Although ABC has been leaking the latest “Dancing With the Stars” cast member names over the last week to build anticipation for the 21st season (Gary Busey rode a horse on Jimmy Kimmel’s show to announce the news), the network made things official Wednesday on “Good Morning America.”
This is also the first season without Len Goodman, the strictest judge of all, who announced earlier that he won’t be returning to the ballroom with fellow judges Bruno Tonioli, Carrie Ann Inaba and Julianne Hough, and returning hosts Erin Andrews and the always-witty Tom Bergeron.
“One shot of Gary Busey, and I know I’m going to earn my money this season,” Bergeron said on “GMA.”
The most controversial contestant this time around? Embattled chef Paula Deen. George Stephanopulos noted she’s had a tough couple of of years, and asked Deen what she hoped to get from the experience. “A bunch of new friends and maybe lose some weight,” she declared.
Here’s the complete cast list for this season, which kicks off Sept. 14:
– Alek Skarlatos, National Army Guard Specialist (partnered with Lindsay Arnold). How you know him: He’s one of the three Americans who recently made headlines for heroics on a train from Amsterdam to Paris, when he and his two friends successfully overpowered a man who opened fire.
– Alexa PenaVega, actress (partnered with Mark Ballas). How you know her: She was a child star in the “Spy Kids” movies, and now plays Kiley on ABC’s “Nashville,” the mother of Gunnar’s (well, actually his brother’s) recently-discovered child.
– Andy Grammer, singer (partnered with Allison Holker). How you know him: The pop singer was recently on stage with Taylor Swift playing “Honey, I’m Good,” his new single that’s impossible to get out of your head. Before that, he had the equally catchy “Keep Your Head Up.”
– Bindi Irwin, animal conservationist (partnered with Derek Hough). How you know her: The 17-year-old Australian is the daughter of the late Steve Irwin, and has carried on his legacy as a conservationist. Meanwhile, since she’s partnered with Derek Hough, the producers obviously have high hopes.
– Carlos PenaVega, singer/actor (partnered with Witney Carson). How you know him: If you have kids, and they watch Nickelodeon’s “Big Time Rush.” Oh, and he’s married to Alexa PenaVega, which makes them the first married couple to compete together.
– Chaka Khan, singer (partnered with Keo Motsepe). How you know her: “I’m Every Woman,” obviously. And as a music legend.
– Gary Busey, actor (partnered with Anna Trebunskaya). How you know him: As the strangest actor of our time? Also from many reality show appearances.
– Hayes Grier, Vine star (partnered with Emma Slater). How you know him: If you have a Vine account, or know what Vine is. Just know the teens love him.
– Kim Zolciak Biermann, reality star (partnered with Tony Dovolani). How you know her: Not only was she a member of “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” she’s the mind behind one of the greatest gems of our times, the song “Tardy for the Party.”
– Nick Carter, singer (partnered with Sharna Burgess). How you know him: The dreamiest member of the Backstreet Boys, obviously. Who wants to place bets on how early a BSB song will play?
– Paula Deen, TV chef (partnered with Louis van Amstel). How you know her: As the TV chef who experienced an extraordinary downfall after that racism scandal.
– Tamar Braxton, singer/reality star (partnered with Val Chmerkovskiy). How you know her: Formerly a backup singer for sister Toni Braxton, she’s now a singer in her own right and star of two WE TV reality shows.
– Victor Espinoza, jockey (partnered with Karina Smirnoff). How you know him: He finally won the Triple Crown this year with trusty horse American Pharoah.