Bindi Irwin Delivers First Perfect 10 on Dancing with the Stars with Stunning Tribute to Late Father Steve Irwin: 'For the Rest of My Life, I'll Kind of Feel Like He's Going to Come Home'
“What shaped me the most would probably be when my dad passed away. It’s been nine years and I’ve never really dwelled on that point,” she said in a pre-recorded segment on the episode, which focused on the most pivotal years of the stars’ lives. “I think I’m ready to tell that story.”
Bindi, 17, teared up when the way pro Derek Hough‘s grabbed her fingers during rehearsal brought back a memory of learning to walk from her father.
“It took a really long time to understand what actually happened,” Bindi said of her father’s death. “For the rest of my life, I’ll kind of feel like he’s going to come home.”
She and Hough performed a cover of “Every Breath You Take” by The Police in honor of Steve, who died in 2006.
During the emotional pre-recorded segment, Hough held Bindi’s ears closed and was trying to make her laugh the entire time before their dance. Afterwards, Hough said PEOPLE he did so because they don’t see the segments ahead of time, and knew this one would be emotional.
“I was just holding her ears and blocking it out so we could focus on the dance and then after the dance you can let it out because it is hard to hysterically cry while dancing,” Hough told PEOPLE.
She earned 28 out of 30, the highest score of the night – which included the first 10 of the season, courtesy of judge Bruno Tonioli.
“He was dancing with you every step of the way,” Tonioli told Bindi of her father.
“You have to remember that that emotion is just a part of life, and we all have to deal with different things, but you have to find that beauty in every day,” Bindi told PEOPLE afterwards. “Tonight, it was just all about remembering the fact that dad is always with me, and I carry him in my heart.”
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.