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Red Carpet Confidential: Carrie Ann Inaba Sounds Off on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Contestants

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Feb. 28 2012, Published 12:39 p.m. ET

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Getting up early to find out what stars will appear on Dancing With The Stars this morning was well worth the hassle for judge Carrie Ann Inaba.

It was announced that Sherri Shepherd, Gavin DeGraw, Maria Menounos, Melissa Gilbert, Gladys Knight and Jaleel White are among the participants in the 14th cycle of the competition, which premieres March 19 on ABC.

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“Sherri’s got a lot of joy, and she’s wanted to do the show for a long time,” Carrie Ann tells me while promoting her upcoming Petsami series. “I think it will be great to have her on the show.”

As for Gavin, the New York-based singer-songwriter whose hits include "Chariot," "I Don’t Want To Be" and "In Love With A Girl?"

“That will be wonderful,” she says. “We’ve had a country star in the past, we had Ty Murray, Jewel’s husband, and he was so wonderful. He brought a country personality that’s so down-home, loving and grounded. That would be a nice energy to have on the show. I have no idea how he dances, so it will be interesting to see.”

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One thing Carrie has learned? Never judge a season by its first impression.

“You think you get a sense of what the season’s going to be like when you hear the cast announcement, and then we get into it, and it’s always a roller coaster and a surprise.”

She continues, “Last season was such a roller coaster. It was so emotional, it was so heated, it was so passionate. It was an emotionally elevated season. I’m looking forward to a season that is less emotionally elevated with some fantastic dancing.”

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Carrie Ann serves as executive producer of an upcoming Fishbowl series about finding great cats their perfect permanent home, hosted by Crib Cat. The series will appear on Petsami, a new YouTube channel devoted to people passionate about their pets. The show debuts next month.

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