Fan support is just as critical as fancy footwork when it comes to winning “Dancing With the Stars.”
As a pure dancer, Spice Girl Melanie Brown was easily the most polished finalist, consistently wowing the judges with her versatility and flair. She and her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, were the highest-scoring couple throughout the hit show’s fifth season.
But on Tuesday night, viewers snubbed Brown and gave the mirrorball trophy to race-car driver Helio Castroneves. The fourth consecutive man to win the contest, Castroneves’ personality, enthusiasm and flashing smile - combined with an effortless quickstep on his final performance - clearly resonated more with voters.
“It’s not only about dancing, you know? It’s about popularity,” Castroneves said after the show. “That’s what I’m actually very happy about.”
His partner, Julianne Hough, also had won last season’s competition, with speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno. “She has an incredible fan base,” Castroneves said.
The only female winner has been Kelly Monaco, who took the crown during the first season in 2005.
Despite her talents, Brown was unable to break the streak. She said that losing “was a horrible feeling. I’m not going to deny it.”
Earlier Tuesday, Marie Osmond was the first finalist to be eliminated. She probably deserved it after a doll-inspired freestyle dance that was panned by judges and bloggers alike. Osmond came into the finale in third place. Castroneves was in second, just one point behind Brown.
At age 48, Osmond’s frisky days were behind her, especially compared with young hotsteppers like Scary Spice or Sabrina Bryan of the Cheetah Girls. But Osmond said voters kept her afloat during the 10-week contest as she endured the death of her father and fainting on stage.
“We knew every single week that we were here because of them,” she said after the finale. “Obviously, I’m not the best dancer. We know that.”
The ABC show began in September with a dozen dancers. Model-actress Josie Maran was the first to be eliminated. Other nixed contestants were actresses Bryan, Jennie Garth and Jane Seymour, billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban, entertainer Wayne Newton, boxer Floyd Mayweather, model Albert Reed and actor Cameron Mathison.
Mathison shed his shirt after his last dance Tuesday. Maybe if he had done that earlier, he would have ended up as the man holding the trophy.