-- Laurie Hernandez wowed the judges last night on "Dancing With the Stars," earning a perfect 60, while struggling with the recent loss of her beloved grandmother Brunilda.
After she finished her dance, the 16-year-old broke down in tears, and later spoke, supported by her partner Val Chmerkovskiy, to People magazine backstage about the successful, but heartbreaking night.
Chmerkovskiy, whom she said has become like a brother to her, explained that his partner didn't find out about her grandmother's death until Friday, two days after her death, because he was trying to protect her.
"But I’m not going to shelter her from a situation that is hers," he said about telling the gymnast days after finding out himself. "It’s hers to face and hers to grow from and hers to understand as well. She needs to take time and understand it."
"But the reality is that her grandma was so proud of her and as a person at that age, I think the most peace you get is by seeing what you leave behind and the legacy you leave behind and to see your granddaughter represent her country and her family and herself with so much dignity," Chmerkovskiy added.
Hernandez played a video before her dance that featured the strong bond she had with her grandmother. Once again, her partner was there for support and to help get her through.
"He actually covered my ears while the package was playing. I still cried a little bit, but without him I would have probably not been able to dance as well as I did today -- or even dance at all," she told the magazine. "When you have family with you, it gives you extra energy."
"Tonight was a little hard. Sometimes you just don’t know what to say. So, instead of saying anything, I danced my way through it," she added.