Hernandez: First Latina to Win ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars”

She may be a teenager, but Laurie Hernandez is already dancing royalty…

The 16-year-old Puerto Rican gymnast, an Olympic gold and silver medalist at the 2016 Rio Games, has been crowned the champion of the 23rd season of ABC‘s Dancing with the Stars.

Laurie Hernandez

Hernandez was crowned the belle of the ballroom alongside her dance partner Val Chmerkovskiy in Tuesday night’s finale, which also featured former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe.

Hinchcliffe was the runner-up as Johnson finished third.

At just 16 years old, Hernandez is the youngest champion in the show’s history. She’s also the first Latina to take home the coveted mirrorball trophy, and only third Hispanic competitor to claim the title in the show’s 23-season run. Brazilian IndyCar racer Helio Castroneves won DTWS in Season 5, while El Salvadoran-American actor J.R. Martinez, a former U.S. Army soldier, won the title in Season 13.

Hernandez joins Shawn Johnson as Olympic gold medalist gymnasts that have also won a season of Dancing with the Stars. Fellow gymnasts and Olympic champions Nastia Liukin and Aly Raisman have fourth place finishes on their DTWS resumes.

Other previous Olympians to win Dancing with the Stars include Apolo Ohno, Kristi Yamaguchi and Meryl Davis.

O’Brien to Present Her Documentary “The War Comes Home – The New Battlefront” in Theaters

Soledad O’Brien is bring the War to a theater near you…

The 49-year-old half-Cuban American journalist will present her documentary The War Comes Home – The New Battlefront as a one-time event at hundreds of theaters on May 24 through Fathom Events, according to Variety.

Soledad O’Brien

O’Brien’s company Starfish Media produced the documentary, a true story that follows two veterans of the Iraq War on the brink of suicide as they turn to a five-day emotional boot camp for a life-changing recovery — the Save A Warrior program in Malibu operated by veteran Jake Clark.

Following the screening, the theaters will also show a taped discussion led by O’Brien with community leaders, experts on veterans’ affairs and celebrity advocates to talk about how our country is serving – and not serving – veterans as they face the challenges of PTSD, family reintegration and unemployment. It includes exclusive one-on-one interviews with actor-director Peter Berg and army-veteran and actor J.R. Martinez.

The former CNN anchor told Variety that the timing of the event is aimed to take advantage of the Memorial Day observance on May 30. The documentary first aired on CNN in 2014.

“Not to toot my own horn but it is a phenomenal documentary,” O’Brien said. “We as a society don’t think nearly enough about veterans so I’m hoping that this helps open the conversation a little more.”

O’Brien started her own media company, Starfish Media Group, in 2013, after tenures at CNN and NBC News.

Tickets for the documentary can be purchased online beginning Friday at FathomEvents.com or at participating theater box offices.

Martinez to Guest-Star on “Army Wives”…

J.R. Martinez is heading back to primetime…

The 28-year-old former Salvadorian American Dancing with the Starschampion and All My Children alum will guest-star on Lifetime’s Army Wives.

J.R. Martinez


Martinez, an Iraq War vet, will play an Army soldier-turned-physical therapist who works with wounded veterans, according to Entertainment Weekly.

It’s a role that hits close to home for the former U.S. Army soldier who has gone on to become a motivational speaker…

Martinez served in Iraq as an infantryman and was severely injured when his vehicle hit a landmine in 2003. He suffered severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body. After numerous surgeries, the 28-year-old went on to play Brot Monroe on All My Children before winning the mirrorball trophy with Karina Smirnoff during his run on Dancing with the Stars last season.

Martinez is set to film the episode next month in Charleston, S.C.

Army Wives returns Sunday, June 24 at 10:oo pm ET. Martinez’s episode is scheduled to air in August.

Martinez Appearing in New Documentary About Burn Victims…

During his time on Dancing with the Stars, J.R. Martinez inspired millions with his heroic story… And, now he’s sharing his story with the world in a documentary.

28-year-old wounded-war-vet-turned-actor has partnered with non-profit organization Trial by Fire: Lives Re-Forged to release a documentary this month by the same name. The hope: to educate viewers on why they should be less cruel to burn victims.

In the film’s trailer, the El Salvadorian actor—who beat out Ricki Lake and Rob Kardashian on the 13th season of ABC’s hit dancing competition for the mirror ball trophy—talks about his ordeal and what he calls “his new birthday.”

