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NeNe Leakes and Tony Dovolani are ready for an adventure on 'DWTS'

Rehearsals are in full swing as the new slate of celebrities prepare for the first night of competition on “Dancing with the Stars.” Because the premiere is rapidly approaching, it’s a great time to look at each of the couples from season 18, including NeNe Leakes and her pro partner, Tony Dovolani. As posted by NJ.com on March 6, both are set to compete and looking forward to their new adventure on “DWTS.”

NeNe Leakes is paired with Tony Dovolani for the 18th season of "DWTS."
NeNe Leakes is paired with Tony Dovolani for the 18th season of "DWTS."ABC

Leakes shot to stardom as a fan favorite on Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Her popularity on the show led to her own Bravo television series, “I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding.” In 2012, she was cast as coach Roz Washington on “Glee” and later that year landed a starring role on NBC’s sitcom “The New Normal.” Leakes has also guest-starred in BET comedies, “The Game” and “Let’s Stay Together.” She was voted as one of Entertainment Weekly’s Entertainers of the Year and was the recipient of Bravo’s A-list Award for Fan Favorite. In 2011, NeNe competed on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” but quit the show early, which stirred up quite a bit of controversy. John Rich eventually won the season.

NeNe Leakes is the author of “Never Make the Same Mistake Twice,” a book that addresses her fractured childhood, abusive relationship and struggles with being a single mother. Currently, NeNe resides in Duluth, Ga., a northern suburb of Atlanta, along with her two children and husband Gregg Leakes.

Tony Dovolani was born in Kosova and began folk dancing at age three. He was 15 when he and his entire family moved to the United States. Tony attended Fred Astaire Dance Academy and knew he had found his passion. Since then, he has been a strong and successful competitor in the ballroom dancing world. Tony and his partner for many years, Elena Grinenko, have retired from competing and remain close friends.

When he isn't dancing on "Dancing with the Stars," Tony teaches and does personal appearances around the country. He and fellow dancers Maksim and Val Chmerkovskiy are partners in Dance With Me Dance Studios, located in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

In addition to NeNe Leakes, Tony Dovolani has also partnered with the following celebrities on “Dancing with the Stars”:

  • Stacy Kiebler in season two (3rd place)
  • Sara Evans in season three (6th place)
  • Leeza Gibbons in season four (9th place)
  • Jane Seymour in season five (6th place)
  • Marissa Jaret Winkour in season six (4th place)
  • Susan Lucci in season seven (6th place)
  • Melissa Rycroft in season eight (3rd place)
  • Kathy Ireland in season nine (14th place)
  • Kate Gosselin in season ten (8th place)
  • Audrina Partridge in season eleven (7th place)
  • Wendy Williams in season twelve (10 place)
  • Chynna Phillips in season thirteen (9th place)
  • Martina Navratilova in season fourteen (12th place)
  • Melissa Rycroft in season fifteen (1st place)
  • Wynonna Judd in season sixteen (11th place)
  • Leah Remini in season seventeen (5th place)

The 18th season of “Dancing with the Stars” premieres on Monday, March 17 at 8 p.m. EST on ABC. This year, Erin Andrews, sportscaster and past competitor, joins Tom Bergeron as co-host. Plus, Maks is back after a two-season absence. The biggest news of all is a brand new twist. The celebrities must change partners mid-season, with America voting on the new teams. See above video to learn more about this twist for 2014 and the new cast.

Below are this season’s competitors and their pro partners, all hoping to take home a mirror ball trophy in 2014.

  1. Sean Avery: Former pro hockey player. Partner: Karina Smirnoff.
  2. Candice Cameron Bure: DJ Tanner from “Full House.” Partner: Mark Ballas.
  3. Drew Carey: Stand-up comic and host of “The Price Is Right.” Partner: Cheryl Burke.
  4. Meryl Davis: Gold medal Olympic ice dancer. Partner: Maks Chmerkovskiy.
  5. NeNe Leakes: Actress from “TRHOA,” “Glee” and “The New Normal.” Partner: Tony Dovolani.
  6. James Maslow: Star of TV series “Big Time Rush” and member of band of the same name. Partner: Peta Murgatroyd.
  7. Danica McKellar: Winnie Cooper from “The Wonder Years.” Partner: Valentin Chmerkovskiy.
  8. Diana Nyad: First person to swim from Cuba to Florida. Partner: Henry Byalikov.
  9. Amy Purdy: Dual amputee and competitor in Sochi Paralympics. Partner: Derek Hough.
  10. Cody Simpson: Popular pop star with a huge fan base. Partner: Witney Carson.
  11. Charlie White: Gold medal Olympic ice dancer. Partner: Sharna Burgess.
  12. Billy Dee Williams: Legendary leading man. Partner: Emma Slater.

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