Dancing's Derek Hough: Our Win Still Feels Surreal
by Derek Hough
We won! I can’t believe it! Thank you for all your votes and messages!
It still feels surreal. I think I got about two hours of sleep on the plane from L.A. to New York overnight, but it’s all good. It’s really exciting not just celebrating the win, but the whole season. Amber and I had no expectations going into the finale. We just wanted to do our best, which I think we did, and let the chips fall as they may. I thought we had a great finale this season. Everyone really brought it, and I could picture each one of us winning for a completely different reason. Watching Bill have the time of his life in his freestyle and then take his shirt off was one of my favorite moments this season. Jack’s journey and perseverance have been inspiring, and I think he’s touched a lot of people. And what else is there to say about Corbin? He’s an unreal talent.
When Tom called our names, I was truly shocked. This season has been so unpredictable, and you just never know how people will vote. I’m very proud of and super-psyched for Amber. The road was a little bumpy for us, but that makes it all the more sweet. I’ll be honest — after our quickstep, when we got our worst scores from our worst week, it really lit a fire in us. We’re like, “Let’s go for this.” And the last two weeks have been as perfect as you can get. Amber peaked at the right moment, I stepped up my game, and she executed. I said last week our freestyle will be one of my favorites and it definitely is. Amber just slayed it! I knew the goal was to make her shine. She has such a large personality and so much charisma that not even six guys on the floor can take the spotlight off her.
More than winning though, the highlight of the entire season for me was the package of Amber talking about us and our relationship, and what the show has meant to her. One of the disadvantages of eliminating the results show is that we don’t get to see these behind-the-scenes packages of the couples anymore. I know some people brush them off as filler, but I think they’re fun, and they help fans get to know and connect with the couples more.
Without the results show, you no longer get that experience and you’re reduced to very limited windows into everyone. In our case, it was all about Amber’s knees, when that was just one piece of the bigger puzzle. We always tried to buckle down and get our work on, but we had a lot of fun together. There wasn’t a bonding moment that was aired, which is fine, but I’m really glad they played those three packages of the finalists. I got really, really teary-eyed listening to Amber talk about her journey. That is honestly why I do the show. Not to sound totally cheesy, but the amount of joy I got just filled my heart. It was validation of why I do the show and the truly fulfilling part of it, which is not winning a trophy, but being part of somebody’s transformation and growing confidence. It really meant a lot to me.
I have no idea where I’m putting the trophy yet. I’m in the middle of building a house, so maybe we’ll make something special for the trophies. I can’t believe that I have five of these! I honestly did not think I would win another Mirrorball so soon. I’m really not trying to humblebrag here! After my third one, I thought it’d be really tough to win a fourth and after the fourth one last season, I was like, “There is absolutely no way I’m winning a fifth.” And now, I’m just in disbelief. None of the wins would’ve been possible without my partners and the fans who responded to and voted for them. They’re all extraordinary, amazing people, and hard workers who trusted me. My job is not only to teach them how to ballroom dance, but to showcase them in the best way possible. The show is about the celebrities at the end of the day, and I’m lucky enough to be tapped along for the ride to help them.
As for next season, I don’t know if I’m coming back yet. It’s too early to say. You never know what will happen. Last year at this time, I had planned to sit out Season 16, and I was thisclose to doing it. What’s crazy is the chain of events since then. I was literally about to sign off saying I would take the season off, but it all changed when I visited my mom in the hospital. The woman who shared her room with her kept telling me, “You can’t not do the show!” And I got this feeling inside me that maybe she was right and I wanted to come back. I called the producers and they were like, “Derek, we need to know in the next 20 minutes,” and I finally said, “Yes, I’m doing it.” I came into last season with Kellie with a completely different outlook — it was almost like a reboot for me. Last season was also the last one with results shows, which had the “Walking on Air” routine, one of the routines I won the Emmy for. The Emmys themselves — having Neil Patrick Harris be such an ardent supporter of dance that the category moved to the main show and all the nominees got to perform — it was such an honor. And the Emmys were right after this season started. It was like a ripple effect. I have been so blessed this year. It’s really been incredible.
My immediate plans are to eat turkey! Then I’m going to work on some other projects I’ve been putting off for a long time, like music and some videos. I have other projects in development with BBC Worldwide, a tour I’m putting together and a book. I mentioned here last season that I was working with our ice dancers Meryl White and Charlie Davis on their Olympic routine, and I’m so honored to see them performing it on the circuit right now. I don’t think I’ll be going to the Olympics, but wherever I am in February, I’ll definitely be rooting for them to bring home the gold!
Thanks again for all your support as always! Hope I didn’t bore you too much on here this season. Have a great Thanksgiving and happy holidays!