Maks Chmerkovskiy is crediting PEOPLE’s reigning Sexiest Man Alive for helping change his perspective about Dancing With the Stars.
Although Chmerkovskiy, 37, is once again competing as a pro dancer on the ABC dancing competition reality series, there was a point just a few years ago when the pro said that he would never go back to the show.
In an October 2015 podcast interview with Allegedly with Theo Von & Matthew Cole Weiss, the DWTS pro revealed that he had no intention of returning to the series: “It’s a permanent thing. I’m not coming back.”
So what changed in the mind of the DWTS pro?
“It’s kind of a funny story; I bounced back from it because of my Instagram scrolling one day! If you know me, you know I’m not a very social media centric person — I do it, but I’ll never post a picture of me coming out of the shower with my abs on display (sorry, ladies). I promote my family, my friends, and my businesses/associates. Anyway, I came across The Rock’s page, and it was really inspirational,” he said in an interview with Vulkan Magazine about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson‘s — a.k.a. PEOPLE’s 2016 Sexiest Man Alive — influence.
“He was talking about business and said something like ‘I’ve made it big as an actor, but I’ll never turn my back on my core fans. Their support has helped make me who I am, helped shape my career, so why would I shun my original wrestling fans?’ That really resonated with me!” he continued.
Chmerkovskiy, who welcomed his first child — son Shai Aleksander — in January with his fiancée Peta Murgatroyd, said that he then began “taking better care” of himself and delved into learning “more about health and nutrition.”
“I started taking an interest in sports rehabilitation and so many athletes have come back from injuries and had record-breaking years, so I thought, ‘If they can do it, why can’t I?’ ” he told the publication.
Despite his public tension with the series almost two years ago, Chmerkovskiy has since returned to competing on live television and credits the show for giving him a second chance.
“I got my second lease on my professional career by coming back to the show that helped me be who I am,” he said, and added, “A lot of the opportunities I’ve capitalized on have come from being on the show so I’m paying my dues and having an amazing time doing it!”
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.