All season long, Nicole Scherzinger and her partner, Derek Hough, out-tangoed, out-quick stepped and out paso dobled the competition. During the Dancing With the Stars finale Tuesday night, the two earned the distinction of unanimous praise from all three of the judges, who called the pop singer the best dancer in the show’s history.
“I’m totally emotional,” Hough told PEOPLE moments after the show ended. “Nicole and I burst out into tears backstage after our Argentine tango. We were so overwhelmed with how happy we were with what was going on tonight. Win, lose, draw we were going to be happy. But to win is phenomenal.”
“I’m kind of speechless right now,” confessed Scherzinger, who helped Hough earn his second mirror ball trophy (he captured the season six title with new co-host Brooke Burke). “I’m going to go into a room and cry. It’s not about the trophy. It’s beyond the trophy. The experience and the challenge and everything you go through — it’s a lot of life-changing experiences in three months and it’s just so intense.”
And the pair may work together again, Hough says, laughing. Scherzinger is working on a solo album and Hough “will be in the back in the videos wearing my lime green rhinestones,” she says.
Meanwhile, there were no hard feelings from talented runners-up Evan Lysacek and Anna Trebunskaya.
“We feel like we haven’t left anything on the table,” Lysacek said. “We all gave it our best shot, but Derek and Nicole were the best from day one. They inspired all of us and kept it going week after week and we’re very happy for them.”
ESPN correspondent Erin Andrews clung to partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy after the show, grateful for his friendship and support.
“I was a mess when I came here,” Andrews, the victim of a stalking scandal, said, her eyes welling with tears. “He was exactly what I needed.”
Like Lysacek, Andrews was thrilled to compete in the finale, and humbled by the experience.
“I am one of the best at what I do and you come into this and all of a sudden you’re not the best any more,” she said. “You just feel insecure, humbled, you’re getting criticized and corrected and it was a lot of medicine to swallow. And I had a lot to deal with off the ballroom floor. It was the perfect thing to happen to me.”
“And the season flew by,” Chmerkovskiy says. “It was blur, blur, blur. Scream, scream, loud noises, and the winner is Derek and Nicole! This did not feel like three months, it felt like three weeks.”
And, adds Lysacek, “I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.” –Monica Rizzo
Tell us: Did the right couple win Dancing with the Stars?Kelsey McNeal/ABC