The backstage atmosphere at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino is frenetic. Miss America contestants in glittering gowns nervously wait to appear on the live broadcast while constantly sidestepping production assistants, and not always as gracefully as one might think. Off in a corner, co-hosts Chris Harrison and Brooke Burke-Charvet huddle with producers to review last-minute details before the show.

Although the scene may look chaotic, for Burke-Charvet—the most eye-catching woman in a room of beautiful women—it’s just another day at work. “Live shows are always crazy and then add in that we are wrangling 53 women!” laughs Burke-Charvet, whose experience as co-host of Dancing with the Stars makes her a live TV pro. “But there is such great energy here in Vegas, and this is so much fun.”

Burke-Charvet spends plenty of time in Vegas, whether visiting the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino with her four children or taking in a romantic dinner and Cirque du Soleil show with her new husband, David Charvet. Her former stint as host of the E! travel show Wild On! may have taken her to every corner of the earth, but Burke-Charvet considers Las Vegas one of her favorite places.

“It’s such an easy, great trip,” she says. “I used to gamble a lot here when I was younger. But now there is so much great dining. We don’t have great clubs in LA, and we like to dance. So when we do want to get out and get a little crazy, Vegas is the place to do that. It’s hard to do that at home.”

She’ll soon have less time for weekends in Vegas because DWTS, a merciless juggernaut that airs live twice a week, returns March 19 for its 14th season. Burke-Charvet’s schedule as host, however, is decidedly less backbreaking now than when she won the mirror ball as a contestant in 2008. “It sounds funny, but hosting live television is a walk in the park compared to actually dancing on the show,” she says. With partner Derek Hough, they used to start working on the next week’s dance immediately after a live episode. Now, after Tuesday’s show she heads home to be a mom for the rest of the week.

Burke-Charvet lives in Malibu with Charvet, their son and daughter and her two daughters from a previous marriage. “Brooke is probably one of the best moms any kids could ever have,” says DWTS dancer Tony Dovolani, who also choreographed the Miss Nevada pageant at the Palms Casino Resort. “Brooke is very giving to her kids, and she goes out of her way to make sure they are her first priority.”

Being on the show as a contestant gave Burke-Charvet an edge when producers looked for a new host in 2010. “They auditioned every competent person in LA because so many people wanted it,” she says. “It helped that I had gone through the experience.” Co-host Tom Bergeron agrees: “Brooke has done a great job transitioning from contestant to co-host, although it took her a few weeks before she stopped waiting for [judge Bruno Tonioli] to critique her,” he says dryly. “All kidding aside, she’s an absolute joy. She’s a consummate team player with a great sense of humor. She’s like the girl next door, if you live in a really cool neighborhood.”

According to Dovolani, many of the show’s dance pros rely on Burke-Charvet to help put their celebrity partners at ease during what can be an extremely stressful time “If they have certain concerns or they are feeling insecure, it’s easy for me to say, ‘Brooke, could you explain to her this process?’ I have done that with every single one of my celebrities. In fact, one of the first things I say to them is, ‘When the show starts, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask Brooke because she knows the whole system.’”

While Burke-Charvet loves the entire DWTS team, she says she will always be partial to Hough. “Derek and I have so much history, and he’s like family,” she says. “But aside from that, he is the most brilliant choreographer ever. He has this way of making his partners look amazing. I have a lot of compassion for everyone going through it because I did, but even more so for his partners, because I know how tough he is and how hard he works. He’ll always be my personal favorite, for sure. That’s not the politically correct answer, but that’s the truth!”

For Hough, the feeling is mutual. “Brooke is my absolute dream woman,” says the bachelor (who in 2011 ended a much-publicized romance with British superstar Cheryl Cole). “She has become a model of what I’m looking for in a woman. She has brought a lot to the show, not only her insane outfits and shoes that make my mouth drop every time she walks out, but also an understanding and empathy of what the celebrities are going through.”

Those “insane” outfits that Burke-Charvet wears on DWTS don’t just happen by accident. Along with her stylist and hair and makeup artists, she creates a fashion storyboard on the wall of her dressing room to develop the 22 looks needed for every show in a season. “I love fashion,” she says. “We try to keep it edgy and current and not repeat looks. There’s a lot that goes into it. You know how hard it is to create one great red carpet look. We have 22 per season, so it’s pretty ambitious.”

So is her life away from the show. Currently, she is designing a line of intimate apparel and has just released two DVDs, Transform Your Body With Brooke Burke: Strengthen & Condition and Tone & Tighten, and her first book, The Naked Mom. She also co-created the website and created the online store, All that while rearing four kids, ages four to 11. “I write out weekly calendars for everyone to refer to,” she says. “If I don’t write something down, somebody gets left behind. It requires a lot of organization, but I want everyone to have a full life, and I don’t want my kids to have to sacrifice when I have obligations that I have to attend to away from home. It’s a juggle, somewhere in that zone between complete chaos and balance.”

Marriage seems to have added balance to her life. Although the couple have known each other for 20 years and dated since 2005, they finally tied the knot last August on a sailboat in St. Barths with their kids looking on and everyone dressed in white. “My daughter Rain wanted me to be a Charvet,” she explains with a smile. “David planned everything, believe it or not. I was the bride who just had to show up with my beautiful dress. He is very detailoriented, and very romantic—pretty darn magical. Everyone asks if it has changed anything, and even though we were completely committed to each other before, in a strange way it is a little bit more complete.” The couple repeated their vows in a Jewish ceremony in their Malibu backyard in September for extended family and close friends, and then segued into a 40th birthday bash for Burke.

And is Burke-Charvet, a former bikini model, feeling stressed about being 40 in Hollywood? “That’s a big number, but age is not an issue,” she says. “I feel sexier today than I did as a younger woman. I think it has a lot to do with the people you surround yourself with, your love, accomplishment, and experience. I think it’s a state of mind and a feeling and what you exude on a much deeper level.”

Like what you're reading? Get it delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up now for our newsletters >>