She has pirouetted and pelvic-thrusted her way into your - and Channing's - heart. Now Jenna opens up about how dancing curbed her bad-girl instincts, her legendary Lip Sync Battle, and her primal sexual connection with her hubs.
We all have our emotional triggers. One of Jenna Dewan Tatum’s is Dance Moms. She was a year old when her parents split, leading Jenna and her mom, who got a job in pharmaceuticals, to relocate every three years. They finally settled in Grapevine, Texas, when Jenna was in high school. Her one constant? Dance. “Everywhere we would move, I’d find a new studio,” she tells me over a grilled kale salad at L.A.’s Chateau Marmont. “That show gives me such anxiety. I lived it. I can’t watch.” A chance meeting with Dance Moms’ infamous coach, Abby Lee Miller, was especially jarring. She says Abby compared her to the reality series’ now-14-year-old breakout star, Maddie Ziegler. “She was like, ‘I knew you were the Maddie! Come to my studio! Bring your daughter!’” Jenna recalls, “I was like, absolutely not.”
Jenna, who is the face of Danskin, is all too familiar with the brutal realities of the dance world. “Your whole life is a competition, and it made me so hard on myself. If I dropped my heel on a turn, it was a day of crying. My mom would be like, ‘It’s okay. You’re your own worst critic.’” Jenna kept at it, and as a freshman at the University of Southern California, she got her big break dancing backup for Janet Jackson. Stints with P. Diddy and *NSYNC soon followed. But it wasn’t until the 2006 dance-mance Step Up that the world – and her co-star Channing Tatum – would know her name. Clearly, Jenna made a lasting impression—she and Magic Mike, er, we mean Channing, have been married for more than seven years and have a 3-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Everly.
This January marked one year since Jenna blew everyone’s minds aping Channing as Magic Mike on Lip Sync Battle. Her performance to Ginuwine’s “Pony” – complete with painted-on abs, floor humping, and yes, a lap dance for her slackjawed husband, who was also her competitor – did more to endear the 36-year-old to fans than perhaps even her turns in Witches of East End, American Horror Story and Supergirl. She says she told Channing, “If I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do you, because what else do I have?! People are going to cheer for you if you walk out there and do nothing!” She wasn’t wrong. But let the record show, she crushed him. Channing had to dress up as (and actually bring out) Beyoncé to come anywhere near besting his wife. And even then, the internet was outraged when the couple were awarded a tie. JDT was clearly the victor.
There is hope for a rematch though. The duo are currently working on a dance-competition reality series. While the details are still under wraps, she says the goal is to “make it one giant party every week,” and adds, “I’m going to be dancing. I’m sure I’m going to make Chan dance at some point.” (All together now, yaaas!!!) For a peek into Jenna’s world, read on.
COSMOPOLITAN: To be fair, I can see why Abby thought you were “the Maddie.”
Jenna: Yeah, I was a studio kid. Jazz and lyrical were my favorites. I was really dramatic. Channing looks at the videos and has the biggest laugh. But I thank dance all the time because I’m such a partier. I like to get down. I would have been a little too wild in high school if it hadn’t been for dance. I was a cheerleader and into that, but if anything was going to interfere with my dance career, it wasn’t happening.
You didn’t party at all?
I had a couple nights of partying. One night, I got so drunk. We drank Everclear, and I ended up throwing up. “Pony” was popular then, and you know that background—bluch bluch bluch. For that year, every time it would come on, everyone would say, “That’s Jenna’s song!”
That song haunts you!
Yeah, I actually suggested it for Magic Mike. I was like, “Who better to strip to than Ginuwine? Come on!” Now, it’s obviously the calling card to that movie. When it came out, we’d be at a restaurant and they’d start playing it because Chan was there. Then Lip Sync Battle happened, and now it happens to me too!
Let’s talk about how being a backup dancer on tour seems like the best job ever.
I had the time of my life. Your hotels are taken care of. You’re going on private
jets. But you’re living a life that’s not real. And there’s always drama. People get sick of each other. Friendships and alliances change. There’s an underlying darkness. It’s literally like Game of Thrones. Then the tour ends, you go back to your apartment, and you’re like, What do I do now?
