Dancing With The Desert Stars Contestant

By Heidi Simmons

You notice Valerie Powers Smith when she walks into a room. She is 5’8” and she wears heels. She is blonde with a wide smile and a cheerfulness that makes her open and approachable. Powers radiates confidence.

But that confidence will be tested when she takes the dance floor at the Desert AIDS Project’s “Dancing With The Desert Stars.”

“I get up in front of hundreds of people for my job, but this is different. I like to ask myself, ‘What new thing can I do?’” For Powers, it’s dancing.


Valerie is an attorney, with over 16 years experience. She practices Estate and Trust Planning and Administration specializing in special needs, same-sex, and complex planning; as well as, guardianships and conservatorships; and healthcare insurance and Medicaid. She is Of Counsel at Slovak Baron Empey Murphy & Pinkney LLP and licensed in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. “It’s different here than back East. People want to know who you are as a person,” Powers said. “This is a good way to show people my whimsical side.”

Powers and her husband, Dr. Mark Smith, are into fitness and paleo nutrition. They have always loved and supported the arts and enjoy dancing. But ballroom dancing is something she has never done before. “I’m athletic and love competitive sports but this is completely different,” Powers said. “I like to think that if I wanted to be a dancer, it’s something I could have done.”

Now with the opportunity, Powers has been giving it her all. She’s been practicing two to three times a week. She has bruised and cracked her ribs. Her partner, Tyrone Baker, asked her to take it easy. Instead, Powers wrapped her ribs and was back on the dance floor.

“I’ve learned so much. I love it. But it’s so much more than just taking a dance class,” Powers said. “We’ve worked really hard. Our routines are so good! I don’t want to let anyone down.”

As an over-achiever, Powers has had to remind herself that this is for charity. She’s put her perfectionism aside. “I’m really proud of how well I’ve done, but I went into it as a conduit to raise money. I’m certainly not a professional performer, but it will be entertaining. No doubt it will be a hoot for my colleagues,” said Powers.

Powers and her partner have filled the two dances with exciting tricks and her costumes are fun and colorful. “I’m not going to lie. I want to win, but mainly I want to help DAP put on a good show.” For Powers, doing her best is a very good show indeed.

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