By Adam S. Levy – Radar Staff Writer
Chaz Bono lived up to the hype in his highly-anticipated debut on Dancing with the Stars‘ 13th season premiere Monday night, closing the show with a rousing cha-cha for which he was awarded 17 out of 30 points.
The 42-year-old daughter-turned-son of Cher and the late Sonny Bono, whose casting on the show led to controversy among conservative groups, left no mystery as to who he is in his introductory vignette.
“I’m Chaz Bono, I’m the first transgender contestant on Dancing With the Stars, which means that I was born with a female body, but have transitioned and am now a male,” he said. “People first got to know me as Sonny and Cher’s child on their TV show.”
The show wisely capitalized on the anticipation of seeing Chaz take the floor, saving his performance for last, as his proud girlfriend Jennifer Elia cried in the audience. (Cher was not in the audience, but it’s rumored she will attend at some point, assuming Chaz remains on the show).
Following his cha-cha set to the 1960s Motown classic Dancing in the Streets, with partner Lacey Schwimmer, it was clear from the audience and judges’ reaction Chaz will be a force in this season’s competition.
“Chazzy boy, you can dance!” Carrie Ann Inaba told him. “You light up this room, I can’t wait, I want to see more and more and more dancing!”
Despite the bonanza of praise and applause, Chaz maintained a humble demeanor following his strong first showing.
“Thanks to everyone for your love, support, and votes!” Bono tweeted after the show Monday. “I had an awesome time dancing with @LaceySchwimmer and hope to do it again next week.”
A Dancing with the Stars meet the cast show will air ABC at 8/7c Tuesday, while the results show airs at 9/8c, during which one couple will be eliminated.