updated 10/21/2012 AT 4:00 PM ET
•originally published 10/23/2012 AT 7:00 PM ET
As a judge on Dancing with the Stars, Carrie Ann Inaba normally tells contestants how to break it down on the dance floor.
But as she learned that pro dancers Anna Trebunskaya and Jonathan Roberts decided to end their nine-year marriage, the recently single Inaba offered her own words of wisdom on what she described as a “part of life”: the breakup.
“Listen, I’ve been through my own breakups, and they happen,” she told PEOPLE at Saturday’s Carousel of Hope benefit in Beverly Hills. “I think that people that have the courage to break up and pursue their dream and their real happiness – you have to honor that.”
Inaba, 44, who called off her engagement to accountant Jesse Sloan over the summer, also said: “There is always the option of getting back together if it’s really meant to be, so sometimes the courageous choice is to not stay in the mold of the couple that everyone expects you to be, and for you to really pursue your happiness. I’m sad for them because I know that breakups are sad and difficult, but this could be a doorway to a new beginning for both of them.”
These days, Inaba is embracing her own single status by switching up her lifestyle – and her wardrobe. “I lost a lot of weight this summer, changed my diet, started working out with a new trainer, and it’s been amazing,” she said, adding that when it comes to her latest fashions, “I think colors express so much more, and I’m really liking color right now.”
So does she have a new man to go along with her new look?
Inaba said she brought along an unnamed plus-one to the gala, noting, “but we’re just getting to know each other, so it’s new.”
When it came time to move on, she said, “I have friends that are saying, ‘I want to set you up with this person, I want to set you up with that person.’ And, at the same time, it also took me saying, ‘Hey, I am now single!’ I had to claim that, as opposed to being embarrassed by that.”