'Dance Your Ass Off' Winner: 'I'm a Better Person'

Photo: Tyler Golden/Oxygen

A second season of shaking and shimmying, weighing and winning has led to the crowning of another Dance Your Ass Off champion on Oxygen’s weight-loss competition. The final routines pitted the spirited Adamme against a determined Latoya.

Who won? Spoiler alert!

Losing close to 60 lbs. and moving with fluidity and verve, Trenton, N.J., dance instructor Latoya James, 26, became the DYAO season 2 champ on Monday night.

“My future is looking so bright and it’s a little overwhelming,” James tells PEOPLE. “You just never think in a million years that you will get a second chance to do some things you’ve always wanted to do in your life.”

At the age of 14, James received a scholarship for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and studied for many years until she quit dancing at 21, unable to deal with criticism. Though she eventually became a dance instructor, she hadn’t found fulfillment in teaching or dancing.

“Going through this journey, I learned a lot about myself,” James says. “When the weight continued to come on, I became very angry inside. I wasn’t that same, joyous person I used to be and I didn’t realize that until I came to the show. I was hiding behind a mask for so many years to maintain the cover that I was happy when I really wasn’t … But this change in life has helped me become a better person, and I love who I’ve become.”

Now, James is just 10 lbs. away from her target range of 140-145 lbs. “When I look at myself in the mirror, I remind myself of how far I have come,” she says. “I see the picture of the first time we weighed in at 217 lbs. and I keep that picture on my refrigerator every time I want to go there to get something unhealthy, I say, ‘No, no, no, no, no!’ I have pictures on my treadmills of what I used to look like, and that’s my motivation when I don’t want to do that extra mile. ”

With her $100,000 grand prize, James hopes to start a dance school. “I want to give back,” she says. “I want to give inspiration to young dancers and share my testimony with them so that they don’t have to go through some of the things I went through.”

In the meantime, she is re-dedicating herself to dance instruction. “Going back and teaching now is definitely different,” James says. “The students that I teach, I can just see the excitement in their eyes, like they believe in me and the words that I’m saying to them. They see the new body and they say, ‘You look like you’re in high school, like you’re our age, Miss Latoya!’ It’s really exciting because the way I was going when I was teaching a move before when I was 217 lbs., it was so hard to get across what I want to have done. I can show them the moves now!” –Cynthia WangTyler Golden/Oxygen

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