Rick Perry once hoped to spend this fall winning the hearts and votes of Americans across the county. And, in a way, he still will be – but instead of campaigning as a presidential candidate, Perry will join the upcoming 23rd season of ABC's reality show Dancing With the Stars, he announced Tuesday.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Each week on Dancing With the Stars, celebrities compete in choreographed dances in tandem with a professional dancer. Judges score contestants and eliminate those with the lowest scores at the end of the week. In past seasons, viewers could also cast votes for the best dance by calling their votes in or balloting online with ABC's website or Facebook app. So if you really miss voting for Perry – Texas's longest-serving governor – in actual elections, this is as close as you can get for now.
If you're wondering why or how Perry, who left office last year, is competing on the show, you're not alone. (One E! News headline about the announcement reads simply, “Why Is Rick Perry Doing Dancing With The Stars?”) Since participating in reality TV clearly worked for one of our current presidential candidates, perhaps Perry hopes that some of that reality-show stardom will rub off on him if he chooses to run for president again.
However, according to Perry's Twitter, joining Dancing With the Stars is about a cause far loftier than political ambition: “I'm dedicated to helping #veterans whenever possible, and I'm going to use @dancingabc as a stage to do that,” Perry tweeted Tuesday, with the obligatory hashtag “#DWTS” and a photo of the governor mean-mugging the camera. It's still unclear how Perry's learning to tango will exactly help American veterans – for example, he wouldn't be able to donate his prize if he won the competition, as contestants are compensated for each episode they compete in.
Perry also tweeted his doubts about his dancing abilities, writing that his partner, Emma Slater, “is a great teacher but she's got her work cut out for her.” Perry told the Washington Post that he's only danced in public four times: at George W. Bush's presidential inaugural ball, and at each of his own three gubernatorial inaugural balls. But that's not strictly true. As we wrote in 2011, as governor, Perry also once danced around a menorah with a group of Orthodox rabbis. Afterward, one of the rabbis even joked, “That's the real Dancing With the Stars.” “That is the real Dancing With the Stars, very true,” Perry agreed. (Considering that Perry looks pretty uncomfortable throughout the dancing, this might be an ominous sign for his chances on the show.)
Yet Perry's probably smart to set expectations low, since he's more known for his Republican reforms than his ability to get down, and the competition this season will be stiff. Disgraced Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez and Amber Rose – Kanye West's former girlfriend and current talk show host – are also among the “stars” set to samba their way across the dance floor this season.
Dancing with the Stars premieres September 12, at 7 p.m., on ABC. We'll definitely be watching.