Karina Smirnoff is a champion ballroom dancer who has appeared often on the TV series Dancing With the Stars. She was born in the Ukraine (while it was still part of the Soviet Union) and took up ballroom dance at age 11. She emigrated to the United States in 1992 and then graduated from Fordham University with degree in economics and information system programming. Her ballroom career took off after college. Paired with a succession of partners, most notably Slavik Kryklyvyy, she won the U.S. National Professional Latin Championship and various other amateur and pro titles. In 2006 she appeared on the third season of Dancing With the Stars, coming in second with actor Mario Lopez. She became a regular on the show after that, pairing with celebs including singer Billy Ray Cyrus, boxer Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and computer guru Steve Wozniak. Smirnoff began dating Lopez in 2006, after they met on the show. They split in 2008, and later that year Smirnoff became engaged to a fellow dancer from Dancing With the Stars, Maksim Chmerkovskiy; they split in 2009.
Smirnoff helped train Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere for their roles in the 2004 movie Shall We Dance; she also appeared in the film as “Link’s Pouty Dance Partner,” according to IMDB.com… Her official site says she was “born and raised in Ukraine, to a Russian mother and a Jewish/Greek father.”