Though judges dubbed them the “all-American” couple on Dancing with the Stars, Shandi Finnessey and partner Brian Fortuna failed to win America’s hearts. The former Miss USA was voted out of the ballroom competition Tuesday – despite earning solid scores for her rendition of the jive.
“I wasn’t really surprised,” Finnessey told PEOPLE after being eliminated. “I’m so new to Hollywood and Brian is completely new to the show. People didn’t really get to know our personalities yet, whereas you have people who have played basketball for decades and performers who’ve been on stage for years. They already had their fanbases established.”
Overall, Dancing was “the most amazing experience,” says Finnessey, who was crowned Miss USA in 2004. “I would do it all over again if I could!”
Finnessey, 28, narrowly missed elimination last week when she landed in the bottom two with former model Paulina Porizkova, who was the first contestant to go home.
Stepping up her game for this week’s dance-off, Finnessey delivered a playful jive that judge Len Goodman applauded as “a great performance.” Judge Bruno Tonioli chimed in, calling the blonde beauty queen “a great bouncy, bubbly babe.”
But Finnessey’s fancy footwork fell flat with fans – who surprisingly spared Clyde Drexler from packing up his dancing shoes after his lackluster jive. Instead Leeza Gibbons – who tied for first after the judges praised her for her simple yet precise tango – joined Finnessey at the bottom of the pack.
But win or lose, Finnessey’s approach to the show has always been “keep it light,” she told PEOPLE last month. “It’s a reality show after all. You never know how America’s going to go. [Brian and I] just want to have fun with each other and fun with the other contestants while we’re here.”
There’s no doubt, the perky pair – whom Tonioli once described as “Barbie and Ken live in your living room!” – did just that. “Shandi and Brian are very vivacious. They have great personalities,” says Ian Ziering. “They re just fun people to be around.”
Luckily, neither of them are really going anywhere. Fortuna plans to settle down in Hollywood (“He’s got a great face for stardom,” says Finnessey) while Finnessey will return to the Game Show Network where she hosts Playmania and Lingo with Chuck Woolery.