PICTURE IT: It’s a crisp afternoon in August and there is an adrenaline-filled air on the Toronto set of So You Think You Can Dance Canada. It is a closed-set dress rehearsal for the first performance show of the second season and out prances a tiny 5’5” shiny blond in glittering Louboutins and a white structural Azzedine Alaïa dress.
On the way to the spotlight, “Lele,” as she’s known on set, test-drives her dress, unzipping the high neck looking both sultry and completely comfortable in her skin. This makes perfect sense, since Miller, who won the Viewers’ Choice Gemini Award for Hottest Canadian Female last year—and is nominated for yet another Gemini this year (Best Performance or Host in a Variety Program or Series). While TV requires serious hot factor (check), Miller, 28, knows best that hosting live television is more than that. Consider how the heart races before making a statement in class or giving a speech, then intensify the feeling by 1.9 million, the number of viewers who watched the two-hour live finale of last season’s competition.
Miller’s days are frenzied. Her day began at 11:30 a.m. with a script the size of a small-town phone book. She spends her break talking with me, which means she doesn’t eat lunch, then goes straight into dress rehearsal. During hair and makeup, producers come by for last-minute notes. In rehearsal, she climbs up and down staircases in the exoskeletal staging in sky-high shoes, until the blazing lights power down at 9 p.m., at which point she heads to an autograph session with the audience. “By the end of it, I’m exhausted,” she admits.
Her first job, at 13, was taking tickets and working the snack bar at a hockey arena. It was the same year she won the title of Miss Junior Dance of Canada as a competitive dancer. While she doesn’t dance at all now (no time), the show—which extols the virtues of ambition—has become a symbol of her everlasting drive. It’s something she gets from her parents, as her father is a high school phys-ed teacher who was both highly competitive and encouraging throughout Miller’s formative years. “I didn’t come from a wealthy family or have a lot of connections. I worked really hard to get where I am and I never gave up, no matter what.”
Miller’s growing determination developed early. Upon graduating high school, she moved to L.A. to pursue acting. She ended up on an episode of Punk’d and was later cast in a role in the Chris Rock movie Down to Earth. Missing her family, she decided to move back to Toronto and in 2004, she landed a life-changing gig as a VJ, hosting live television at MuchMusic but left CTV-owned MuchMusic in August.
MuchMusic is where her inner circle of immediate family grew to include a best friend, pop star Hilary Duff (“Hilary’s like a sister to me”), and rock-star husband, musician Dallas Green of Alexisonfire and City and Colour (they shared their first kiss on television as part of a stunt). For all the glittery exterior, she dispels any notion of a fast lane in her life. “We don’t go out, don’t drink, don’t do drugs, don’t smoke,” she says of her life with Green. “We’re so boring,” she laughs.
Off-duty, she kicks back in ripped designer jeans, hair unbrushed and face bare save for enormous eyelash extensions that cut down on time in the makeup chair. On her finger is a giant square-cut diamond ring and, inside her wrist, a little heart tattoo. Green has a matching heart that sports the word “captured.”
The two married last year, surprising their 15 invitees (immediate family only) by exchanging vows at home on New Year’s Eve. “I baked my own cake,” Miller says. “And then we ordered pizza.” She wore a black cotton maxi-dress from her closet.
“After we got married, I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t think it was anyone’s business,” she says. Despite their best efforts to keep it private, a Canadian gossip blogger spilled the beans two days later. “That was upsetting,” Leah says in a rare show of annoyance. “It felt so cool that we were married and nobody knew.”
Back at the studio, she strides backstage to get miked for rehearsal and emits a tinkling laugh about the latest online rumour. “Apparently, I’m pregnant.” She isn’t. “Dal and I would love to have two kids, but not now. I’d want to be able to not have to go back to work right away.”
Right now, Miller does have to work right away; she is being called to set. During the course of her 12-hour day, she will stop taping to call attention to an audience member who faints in the front row. After that, she will react to a dancer bleeding after a partner’s errant high kick during a tango. She meets these unexpected moments like a pro. Effortless. When it’s all done, she returns to her other, quieter life, and to her favourite place. Home.
Hair and makeup, Tony Masciangelo, Nexxus Salon Hair Care, Plutino Group; Fashion Director, Elizabeth Cabral.
“Dancing Queen Leah Miller” has been edited for FLARE.com; the complete story and where-to-buy appears in the November 2009 issue of FLARE.