“April 5th, 2003 is my new birthday, it’s a day that I will never forget just like a birthday,” Martinez says somberly. “But, it’s a day that I won’t get phone calls or presents.”

Martinez was severely burned when the Humvee he was driving in Iraq hit a land mine. More than 40 percent of his body was scarred.

“I drove maybe, 100 yards, then all of a sudden boom!” recalls Martinez before stating his new found mantra: “This is my body, these are my scars.”

Trial By Fire filmmakers tell Fox News Latino that they feel “very lucky to have him in the film.”

“It is a very powerful film with some very inspirational people,” says the film’s executive producer William Harris.

In the documentary, this year’s Rose Parade grand marshall urges everyone to look beyond the wounds.

“Our scars are just a symbol of bravery, of courage, of strength,” Martinez says. “If we step out there in the world and we say ‘This is who I am’ people will get to a point where they don’t even see your scars.”

“This is my uniform,” he adds. “I wear it every single day and there’s nothing you can do, nothing I can do, to take it off.”

The trailer for the documentary ends with the message: “Fire is unforgiving… we don’t have to be.”

Martinez’s Grand Marshal Moment…

J.R. Martinez is relaxing after an oh-so-rosy day in Southern California…

The 28-year-old Iraq-war-vet-turned-actor, who won this year’s Dancing with the Stars mirror ball trophy, served as the grand marshal at the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California

After the parade, Martinez tweeted: “Done with the #parade It was amazing to be a part of it in person and see all the people who came out. Had a blast even tho it was killer hot.”

The former All My Children star sat alongside his pregnant girlfriend in an open car as fans cheered and waved. Martinez seemed overwhelmed by his own status as  he greeted welcoming crowds along the Colorado Boulevard route.

J.R. Martinez

“It’s been a beautiful four days,” said Martinez of the experience. “The people are so nice and so accommodating. I can see why this tradition continues.”

This year’s theme was “Just Imagine…,” as the 2012 Rose Parade celebrates the power of imagination, inspiration and determination to encourage people to reach higher and try harder.

Martinez Heading to the Pentagon…

Now that he’s won Dancing with the Stars, J.R. Martinez won’t be heading to Disneyland.

The 28-year-old Iraq-war-vet-turned-actor will be headed to our nation’s capital for an extra special meet-and-greet with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon.

JR Martinez

During a 10-minute telephone call Friday, Panetta told Martinez—who was severely burned over more than 40 percent of his body when the Humvee he was driving for the U.S. Army in Iraq struck a land mine in 2003—that he demonstrated the strength and resilience of wounded veterans, according to Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby.

Meanwhile, the El Salvadoran-American dance champion credited his military training for his performance on ABC’s hit reality dance competition. He bested Rob Kardashian and Ricki Lake for the coveted mirror ball trophy on Tuesday.

In a letter to Martinez sent prior to the call, Panetta praised the former Army infantryman, who suffered severe burns when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq in 2003.

“Over the course of this competition, your spirit captivated the nation and your victory sends a powerful message about the strength and resilience of our wounded warriors,” he said.

Details of Martinez’s meeting with Panetta are being hammered out at the moment.

Martinez Claims Dancing with the Stars Title

Despite a late perfect-score challenge from Rob Kardashian in the last two nights of performances, J.R. Martinez has become the first Hispanic American to win the coveted mirror ball trophy on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

“Thank you America for believing in us,” the 28-year-old Iraq-war-vet-turned-actor said before turning to his partner Karina Smirnoff,  adding: “You are amazing and I’m so grateful that I was able to be a part of your first mirror ball trophy!”

J.R. Martinez wins Dancing with the Stars

Throughout the 10-week competition, Martinez was one of the show’s frontrunners. The El Salvadoran-American actor continually wowed the judges and overcame an injured ankle in the final weeks to claim the title in the show’s 13th edition. His grit, determination and sheer dancing talent inspired viewers, and even led to a cover story in People magazine.

During the grand finale, Martinez, Kardashian and Ricki Lake had to reprise their favorite dances of the season. Those scores were then combined with Monday night’s totals and all the votes from the viewing audience. Despite earning the highest marks after that round, Lake was knocked out of the running and had to settle for third place.

