The 13th season of "Dancing With the Stars" kicks off tonight, and all eyes will be on Chaz Bono -- the transgender son of Sonny Bono and Cher -- who has been a hot topic in the press for his involvement with the show.
Some opponents of a transgender person's right to dance have suggested that parents not allow their children to watch the show, but dancer Peta Murgatroyd, who is partnered with NBA star Ron Artest this season, thinks everyone has a right to be footloose in the "DWTS" ballroom.
"It is ridiculous," she tells Wonderwall of the backlash, while attending the Entertainment Tonight Emmy After-Party presented by Visit California at Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles. "He's actually one of my best friends on the show. I don't see what all the hype is about. People, like mothers, telling ABC they won't let their kids watch the show now is just ludicrous."
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Murgatroyd's hope is that when people watch the show, they'll get to know Chaz better and see exactly what she sees in Bono.
"He's intelligent, witty, smart -- everything you would want in a beautiful person," she said. "And he just has a soft and beautiful nature. The whole package really."
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Murgatroyd, the New Zealand native who is making her debut as a featured pro this season, is not getting distracted by the Chaz buzz out there. Instead, she is focusing her attention on helping her NBA champion partner, Ron Artest (who recently had his name legally changed to Meta World Peace), become a champion dancer.
"He's getting more natural," she said. "We're getting more into the Latin American style; we're doing cha cha so I had to get him working a little bit. For a 6-foot-7 guy, it's kind of hard to get him down low and get him bending and stuff."
She adds, "I call him Meta usually when I'm really angry with him or when he doesn't do something right I yell at him."
Even though Murgatroyd thinks Ricki Lake is their toughest competition, she likes their odds if fans can give Peace a chance, and forget some of his troubled past.
"He's been in controversy over the years so I hope people can put that behind them and see the really cool person that I get to see every day."
"Dancing With the Stars" kicks off tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC.