What is Tara-Jean up to?

What is Tara-Jean up to since her win?

CTV caught up with her to see….

The reality of being Canada’s Favourite Dancer still hasn’t sunk in for Tara-Jean Popowich. “It’s been amazing, everything’s been amazing, but it still totally catches me by surprise!” she laughs.

It might not have sunk in for Tara-Jean, but it certainly has for her hometown of Lethbridge, Alta. This week, in a special ceremony, Tara-Jean was given the key to her hometown, but not before Mayor Robert Tarleck waltzed with Tara-Jean around City Hall.

“He’s a really good partner. He was leading me really well,” Tara-Jean laughs.

“The weirdest part is seeing my face everywhere and my name,” she says, adding she’s seen her photograph on billboards and on the front lawns of schools. “Even on a McDonald’s sign,” she laughs.

“Lethbridge people are so excited for me!” she says. “After Halloween, I got a whole bunch of messages about kids dressing up as Tara-Jean for Halloween! They were wearing blonde wigs and were wearing hats with dance outfits. It’s so crazy!”

Family time: Perogies and cabbage rolls

After her exciting win at the end of October, Tara-Jean headed home to spend some time with her family. “It was pretty late when I got in, but all my family surprised me. We ended up staying up until 3 o’clock in the morning,” she says.

After what she calls “the best sleep I’ve had in the last four months,” Tara-Jean indulged in a feast of her favourite foods.

“We’re such a Ukrainian family and I really missed having perogies and cabbage rolls, so that was the first thing my mom cooked for me,” she says.

Busy, busy, busy

Tara-Jean hasn’t had too much time to relax since her win, but she’s not complaining. She gets her 2010 Mazda 3 Sport next week and this week, she walked the red carpet at Flare magazine’s 30th anniversary.

“I brought three different dresses, but until the very last minute, I hadn’t picked which one I wanted to wear,” she giggles.

Though she still hasn’t figured out exactly how she’s going to spend all of her $100,000 prize money, she is helping her mom pay off the rest of her mortgage and also helping her brother with his education. With the rest of the funds, she hopes to start her own dance company and produce her own show.

Motivational speeches

Tara-Jean believes in giving back to the community that supported her throughout her SYTYCDC journey, and has been visiting Lethbridge schools to chat with excited students.

“It was kind of overwhelming at first, because all the kids just run up to you and want to take pictures and get autographs, but it’s so amazing,” she says, reveling in the position of role model.

At many of the schools, there were boxes of woodchips that said ‘Knock on wood for Tara-Jean.’ “How cute is that?” Tara-Jean beams.

“‘If I achieved something, so can you,’ she tells the students. “‘I was exactly like you, I was an average student, I didn’t come from a lot of money, just a small-town girl from Lethbridge.’

“It’s really nice to see kids really have faith in themselves,” she adds. “I love that the message is out there that you can do whatever you want no matter where you’re from. It makes me so happy.

“I was sitting in those exact same desks and look where I’ve gone. It’s a lot of hard work, but they can do it.”