Burke is the oldest of nine children born to Donna and George Burke. Burke is Jewish on her mother's side, and has French, Irish, and Portuguese ancestry. She was born in Hartford, Connecticut and raised in Tucson, Arizona. She attended both Sahuaro High School and Palo Verde High School in Tucson where she was homecoming queen in 1989, and later studied broadcast journalism at UCLA.
She appeared in men's magazines such as Maxim, Stuff, and FHM. In 2007, she was listed as one of Blender's hottest women of film and TV.
She appeared completely nude in a pictorial in the May, 2001 issue of Playboy magazine, in which nine nude photos of her were included. She appeared on the cover of the May, 2001 and November, 2004 issues of Playboy.
In 2001 Burke also competed in the TV show host edition of The Weakest Link where she was voted off in the second round.
She hosted Wild On! on the E! network from 1999–2002.
Burke has fronted infomercials promoting a Swiss ball video home fitness workout named Gunnar Peterson's Core Secrets, and appears in the first video of the series titled 20 Minute Full Body Workout. The infomercials have screened in New Zealand and Australia.
In 2005 and 2006 Burke hosted the CBS summer reality show, Rock Star, an American Idol-like series in which aspiring singers competed to front a rock band.
She was the voice and face of "Rachel Teller" in Electronic Arts' video game Need for Speed: Underground 2 , and asks the "People and Places" questions in the video game Trivial Pursuit Unhinged. Burke starred as a playable character in the Burger King advergaming title PocketBike Racer and in Big Bumpin'. Burke has also landed roles in several television commercials for Discover Card, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, M Professional Cosmetics, and Skechers.
In 2007 Burke started a company, Baboosh Baby, which offers wraps for pregnant women. The company's website features a blog from Burke about her children.
In 2009 Burke hosted NBC's pre-show for the 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards with Tiki Barber and Nancy O'Dell.
Burke, along with Derek Hough as her partner, won season 7 of Dancing with the Stars. She later went on to replace Samantha Harris as co-host of the program. Burke began hosting season 10 of Dancing with the Stars alongside Tom Bergeron. In August 2010, Burke hosted the third season of the TV Land series She's Got the Look, a modeling competition show for women over 35.
Burke's first book, The Naked Mom: A Modern Mom's Fearless Revelations, Savvy Advice, and Soulful Reflections, was published February 1, 2011, by New American Library. It features her reflections on motherhood, Hollywood, romance, and the challenges of creating a blended family.