Then, the final two dancers – Kardashian and Martinez –performed an instant samba to music selected for them during the show. They both earned perfect scores of 30 points, and Kardashian led Martinez by the slimmest of leads — with 113 points to 112 after four rounds of dancing in the two-night finale.

But after combining Monday night’s scores with the scores from Tuesday’s performances and the public voting, Martinez was the competitor with the highest combination of judges’ and viewers’ scores.

Martinez’s Fantastic Freestyle Dance on DWTS…

J.R. Martinez may have faltered slightly during his first dance in last night’s Dancing with the Stars finale, but he harnessed his Latino power to reach perfection in his freestyle routine…

The 28-year-old wounded-Iraq-veteran and All My Children star and his dance partner Karina Smirnoff shook their bon bons to a salsafied version of Kat DeLuna‘s hit song “Whine Up.”

J.R. Martinez Dancing with the Stars Final Freestyle Dance

“In the freestyle, Karina and I decided to do a salsa-inspired routine because of the fact that I am Latin,” said Martinez.

The routine featured several flashy tricks from the El Salvadoran-American dancing sensation and his partner, including elaborate twists and turns. Their biggest risk: a dangerous neck straddle!

“Karina wanted to do this lift where I hook my leg to her neck. She’s had surgery on her neck before and I just think it’s too dangerous.”

The “go big or go home” mentality paid off, as Martinez and Smirnoff earned a perfect score of 30.

Unfortunately, the dancing duo’s cha-cha to Jennifer Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud” earned a shockingly low 24, which Martinez blamed on the ankle injury the suffered last week.

”I was too soon in my steps and I think I panicked because I did roll my ankle in my shoe. I just went and took a step too quick,” said Martinez. “The cha-cha was something I was doing well all week. I had it, but I was off and I found myself one step ahead of her. I knew I was going to be penalized for that.”

Martinez and fellow finalist Ricki Lake are tied for second place going into tonight’s show, three points behind leader Rob Kardashian.

Martinez: Dancing’s First Hispanic-American Winner?

Despite a poor showing during this week’s performances due to an ankle injury, J.R. Martinez has made it to finals of Dancing with the Stars in his quest to become the first Hispanic-American to win the show’s coveted mirrorball trophy.

JR Martinez

For the first time this season, the 28-year-old wounded-war-vet-turned-actor and his partner Karina Smirnoff saw themselves in the bottom two during Tuesday’s results show after their third place showing on Monday.

But it appears Martinez’s public support is stronger than ever as soccer star Hope Solo was the celebrity sent packing.

Upon learning he was moving on to next week’s finals, the former All My Children star took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

During backstage interviews, Martinez said he was “frustrated” with his hurt ankle.

“The expectation was still high for myself despite the injury,” Martinez told Access Hollywood. “All week when we were rehearsing, it was like ‘oh man if I nail this…it would be an opportunity to show America a different side of J.R. Martinez than what they’ve gotten to know.’”

Martinez could now become the second Latino and first Hispanic-American winner in show’s 13-season history. He’ll compete against Ricki Lake and Rob Kardshian in next week’s finale shows.


Martinez: Dancing Through the Pain…

Coming off last week’s oh-so-perfect performances, J.R. Martinez experienced a setback in his quest to make it to the finals of Dancing with the Stars.

The wounded-Iraq-veteran-turned-soap-star twisted his ankle at this week’s rehearsals, leading to some serious problems during his paso doble routine with partner Karina Smirnoff. Martinez looked like he was in serious pain throughout the dance…and, hobbled on one foot during his critiques.

JR Martinez dances through the pain

Dancing judge Len Goodman didn’t take it easy on the 28-year-old El Salvadoran-American’s dance, despite the injury.

“I know you suffered an injury,” he told Martinez after his precarious performance. “But we can only call it as we see it.”

Martinez managed to score better in his remaining dances, scoring a 27/30 on his Argentine tango performance and 6/10 for his third place finish in the cha cha relay.

Despite ending the night with a disappointing 56 points, Martinez didn’t end up at the bottom of the leaderboard. He ended up in third place, seven points away from last place finisher Hope Solo. Meanwhile, Ricki Lake and Rob Kardashian ended up tied at the top of the leaderboard with a total of 67 points each.

Tune in to tonight’s results show to see which couple won’t be making it to the finals.