The Dancing With the Stars trophy.
(USA TODAY) - Country star and former American Idol finalist Kellie Pickler, 26, was the belle of the disco ball Tuesday night on ABC's Dancing With the Stars, scoring 10s for her final jive with pro partner Derek Hough and taking the mirrored trophy over NFL great Jacoby Jones and Disney star Zendaya.
"I'm overwhelmed with joy. I'm kinda speechless for the first time," Pickler said after the show. "Usually, I'm spitting out words left and right. Now I don't know what to say."
As the final announcement between Pickler and Zendaya neared, she said, "I was just standing there and there was just two of us yet. I was kind of playing the whole journey through my mind. I was visualizing every dance. We made so many memories out here on the dance floor and in the studio."
Fox's Idol, which had its finale Thursday, and DWTS are shot on adjacent soundstages. Pickler, who was eliminated halfway through the final 12 on Season 5 of Idol, said that she and Hough went over to visit two nights ago, and "they'd torn down the whole idol stage, so it was just one big empty studio. I walked in the middle of the room, and I looked over at Derek, and he was like, 'Babe, this is where it all started.' I looked at him, and I was like, how can I hug this room and say 'thank you'?"
Hough called Pickler "amazing. We never talked about winning. My mentality was doing good work and doing good dances, and trying to push her to her limit and bring out her full potential. I feel like she reached this amazing pinnacle last night with the freestyle."
Before the viewer vote was tabulated and the final dances danced, the top of the leader board was as tight as it could be, with Zendaya just one point ahead of Pickler, 65-64, going into Tuesday.. Both scored two perfect dances Monday, Zendaya and partner Val Chmerkovskiy for their samba and freestyle performances, and Pickler and Hough for their quickstep and freestyle. Zendaya got the extra point by finishing ahead of Pickler in the cha-cha relay.
Youth was served in Season 16, with two finalists, Jones and Pickler -- in their 20s, and the other two - gymnast Aly Raisman, who was eliminated earlier Tuesday evening with USA TODAY blogger Mark Ballas, and Zendaya - in their teens. At 16, Zendaya was the youngest performer ever in the competition.
In their final salsa, Jones apparently missed a running jump over partner Karina Smirnoff, and wound up with her head caught between his legs. They then did a retake, to rolling laughter from the judges, the audience and the competitors themselves.
Smirnoff explained after the show that the stage equipment got in the way. "The camera was coming toward us where we were supposed to end (the salsa). So we tried to move to one side and the camera followed that way. It was a cat and mouse situation."
For the season, Dancing is averaging 14.3 million viewers and is down 17% in viewers and 23% among young adults (18-to-49) from last spring's cycle. However, it is up 1% in viewers and flat in young adults compared to the fall's all-star edition, which some thought was missing the appeal of dancing newcomers.
In the fall, ABC announced last week, the network will eliminate the lower-rated results show, consolidating performances and results into one night.