There were rumors that you and Justin Timberlake hooked up back in the day—true or nah?
I wouldn’t say we were romantically a couple, but we definitely had an awesome connection. You know those people who you feel like you’ve known forever? That was us. He’s one of the nicest Southern boys you’ll meet. We’re still friends.
Take us through the whole Step Up Jenna and Channing origin story.
My manager called and said they’re doing a dance movie with this new hottie, Tatum Channing. She said it backward! “Oh you know, Tatum! He’s in Coach Carter, look him up!” Anyway, I went in to read for the part with Channing, but showed up late with the wrong scenes. Then I opened the door on the poor girl who was auditioning before me right as they were leaning in for a kiss. I was horrified. But he was so sweet. He came out and worked the scenes with me.
Were you instantly attracted to him?
Obviously, he’s super hot. I was like, “All right! Okay!” So we did the scenes. After, they were like, “Just stand next to each other on camera.” There’s a video of this, and we’re completely flirting in it. I’m looking at him going, “You’re so big! You’re so tall!” And he’s like, “You dance really good.” I sound like Minnie Mouse, and he’s talking so deep. Then it ends on us just looking at each other being like, “Hi.” We’ve kept that. We’ve gotta show Evie one day.
Who made the first move?
We went out one night and danced at a club, and there was that feeling. Then we started hanging out. But he had just gotten out of a relationship, so I said, “You know what? You are probably not ready to jump into another one. Why don’t you take time and figure out what you want?” I told him, “I always know what I want. I’m more of a monogamous relationship person. So that’s where I would go with this, but I totally understand.” I was smart enough not to get my feelings wrapped up in it. I figured we might just be into each other because we’re shooting a movie. I said, “While you’re figuring that out, I’m not just going to hang out and watch movies and flirt. I’ll see you on-set.”
Nice. You played it cool.
It was two nights of being weird. We hadn’t even kissed. And then he went out partying with a bunch of dancers. His room was right above mine, and he came down drunk with a sombrero on, banging on my door. He was like, “I couldn’t stop thinking about you. Let’s do this. I just want to be with you.” From that point forward, we were together.
And the sex—how was it?
That was one of our biggest connections. It’s just always been there. We’re not those people who can just say, screw it, let’s be sexual. We have to be connected in the right way. But I’ve always been a very sexual person. We definitely have a very happy and healthy [sex life]. Something about being a dancer connects you to your physical body. It’s primal, earthy, sexual energy by nature. You feel your body in a certain way. Channing is very much the same way. He’s very in tune with that. It just worked.
Ever not been in the mood with him?
Oh yeah. Anyone who says that doesn’t happen is absolutely lying. There are times when you’re too busy, too tired. I think the difference between women and men is that men are physical—gotta get it done. Me, I have to feel emotionally connected. I have to be in a good place.
I saw on your Snapchat that you’re a Reiki healer. What’s that all about?
I could give you a Reiki healing if you wanted! I like to play around. I’ll do it with Evie when she’s getting overwhelmed. She thinks it’s so funny. It’s an ancient healing modality from Japan where you tap into a conscious energy conflict. Chan loves He gets all the nice side
effects of having a hippie wife. He drank a vitamin one time, and it gave him hives. I did something, and it went away. Now, was that because timing-wise it had left his body by the time I was done? Or do we think it’s because I have powers? I don’t know. But he’s like, you can try it on me!
Have you always been into the alterna-spiritual stuff?
I realized very early on that I was sensitive to people’s energy. My friends call me the crystal lady. My bedroom is, like, gridded with them. They all carry different vibrations. When I travel, I pull them out of my pockets. Channing’s like, “Are you kidding me, babe?”
And you’re a vegan, right?
I’m a vegetarian/vegan. I’m not gonna fight someone if there’s a little bit of cheese. When I was pregnant, I was in London, and it was hard to keep that diet. We actually got pregnant at the worst time. I found out right after I filmed the pilot for the Witches of East End, and then we spent six months in London while Chan was doing Jupiter Ascending. It was not a planned baby. It was crazy, but we figured it out. You’ve just got to trust and follow the flow of life.
This article was originally published as ‘All The Right Moves’ in the February 2017 issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more inspiring celeb interviews, grab a copy of our latest magazine.
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