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Pop Of Talent: Hop Aboard Mary Murphy's Hot Tamale Train

PopWrapped | PopWrapped Author


08/16/2013 6:50 pm
Pop Of Talent: Hop Aboard Mary Murphy's Hot Tamale Train

Ben Patton

Content Editor

Something that always used to excite me growing up was finding out which of my favorite celebrities hailed from my home-state (Ohio) and even better, which ones grew up or lived in the area I was born.

It fascinated me that not all celebrities were straight from the beaches of Santa Monica, or freshly picked from the streets of L.A. Some of the well-known Ohioans I discovered were Patricia Heaton, Josh Radnor, Rascal Flatts, Maggie Grace, Jordan Pruitt, Bow Wow and Twenty One Pilots just to name a few. Another fabulous Buckeye girl, from our favorite dance show is the ever-talented and beautiful judge of So You Think You Can Dance, Mary Murphy.

Mary grew up in Lancaster, Ohio, and graduated from Ohio University with a degree in physical education and modern dance before relocation to Washington D.C. to start her career. After becoming a dance instructor at a local studio, she received an invitation to attend United States Ballroom Championships in New York City; the event that inspired her to pursue ballroom dancing. Mary danced her way to the winners’ circle of many ballroom competitions and in 1996 won the U.S. Open American Nine Dance competition with partner, Jim Desmond.

Pictured here with partner Bill Milner.

Mary took her success to the big screen as Julia Robert’s dance double in Something to Talk About, and appeared alongside Vanessa Williams in Dance With Me. Eventually Mary found herself on the set of Fox’s brand new show, So You Think You Can Dance, as a guest judge and choreographer back in 2001. The show went on to have great success, and Mary’s involvement with the series has led to the discovery and success of many of our favorite dancers.

Her bubbly and positive personality on SYTYCD is undeniable, and she continues to make me giggle season after season as she issues tickets to her “Hot Tamale Train” with high-pitched cheers, standing ovations and infectious laughter. I want a ticket on that train! Mary has taken her train on an international tour in 2008 making appearances on So You Think You Can Dance Australia, So You Think You Can Dance Canada and So You Think You Can Dance Scandinavia.


In 2011, it was announced that Mary had undergone treatment for thyroid cancer and had been at risk of losing her voice; however she returned to the show cancer free and was still able to send contestants on her “Hot Tamale Train” with gusto.

Also in the summer of 2011, Mary announced on her blog that her third ex-husband had lost his battle with cancer. “As we said goodbye to the contestants, I’m also saying goodbye to my ex-husband today, as cancer has taken another special person from my life. Even though our marriage did not work out, we became good friends. I will miss him and I will always love him.”

Mary is also unafraid to show us her sensitive side, which I think completes the picture of why she is such a dynamic member of the SYTYCD family. Many numbers, especially ones that specifically reference terminal illness, have brought her to tears, and as she chokes through uplifting and inspiring critiques to the dancers, you can feel her genuine passion for dance and for the story that has been portrayed on stage.

Although I have not yet met her, Mary Murphy appears to be one of the most grounded and genuine reality TV show stars, and she proves year after year why America loves her. Her enthusiastic personality, genuine passion, award-winning experience and emotional inhibitions makes her one of my favorite TV judges and seals her place in the heart of fans across the globe.


Mary currently owns and operates a dance studio in Los Angeles, organizes the local Hollywood Dancesport Championships, and has frequently graced the judging panel of several competitions including the U.S. National Ballroom Championships. She has been involved with the Dizzy Feet Foundation and also is a supporter of the NOH8 Campaign and LGBT rights.

You can enjoy Mary on So You Think You Can Dance every Tuesday on Fox!

And watch her show us why she’s a ballroom champion, as she shimmies and shakes with SYTYCD alum, Dimitry! 



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