It was a very influential season of The Amazing Race.
Season 28 of the CBS reality competition was comprised of eleven teams of social media influencers – including YouTube’s Tyler Oakley, Vine star Zach King, former Miss Florida Brittany Oldehoff and Viral video star Marty Cobb – but in the end, engaged dancers Dana Alexa and Matt Steffanina beat everyone else to win the $1-million prize on Friday.
Immediately following the big reveal, Alexa and Steffanina spoke to PEOPLE about their big win, their hardships on the race and how it brought them closer together.
You won the first leg of the season. At that point, did you think you were destined to win the whole season?
Dana: No! We won the first leg by such a small margin. It was, like, 30 seconds. We were actually surprised how difficult it was and realized how tough the rest of the race would be.
Matt: There were teams that were stronger than us physically. Sometimes it just came down to things like taxis that were out of our control. And sometimes it was our communication and not making decisions that were the best.
What was the turning point for you to get back on track?
Matt: During the first leg in Bali. On one of the nights, we stayed up late together and really focused on what we needed to do to start doing better. We knew we had to start communicating more and find a way to get on the same page and from then on we ran a really strong race.
Dana: Coming in last to [one of the challenges] on that leg was hard on us. We weren’t even at the end of the leg but it was one of the first times we were dead last on the race. We kind of realized that we had gotten so far and we were not prepared to go home. We got to sleep outside in a temple that night and we sat together and really re-focused our whole strategy. Our whole game changed after that.
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What was the most fun moment on the race?
Matt: Obviously running to the final mat! But other than that, jumping off the building in the finale. The moment I realized I had done it on the first try, I knew that would give us a 10 or 15 minute lead – if not more. That was the first time I solidly thought we could win the whole thing.
Having watched the show, what surprised you the most about the reality of competing on it?
Dana: We were surprised with the amount of actual running. They cut all that out because watching someone run 5 miles isn’t that exciting but the first leg were were, like, “Is this possible? They want us to run 8 miles?” But they did. It’s a lot more physically demanding than it appears. The traveling from location to location is actually harder than the tasks, sometimes.
What do you plan on doing with your prize money?
Dana: I don’t know that it has really hit us because we’ve been lying about it for so long [because we couldn’t tell anyone that we’d won]. But I think that we will go on a trip together and then put the money back into our art and give back to the dance community and continuing to find ways to give dancers opportunities.
What did you learn about each other on the race?
Matt: I think mostly we learned that under pressure, when we need to dig deep and pull together, we can. We had a lot of ups and downs but we made it and we became stronger. Despite what we went through along the way, we still ended up on that mat together in the end.