Emmy-nominated choreographer, dancer and recording artist, Mark Ballas has a brand new partner and he can’t wait to tell everyone about it. After numerous attempts to quit smoking, Ballas, a smoker since he was a teenager, is teaming up with the Blueprint to Quit program to inspire others to get rid of cigarettes, just like he did.You too can take advantage of this program at your local Walmart retailer by clicking here for more information.
Examiner.com had the opportunity to catch up with Mark as he talked about how quitting smoking has helped his singing and dancing career, including the positive impact being smoke-free had on his overall endurance and breathing, which has allowed him to seamlessly continue to pursue his music career. He’s come a long way from the kid who used to hide in the bathroom to smoke. Read the full interview with Ballas below:
How was it to work with Christina Milian this season on “Dancing with the Stars?”
Mark Ballas: "Christina is a naturally talented performer and such a sweetheart. I was excited to have her as my partner as soon as I found out in the beginning of the season. We share a passion for music and had a ton of fun together through the whole season. I was really proud of her for how hard she worked and loved seeing her evolve and improve each week."
Who were you rooting for in the finals?
Mark Ballas: "That's a hard one. I was rooting for all of them! Everyone works so hard. I had a good time working with Derek and Amber through finale week and it turned out to be awesome so I'm pretty happy for them. They deserve it."
When you see young artists smoke whether they’re a singer or a professional dancer, what do you want to say to them?
Mark Ballas: "That I know how it feels to be in their shoes and light up that cigarette and to also know what it feels like to be on the other side and smoke free! I want to tell them to just quit...today. Just do it. You'll feel so much better when you do."
How did you spend your Thanksgiving Holiday?
Mark Ballas: "I spent Thanksgiving in Houston with my dad and his side of the family. It's a blast... never a dull moment and I usually go there every year."
What new projects can your fans expect from you in the near future?
Mark Ballas: "In the future, you'll be able to hear my new music. I'm working on finishing my album and performing every other weekend at the Sayers Club in Hollywood. We have an 8 piece band and it's a high energy show that keeps the packed house moving the whole time. We have a San Francisco show coming up on Dec. 16th as well. You can check out more details this week on www.revd.com."
You recently announced that you quit smoking, how long have you been smoking?
Mark Ballas: "I started smoking when I was about 16 years old, so in total about 11 years. I tried quitting a few times without support, just on willpower and discipline. No matter how hard I put my mind to it, I couldn’t seem to kick the habit on my own and always fell back to cigarettes."
When do you realize that you needed to quit?
Mark Ballas: "When smoking started to affect my breathing and stamina, I knew it was time to quit for good. I can still remember one routine that was maybe 2 minutes long. But the end of it, I was doubled over and wheezing. I hated that feeling, and I also hated smelling like smoke all the time."
What were some of the benefits that you noticed after you stopped smoking?
Mark Ballas: "As a non-smoker, I just feel so much better. Just overall healthier. My cardio has improved, I don’t smell like smoke anymore, I look better, I feel better. I also like that in a stressful time or when I’m around friends that smoke, I’m not even craving a cigarette. It’s a really good feeling."
In regards to dance, in what ways did smoking impact your dance skills?
Mark Ballas: "My cardio and breathing was impacted the most."
You received some help from the Blueprint to Quit program, how was that process for you and how long did it finally take you to keep the cigarettes down?
Mark Ballas: "Blueprint to Quit taught me how not to rely on cigarettes anymore. What worked really well for me is that it gave me a regimen to follow. The program addresses the two parts of quitting smoking that are challenging – the physical cravings and the behavioral issues you face, like stress and being around others who smoke. For me, I used the NicoDerm CQ patch. It was super comfortable, I put it on in the morning and didn’t even know it was there. The second part is the online support from QuitNet. It’s easy, you log in and can get advice from experts or support from other people going through the same things I was. I’ve been smoke-free for 6 months now."
How is the Blueprint to Quit Program successful, and how can others take advantage of this opportunity?
Mark Ballas: "Well, when you’re trying to quit by yourself, there’s no regimen, no sense of routine, and you can quickly forget about your quit when you’re in a time of stress or having a craving. Blueprint to Quit gave me support and motivation to keep going. It was completely different than the ways I tried to quit in the past, and it worked for me."