Brooke Burke-Charvet on Life, Love, and Longevity
Posted On Apr 20, 2017
Photographs by Justin Stephens
It’s easy to look at Brooke Burke-Charvet and think she has it all. A successful actress and model (not to mention a bona fide former homecoming queen), she’s a true Hollywood sensation with covergirl looks, sexy dance moves, and bragging rights as the season seven winner of Dancing With the Stars. (Audiences loved her so much, in fact, that she has gone on to host the show since 2010.) Add to the mix her handsome French husband, David Charvet, and four adorable kids, and hers is a lovely picture, indeed.
Jealous though we might be, Burke-Charvet has weathered many storms and dealt with her share of health issues. In addition to being a survivor of thyroid cancer, she suffered from melisma, a post-pregnancy skin disorder that covered her body and disrupted her career for five years following the birth of her son.
Those days behind her, Burke-Charvet is the picture of vitality. In addition to her hosting duties, she’s a popular author of several wellness titles and an ambitious entrepreneur. In fact, her series of home workout videos may just make her the next Jane Fonda.
NEW YOU: Brooke, you have a packed professional schedule and a busy family life. What is your personal escape?
BROOKE BURKE-CHARVET: I have to be very creative about it. I make my own serenity at home. I’ll get into a bath and take 10 minutes to unwind. I love it when I can keep my children out of the bathroom. Now I make the bath hot enough so they can’t join me.
NY: You have a handsome French husband at home, actor David Charvet. Which of the two of you does the cooking?
BBC: I do. I really enjoy cooking, and consider it to be incredibly relaxing. I also believe in the values of sitting down together for a nice dinner. It’s our time to meet as a family, to have no gadgets at the table, to look one another in the eyes, and to enjoy a home-cooked meal. Hopefully there will always be a strong sense of memory related to that.
NY: Someone I once interviewed mentioned that he writes a letter to his child every year, as a memory of that year.
BBC: I keep different Word documents on my desktop, and whenever I’m feeling something special, or if I am moved sentimentally, I’ll jot down a very mushy, gushy letter for them. Maybe I’ll give it all to them when they’re 16. My mother wrote beautiful poems.
NY: What did you learn from your mom?
BBC: Unconditional love. That’s probably the most valuable lesson she could have given me as a mother. That, and the principle of endless support, gave me a lot of self-confidence. She was never judgmental. It’s a great gift to a child.
NY: What have you learned from your children?
BBC: Everything! They educate me every day. I’ve learned how to be flexible, and how to listen. I’ve learned how to accept people for who they are. They have different personalities—what works with one fails with another. I’ve learned to speak a different language with each of my children.
NY: Do you think that women tend to be stronger caregivers than men?
BBC: I think we have a gift as women. We have this magical ability to just keep giving the love and the time and the energy. Nobody prepared us for PMS, for raising children, for marriage. We’re just thrown into life. Sometimes I think, Where’s the handbook that we all need?
NY: You’re associated with Babooshbaby.com. What information does that website offer that should be part of every woman’s handbook?
BBC: When I was pregnant with my third child, I found a great, natural approach to getting back in shape after having a baby. I learned the technique from my French mother-in-law. European, Asian, and South American women wrap and bind their bellies after pregnancy. I created a compression garment called Tauts, and it helps put everything back in place, supports your abs, and retrains your back. I was able to get back in shape easier and faster at 37 than I did in my 20s.
NY: Age 37 is when you won Dancing with the Stars. You had completed your final dance with partner Derek Hough, and were facing the judges. What went through your mind?
BBC: I would like to say “pure joy,” but those were absolute tears of relief. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, but it was also challenging on every level, as a woman. It was about stepping out of my comfort zone, doing something I have never done before, and pushing myself mentally, emotionally, and physically.
NY: How did you get over the hump, in which you thought, Not another day?
BBC: One day I was crying in the shower. I had pulled a hamstring, and had disruptive tendons on my two feet. I was getting physical therapy three times a week. My husband said, “You can’t quit. You’ve come this far. What’s that going to mean to the children?” I really thought about that, because quitting is the easy thing to do in life. The hard thing to do is dig deep and figure out why you’re invested in something, why it’s important to follow through. I knew I had to finish it for myself as well as for my family. They had sacrificed a lot during those three months.
NY: It’s been a year since you overcame thyroid cancer. What did you learn from that ordeal?
BBC: Sometimes, something comes along that is much more powerful than you are. I’ve had two close people pass away battling cancer, and I’ve learned that it really isn’t about what happens to us—it’s about how we deal with challenges.
NY: Are the 40s life-changing for women?
BBC: They are fragile. The 40s are a very delicate decade for women—especially now, since we have access to so many medical procedures that can change our looks. If a woman has done a bit of work, you should never know. Women who do too much scare me. I’m glad it scares me. I was married to a plastic surgeon, so I’ve seen it all.
NY: Looking to the future, where do you see yourself in your 50s?
BBC: Health and fitness are a huge part of my life, and I’m working hard to build my fitness brands, and plan on continuing to produce DVDs. I’m very inspired when I look at Jane Fonda and what she’s been able to do. I love to educate women about how to take care of themselves. Watching women change and seeing their results is really gratifying.
NY: You’re now at age 42, and you’ve already walked a long road. Would you say that you have any regrets?
BBC: I regret having a marriage that didn’t work, because divorce is “forever” for children. I regret that my two oldest daughters have to grow up knowing that sometimes a family falls apart. That’s my heartbreaking life lesson. But I’m happy that they can see love now.
NY: What advice would you give to somebody on that fast track to fame and trying to do it right, yet who might not be getting the love?
BBC: Women have so many opportunities today. One of the lessons I’ve learned is that you have to assemble your team. That is so important. I don’t just mean your workforce. I mean your team. That means your partner, or your family if you’re choosing to have children. The most important people in my life are those who I see when I go home, the ones I fall back upon. Everything else is icing. If you have that kind of a foundation, you can do anything. Make sure that you assemble your team of friends and family, because everybody needs someone to count on. That can even mean one person. You have to know that somebody has “got you.” I say that to my children all the time: “Don’t worry, I’ve got you.”