Dancing With the Stars finale: The season 31 winner is...
Winner, winner, chicken dinner! The Dancing With the Stars season 31 finale went out with a bang.
Last week we saw 90210 actor Trevor Donovan and partner Emma Slater eliminated from low scores and CODA star Daniel Durant and partner Britt Stewart eliminated after a unanimous vote by the judges, which meant a battle between TikTok star Charli D'Amelio, actor-comedian Wayne Brady, Drag Race and We're Here queen Shangela, and Bachelorette lead Gabby Windey for this season's mirrorball trophy.
Throughout the night all of the previously eliminated contestants made their return to the dance floor for quick routines and flashbacks to each week of the competition. Judge Derek Hough and his fiancé Hayley Erbert were set to perform a dance to "Chasing Cars" by Tommee Profitt & Fleurie until yesterday when Erbert sustained a shoulder injury that prevented her and Hough from dancing.
The episode marked the final show for two DWTS legends, head judge Len Goodman and pro dancer Cheryl Burke. Last week, Goodman announced his retirement after joining the show in its first season. We saw a heartwarming montage of his best moments from his 29 seasons on the show and he was even gifted his very own mirrorball trophy and 10s across the board from his fellow judges.
It was also the end of the road for pro dancer Cheryl Burke, who previously announced that she'll also be leaving after 26 seasons with DWTS, saying "this has truly been the experience of a lifetime" and expressed desire to return as a judge. "Every single person that is a part of this cast, thank you for believing in me and thank you for helping me find my voice," Burke said during tonight's finale. "Thank you for pushing me to be the best artist I can be."
Selma Blair, who withdrew from the competition in week five due to complications with multiple sclerosis, made her triumphant return to the ballroom with an ambitious contemporary routine to a live performance of Jordin Sparks' hit "No Air."
It was announced that Windey and D'Amelio will be joining the DWTS 2023 live tour in select cities along with Heidi D'Amelio, Daniel Durant, and Vinny Guadagnino.
Now onto the competition itself, first up was the redemption round, where each couple redid a previous dance, a ballroom or Latin style, in the hopes of receiving a higher score. Shangela and Gleb Savchenko, as well as Brady and Witney Carson made a few small mistakes in their quickstep routines which earned them straight nines from the judges. While D'Amelio and partner Mark Ballas, along with Windey and and Val Chmerkovskiy received perfect scores for their redemption jive and cha-cha.
The freestyle round is always the most exciting of the season, but tonight's dances were extra special. D'Amelio and Ballas' performance to "Us Again" was a smorgasbord of styles and a love letter to falling back in love with dance. It brought the crowd to their feet, made all of the judges emotional (even Goodman!) and received some of the highest praises ever from the panel.
Windey gave every pop, six, and squish she had in her freestyle to the Chicago classic "Cell Block Tango," which featured lots of moving prison bars and lots of shirtless men. Brady's freestyle to "Get Up"/"24K Magic" brought the funk and the flavor. But Shangela truly brought out every stop for her wig snatching performance to "Survivor"/"Call Me Mother," which featured appearances from fellow drag superstars Eureka and Laganja Estranja, some dancing chicken legs, and Natasha, Gleb's fabulous drag persona.
Here's where each couple landed on tonight's leaderboard after both rounds of dance:
Charli & Mark - 80
Gabby & Val - 80
Shangela & Gleb - 76
Wayne & Witney - 76
But it all came down to D'Amelio and Ballas vs. Windey and Chmerkovskiy as the final two couples vying for the mirrorball trophy. After a triumphant run with consistent high scores and high praise from the judges, TikTok star Charli D'Amelio and her partner Mark Ballas were crowned the winners of season 31.
"Thank you so much for the opportunity, thank you Mark for becoming my new best friend," she said after winning. The 18-year-old said she was grateful to have competed alongside her mom Heidi. "Thank you for helping me every step of the way, it was such an honor to do this with you."
"I've learned so much, whether it's about all these new styles of dance or just myself as a person or learning how to perform anything," D'Amelio said during a post-show interview. "I've learned a whole lot about it all and that's thanks to Mark."
On whether she would ever go pro herself on the show, the teen replied, "I think it would be a whole lot of work to learn how to do it the way the pros do it and I think that's a lot." She admitted, "This really this was a lot for me. So I couldn't imagine being a pro. But I would say for anyone that is going to be doing Dancing With the Stars next season just, it's crazy, but it's so much fun."
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