It was high school all over again on the “Dancing With the Stars” finale Tuesday night. And in the end, the choir nerd won.
Judges and viewers crowned Amber Riley, best known for her role as Mercedes Jones on “Glee,” the Season 17 champion — or for the purposes of this story, prom queen. A teary and elated Riley, 27, nabbed the title along with her professional partner and five-time “DWTS” winner Derek Hough.
“I entered this competition because I didn’t know if I could do it,” said Riley, not long after her and Hough’s perfectly-scored Samba and quickstep fusion led them to victory. “So I want to let women of all sizes out there know, you can do whatever you put your mind to. It doesn’t matter what size you are, what color you are, you can do whatever, whatever, whatever you put your mind to.”
Riley, who suffered a knee injury in the fourth week, was favored to win as soon as the season kicked off. But she had steep competition in second-place winner Corbin Bleu. The “High School Musical” alum, who played basketball jock Chad Danforth, was a formidable opponent thanks to years of dancing and Broadway experience.
An often shirtless Bleu, 24, was paired with one-time champion Karina Smirnoff and the two delivered a breathtaking tribute to Michael Jackson on the first night of the finals. Unfortunately for Bleu, he flubbed a few steps during his Cha-cha and Foxtrot fusion in the grand finale. But judge Len Goodman still called Bleu a “fantastic dancer.”
Despite Riley and Bleu’s impressive moves, no one could ignore Jack Osbourne, especially as the third-place contestant worked tirelessly to nail his dance steps while battling Multiple sclerosis. But Ozzy and Sharon’s son didn’t let the disease or his impaired vision and back problems stop him. The judges and viewers alike applauded the 28-year-old’s determination. “The others have climbed hills,” Goodman said after Osbourne’s slightly flat-footed Paso and Salsa fusion with partner Cheryl Burke. “You’ve climbed a mountain.”
While Osbourne tugged at viewers’ heartstrings, blue-collar comedian Bill Engvall won over viewers with his charm. Judges eliminated the fourth-place Engvall Monday night, but the Texan lasted much longer than expected, considering his limited skills when compared to stronger contenders such as reality star Snooki Polizzi and actresses Elizabeth Berkley and Leah Remini. Even Engvall, 56, was shocked that he made it to the finals.
“Well, it just goes to prove to me that there is a God,” Engvall said after scoring 51 points with partner Emma Slater. “‘Cause I don’t think I could make one more dance.”