.
They told me that once the crown was attached to my head, I was going to be stuck in it… and I was! We had a rehearsal at 11 a.m. in it, and then I was still wearing it through the end of the show and the couple hours of press Zoom calls. Through clever placement and anchoring to an added braid, however, it wasn’t uncomfortable at all.
I will say, there was a bit of a mishap when Anthony clamped it all down and left for lunch. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I was wearing a pull-over shirt and it was a struggle to pull it off over the crown. My hair ended up all in a tangle on the spikes, which resulted in a frantic call to Anthony to try and help me.
The rest of the night I was banging that crown into curtains, walls, the plexiglass sheets that separate the dancers on the balcony, and Pasha. We cleared the crown on the turns during all of our rehearsals, but I must have moved abruptly in the live show and whacked it against Pasha in the very first turn. After we danced, he said he felt it, but it made me smile when it happened. So in a way, Pasha thought it added to the joy of the dance when I couldn’t contain my laughter over the incident.
There was a lot of emotion and vulnerability during the video that played during our dance this week. I knew that I had cried during my heart-to-heart with Pasha, and because his eyes welled up with tears too, I figured there was no way that wasn’t going to be in the package.
I thought I’d have plenty of time to tell my family not to worry about me crying. I thought I would be able to explain that we had talked for a long time about how hard it has been for me to see the way Tiger King’s gross misrepresentation of me had caused them so much pain. (Imagine if your loved one or mother were accused of such heinous crimes … of course you would want to defend your loved ones.)
On Dancing with the Stars tonight at 8|7c on ABC, Carole Baskin reveals life after Tiger King. #DWTS
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Instead, first thing in the morning that day, I see the press is already using the clip of me crying on the couch all over the place. You can imagine their panic when they saw me losing control because they thought that all of the pressure had taken me to a place they almost never see me go.
Once my family understood the context of my tears, they seemed assured that I wasn’t cracking under pressure of too little sleep, too much exertion and too heavy a workload. My husband, Howard, and daughter, Jamie Veronica, would tell you that they would rather I cry than hold it in, but I don’t think either of them would ever want to see the way I cry when there is no one around.
They deal with so many stressors because we are dealing with life and death situations all the time, and have to keep our cats and our people safe. We can’t fail because there is no safety net out there for cats (who can cost as much as $10,000 a year each in food and vet care).
Anyways, after being mortified at crying on national television, I was both delighted and concerned about hearing that “Circle of Life” is going to be our song for Disney Night next week. If there is a song that can bring me to tears, it’s that one, and I really don’t want to cry on stage.
Just today, during practice, I got a call from the Florida Wildlife Commission that there was a bobcat in distress. I immediately called Jamie Veronica and she and a team drove an hour away to assist the cat. When they arrived, they saw and filmed the most horrific sight I think I’ve ever witnessed during a native wild cat rescue.
They were filming the way the bobcat was dragging both back legs and painfully yelping out in her attempt to be fierce in the face of humans on the scene. She was rail thin and frantically pulling herself along by her front paws along the side of a lake and looking back over her shoulder. When they panned the camera to see what she was looking at, since it didn’t seem to be the rescue team, they saw she was running for her life from the jaws of an alligator that was stalking her. They were able to intervene, net the bobcat and took her back to our onsite, Windsong Memorial Cat Hospital, where she was met by our vet Dr. Justin Boorstein.
X-rays showed that she was a geriatric cat with extensive arthritis in her spine, but what had caused her lameness was that her back legs and pelvis had been utterly shattered and the bones were sticking out of her open wounds. This old, injured bobcat had apparently dragged herself to the water’s edge to drink and was about to die a most horrific death. Instead, she was spirited to safety and sedated for her exam. When we saw (I watched the whole thing on our live web cam) that she had no chance of healing from her wounds, given their severity and her advanced age, we had to make the heartbreaking decision to help her pass on to better hunting grounds through a painless injection while she slept.
Making those kinds of “circle of life” decisions are always hard; even when we are absolutely sure it is the kindest thing to do. Given the fact that we’ve rescued hundreds of exotic cats, and over 800 domestic cats in our foster program, I’ve had to make that decision far more than anyone is designed to handle. The “Circle of Life” song will surely flood them all back through my mind while I’m trying to hold back tears and hold my head high in the dance.
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As for all the songs we’ve danced to being about cats so far? When I was invited to be on Dancing With The Stars, they asked me for my favorite songs and most of them are cat-themed. I don’t know until the week before which one they might choose, but I know Pasha is the one who creates the choreography.
Going into this next week, I just have to stay in the game. I don’t know how I can work any harder than I did the first three weeks that I’ve been training here, but on top of that, my workload has increased exponentially.
But I take every hour of every rehearsal Dancing With The Stars will give me with Pasha, and then will practice on my own in the apartment until my aching feet just can’t handle another step. While the swelling in these old paws subsides, I knock out as much computer work as I can, and as soon as I think I can take another 20 passes through the routine, I get back to it.
I also watch the other dancers and see so much raw, natural talent in all of those left on the show. It’s going to take nothing short of a miracle to make it to Week 4.
Carole will be documenting her ballroom journey with Pasha all season long for ET. Got a question you want her to answer? Send them to ET’s Desiree Murphy on Twitter or Instagram!
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