LAS VEGAS -- As a two-time champion, Julianne Hough is used to people calling in to vote for her on Dancing With the Stars. However, when she accepted the trophy for top new artist -- a fan-voted category -- at the ACM Awards on Sunday (April 5) in Las Vegas, she made it a point to emphasize her gratitude to the fans.
"They have backed me up from the beginning," she told reporters backstage. "They have been the ones that have supported me and given me courage and belief to keep going. When a lot of people thought I was crazy -- [saying] 'You can't do that' -- I was like, 'You know what? I feel like I can.' I know my fans think that, too."
Hough said that Sugarland's Kristian Bush hugged her after her win and officially welcomed her to country music. "I just started crying," she said, as she choked back tears, "and I'm going to start crying again. But it's awesome."
Asked about her high-profile touring schedule, Hough said, "I forgot to mention that. First of all, thanks to Brad Paisley for having me out on his tour last time because that was me growing. And, of course, George Strait asking me this time. ... Woo, stop crying, Julianne, it's over! ... George Strait, just the fact that he has supported me from the beginning as well, I'm totally honored and humbled. I've got so much to learn, and I can't wait."
Hough admitted she was exhausted from balancing her TV engagement with her music career, but she noted she had put dancing aside for the day to enjoy a "date night" with Chuck Wicks, a fellow country singer who is also her dancing partner and boyfriend.
"I knew it was going to be hard for me to transition. I know to a lot of people, this was kind of a weird way to transition, but it's TV. ... And that's the way to do it these days -- to get your foot in the door," she said with a laugh. "And, of course, with my fans, like I said, they have supported me from the beginning, and the other music industry folk and even other artists and writers. All of my texts were from the writers in Nashville, like, 'Go girl, we were rootin' for ya!' That means so much to me, too, just to be accepted in the country music industry."
Asked about Wicks' progress on Dancing With the Stars, she said, "He's so great. He listens to everything they say. Maybe not completely agree with them -- and trust me I don't. We work really hard, and he's so competitive, and I am, too. But I think he's at a good point now."
She also fielded a question about how her family influenced her and her brother, Derek Hough, who also competes on Dancing With the Stars.
"Growing up, we were always trying to be in front of the camera for home videos," she said. "We were always doing it from the beginning and they put us in lessons -- singing, acting, dancing, kung fu. You name it, we were in it. Basically, we just picked what we loved and they said, 'Go for it. We believe in you.' I think that's the biggest thing. I've always believed in myself, too, no matter what anybody says. Because a lot of people have said, 'You're crazy for giving up your dancing to go sing country music,' and I'm like, 'I don't care. This is what I love, and I'm going to do it until I get there.'"
Because she was visibly overwhelmed by the experience, one reporter asked if she usually considered herself to be an emotional person.
"No, I am not an emotional person," she replied. "Out of everybody in my family, I keep it together. I'm the independent person who takes care of everybody else around me, and I'm like a little baby right now. I'm really glad I'm wearing a long dress because my legs are so shaky. I can't believe it! I'm just so excited!"