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Laurie Hernandez wasn't told of grandmother's death for two days, explains 'Dancing with the Stars' emotions


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 11/15/2016 

Laurie Hernandez apparently wasn't informed about the death of her grandmother until two days after she died.

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The Dancing with the Stars contestant's grandmother, Brunilda Hernandez -- who had been battling Alzheimer's -- passed away Wednesday evening of last week, but the news was kept from Laurie until Friday, People reported.

Laurie's pro partner on the show, Val Chmerkovskiy, helped decide how to break the news to the 16-year-old Olympic gymnast but didn't clarify why there was a waiting period and who exactly told Laurie. 

"I just want to protect and guide her through it, but I'm not going to shelter her from a situation that is hers," said Val, who learned of Brunilda's death on Wednesday night. "It's hers to face and hers to grow from and hers to understand as well. She needs to take time and understand it."

As shown in a video package on Monday night's DWTS broadcast, Laurie had an emotional visit with Brunilda and later cried to the cameras about how her grandmother wasn't doing well and she wishes they could spend more time together. Brunilda died the day after this interview was conducted.

Laurie was visibly emotional behind the scenes as she watched the video air moments before she was supposed to dance her first of two routines with Val, according to People. The package even concluded with Brunilda sharing a heartfelt message to her granddaughter. 

"He actually covered my ears while the package was playing. I still cried a little bit, but without him I would have probably not been able to dance as well as I did today -- or even dance at all," Laurie admitted.

Despite the heartache, Laurie and Val topped the leaderboard with a perfect total score of 60 points.

"It was kind of a tough week... [And] tonight was a little hard. Some times you just don't know what to say. So instead of saying anything, I danced my way through it," Laurie confessed after the show.

Val said Brunilda is "in a better place and watching" Laurie from above.

"The reality is that her grandma was so proud of her and as a person at that age, I think the most peace you get is by seeing what you leave behind and the legacy you leave behind and to see your granddaughter represent her country and her family and herself with so much dignity and pride and strength is an absolutely incredible feeling for her grandma," the pro dancer continued, referencing how Laurie is an Olympic gold medalist.

Val added that the lesson here is to "cherish every moment" and "don't take things for granted."

"Don't forget that it's always about people. It's not about the gold medals or the trophies or the money. It's about the people that you cherish and can share incredible moments with," Val told the magazine.

Laurie and Val will compete in next week's Dancing with the Stars finals for the Season 23 mirroball trophy.


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