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'Dancing With the Stars' 8: Meet the contenders (and Julianne Hough is back!)

February 8, 2009 |  8:00 pm

Juliannehough1 Break out the spray tan and the samba rolls, ballroom fans, because Cycle 8 of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" is about get underway. And this season's contenders, announced tonight (and none of whom have the last name Osmond, despite rumors to the contrary) are a wonderfully motley crew, boasting a Giant, a Lil' person, a Go-Go, and a Jackass, among others.

But first: Julianne Hough is back. I know I'm not the only one whose bedazzled heart lost a little luster when Julianne said she was going to take this season off to focus on her music. But by the sparkly magic that is reality TV, this appendix-less pro will, in fact, return for Season 8. Not only that, she'll be partnering with none other than her real-life boyfriend, country singer Chuck Wicks. Could there be any more happiness in this world?

Speaking of pairs, singer Jewel and her rodeo-riding husband, Ty Murray, will make "DWTS" history as the first couple to actually compete head-to-head. Also making "DWTS" history: Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast-moppet Shawn Johnson, who at 17 beat out Cody Lindley as the youngest contestant of all time. Of course, if this were a competition on megawatt smiles and sheer adorability, Johnson would win this contest hands down.

Others vying for the mirror-ball trophy and a closet full of fringe are Hall of Fame linebacker and former New York Giant Lawrence Taylor, "Access Hollywood" co-anchor Nancy O'Dell, actor and comedian David Alan Grier, rapper Lil' Kim and computer genius, Apple co-founder and Kathy Griffin ex Steve "the Woz" Wozniak. Also, erstwhile Go-Go Belinda Carlisle is out to prove she's still got the beat, and actress and reality-TV maven Denise Richards easily fits into the Hot Mom slot just vacated by Brooke Burke.

Rounding out this list: actor Gilles Marini, who proved his, um, partnering abilities playing Kim Cattrall's hot neighbor on "Sex and the City," and stuntman and bonafide "Jackass" Stephen Glover, a.k.a. Steve-O. If you've seen Steve-O's work, chances are you've probably seen his, um, twig-and-berries as well (he's famously known for stapling his "berries" to his leg). Question is, will he be able to zip it in long enough to win over Len Goodman?

Dancingstars And back on the pro side, a "So You Think You Can Dance" crossover alert: Dewy "SYTYCD" contender and fan favorite Chelsie Hightower (check out her fantastic "Bleeding Love" routine) will no doubt bring a much-needed gust of youthful energy as she joins fellow alum Lacey Schwimmer on the show.

Though the season premiere isn't until March 9, my early picks, apropos of nothing, are Shawn Johnson, Chuck Wicks and Lawrence Taylor, with Steve-O as a dark-horse contender. Who do you think has the goods to win it all?

— Allyssa Lee

Photo of Julianne Hough credit: ABC

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