From a wardrobe malfunction to a controversial winner — how 'Dancing With the Stars' began with a bang 15 years ago

Nick Paschal
Supervising Producer, Yahoo Entertainment

In June 2005, the Sith were getting their revenge in Star Wars, Gwen Stefani was announcing she ain't no hollaback girl and stars were dancing into our homes for the first time. It’s now 15 years and 28 seasons later, and Dancing With the Stars is still Foxtrotting along with outrageous outfits, controversial celebs, shocking moments, incredible dancing and some not-so-incredible dance moves. 

Host Tom Bergeron didn't see any of it coming. "I thought, 'Well, it might be a fun summer show. Might, you know, show up a few weeks every summer. But no expectation that we'd be talking about it 15 years down the road," he tells Yahoo Entertainment. Even though Bergeron wasn't sold on the show at first, he quickly warmed up to the idea. "This is a self aware, kind of kitschy but exciting at the same time, competition of people coming out of their comfort zones," says the host.

Back in that very first episode, judge Carrie Ann Inaba was out of her comfort zone when she got her first taste of boos from an audience after she gave a slightly harsh critique to General Hospital star, and eventual winner, Kelly Monaco. Following Monaco's first dance, Inaba said, "Kelly, I didn't enjoy your dancing. You looked very stiff and you looked very refined. I appreciated your carriage, but it was very stiff. And it wasn't enjoyable to watch."

Kelly Monaco and her partner Alex Mazo on Dancing With the Stars. (Photo: ABC/ADAM LARKEY)

Looking back now, Inaba thinks she might've come on a little strong. "I was shocked at how abrasive the words sounded once they came out of my mouth because I was meaning them with, like, compassion, but they didn't come out with compassion. And that's been a huge lesson of being a judge is you really have to be careful how you wrap your words," she tells Yahoo Entertainment. 

Inaba has since learned to carefully craft her critiques, and offers an apology to Monaco: "Kelly Monaco, I just have to apologize to you, I mean forgive me. What I did — what I said was horrible, but I was a baby judge and I was still learning how to do it." The DWTS stalwart then jokingly attempts a do-over critique. Pretending she were looking at Kelly on the dance floor, Inaba says in a very diplomatic tone, "There's things we could work on here, but there's a lot of potential," before laughing and adding, "I love you, Kelly!" 

The Season 1 cast of Dancing With the Stars. (Photo: ABC/ADAM LARKEY)

The first season of the show only had six contestants — boxing legend Evander Holyfield, supermodel Rachel Hunter, Bachelorette Trista Sutter, New Kids on the Block heartthrob Joey McIntyre, Seinfeld star John O'Hurley and Kelly Monaco. O'Hurley and Monaco met in the finals, where she samba'd so hard her wardrobe malfunctioned. 

The strap on Monaco's top snapped off and she danced through most of her samba while holding onto her top. It was an impressive performance that Inaba admits was the turning point for Monaco. "Suddenly she got into this, like almost like warrior princess mode and she, like, every move was stronger and harder, it was, like, making up for the fact that her wardrobe slipped and she wasn't insecure and that's what was so great," raves Inaba.

Kelly Monaco holds onto her top as she nails a dance move. (Photo: Adam Larkey/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

Bergeron was also amazed by Kelly's perseverance, saying, "She should have won on that alone. You know, just in the midst of a live TV thing and to still dance really, really well while holding your wardrobe together. Uh, I thought that was pretty impressive." 

Monaco did end up winning after her final dance scored the only perfect 30 of the season, although there was some backlash following her victory because people felt O'Hurley had danced better throughout the season. The controversy prompted a special rematch dance-off between the two, which Inaba now feels was unnecessary. "I don't think that was a good idea," she says. "I think the winner should always just be the winner. Good, bad or whether you agree or disagree, too bad. That's the way it should be."

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