Julianne Hough embraces transformation.
The former Dancing with the Stars judge, 32, who just filed for divorce from former NHL star Brooks Laich, is now starring in a new scripted podcast series, Transformation — Awaken, on the Meet Cute platform.
Hough, who spoke to PEOPLE before her filing, was drawn to Meet Cute's 15-minute audio romantic comedies because "traditional rom-coms are so unrealistic," she says. "I've talked to my sisters and my friends so many times being like, 'Man, romantic comedies really messed me up,' because of my expectations of what is supposed to happen, or it's just not [the] reality of what I've experienced."
Meet Cute, she adds, "has been doing realistic love stories of how people meet and the truth behind it."
Starring as Jennifer in the series, Hough says she hopes the stories will resonate with listeners who are looking for love. "When she has lived her life a certain way, and then actually taking time for herself to even decide who she is and what she wants in her life, really her whole life changes," she says of her character. "She didn't change the core of who she is, she just connected more to her truth, and what's really cool is, by the end of it, she's in such an amazing place that love really could come to her. She doesn't have to go looking for it, because she's so full."
With her production company Canary House, "our Mission Statement is about finding stories that are about transformation, identity, diversity, and inclusion," adds Hough. "Because at the unique core is that before you can truly step into a relationship with someone else, you want to be in your most authentic place for yourself and have that love for yourself. Because the more love you have within you, the more love you're going to be able to give and receive."
Meet Cute founder and CEO, Naomi Shah, explains Hough was a perfect fit for the company because "she's very vocal about the theme of self-love and self-care and finding yourself," Shah says. "It was very collaborative in nature, from writing the script, getting feedback on the character, creating Jennifer in the story and conveying the transformation that goes on when you're learning how to love yourself so that you can love someone else."
The company, which launched this past Valentine's Day, continues to create podcasts that cater to all types of couples. "We're a storytelling company," Shah says. "We want to elevate as many voices as possible through our stories."
For Hough, who recently premiered the video for her song Transform, doing the series was just another step in her own transformation. "We're constantly evolving," she says. "To be able to have an outlet of expression to write this and to feel safe, comfortable, and being honest about where you are in this moment and where you're at six months from now could be somewhere completely different, and that's okay."
More importantly, Hough stresses any transformation is a personal decision. "I'm not telling people they should do this, but what people can do to be like, 'Man, where do I start? I'm so focused on meeting someone that I need to focus on meeting myself,'" she says. "I'm just excited for people to see that and hopefully find their own transformation within themselves."
Transformation — Awaken is now available on Apple and Spotify with new stories dropping Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
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