Worked With:

Cat Deeley

David Boreanaz

Mary Murphy Biography

Home > Actresses > M > Murphy, Mary > Biography

Birth Name: Mary Murphy

Mary Ann Murphy was born on March 9, 1958 in Lancaster, OH, the only girl in a family of four children. Her father was an elementary school teacher while her mother stayed at home to look after the family. Growing up with three brothers turned Murphy into a tomboy, and she more than willingly participated in various sports such as basketball, football, track and field, and volleyball. After high school, Murphy attended Ohio University where she majored in Physical Education and minored in Modern Dance. Shortly after graduating college, she moved to Washington, D.C. and found a job as a dance instructor at a local studio. A week after working at the dance studio, Murphy was invited by the studio's owner to attend the U.S. Ballroom Championships in New York City. While watching the competition, Murphy was so enthralled by the participants' athleticism and artistry that she decided to enter the world of competitive ballroom dancing herself.

The following year, Murphy moved back to Ohio and trained in the American Rhythm, American Smooth, and International Latin styles of dance at a studio in Columbus, located an hour and a half away from her home. Her search for a suitable competitive dance partner led Murphy to move to Southern California, and eventually to attend the UK Open Championships in Blackpool, England. There she met Manfred Stiglitz, who became Murphy's dance partner. Even though the pair lived on two different continents, distance took a back seat to their dedication and persistence to win a ballroom title. Murphy and Stiglitz won the Austrian National Championships in 1990 and 1991, and represented Austria in the World Championships. Around that time, Murphy opened the Champion Ballroom Academy in San Diego, CA. She changed professional partners and for the next five years, competed in a slew of ballroom events including the U.S. Open Standard and the U.S. Open American Nine Dance.

After retiring from competitive ballroom dance, Murphy focused on her dance academy and professional dancing jobs. One of her first onscreen projects was acting as Julia Roberts' dance double in the romantic comedy "Something to Talk About" (1995). It was inevitable that Hollywood took note of Murphy's talent and she found herself landing minor roles as a dancer in feature films. Her early onscreen credits include the drama "Dance with Me" (1998) opposite Vanessa Williams and the musical "Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School" (2005) with Marisa Tomei and Robert Carlyle.

Murphy's career soared after she joined the cast of the reality competition series "So You Think You Can Dance." Created by "American Idol's" (Fox, 2002- ) Simon Fuller and Nigel Lythgoe, the show aimed to find the country's most talented dancers. Murphy appeared on the first season of "SYTYCD" as a guest judge and choreographer opposite Lythgoe, who was then the show's sole permanent judge. Murphy quickly made an impression on the show's contestants and millions of viewers for her constant screaming and exaggerated mannerisms at the judges' table. She often ended her comments with a loud "Wooo!" that earned her the nickname "the queen of scream." By the third season, Murphy's role was eventually upgraded to resident judge. In 2007, doctors found a cancerous tumor on Murphy's thyroid. Fellow choreographer Mia Michaels replaced her during the seventh season of "So You Think You Can Dance" while Murphy focused on her health and recovery.

Not even cancer could stop her from working, however, and Murphy took on other entertainment projects. She headlined the Broadway ballroom dance production "Burn the Floor" (2009) and made her acting debut as a sales clerk in the made-for-TV movie "Degrassi Takes Manhattan" (MuchMusic, 2010). Murphy then dropped a bombshell during a 2010 interview on "Larry King Live" (CNN, 1985-2010) when she alleged that her unnamed ex-husband physically, emotionally, and sexually abused her during their nine years of marriage. That same year, she underwent surgery to remove the tumor on her thyroid. Murphy returned to "So You Think You Can Dance" as a resident judge in 2011.