For the first time ever in its 21-season run, I finally gave a flying pirouette about who won “Dancing With The Stars” this fall.
I’m usually somewhat aware of the line-up as each new one is announced, waiting for a name that actually aligns with my Hollywood interests. They’re few and far between; I’ve always argued that the “stars” they enlist can barely be considered as such. They’re always has-beens, reality rejects, former athletes, or ‘90s pop stars.
In my opinion, the most famous thing to come out of DWTS is the Hough siblings. Julianne is trying to establish herself as a B-list actress—you can see her step into reckless Ariel’s dancing shoes in the 2011 “Footloose” remake, dueting with Tom Cruise in the 2012 “Rock of Ages” screen adaptation, or taking on a drippy Nicholas Sparks romance opposite Josh Duhamel in 2013’s “Safe Haven.” Her older brother Derek is known more for his choreography, but he also had a brief guest role on ABC’s “Nashville” last year and the sibs recently went up against each other on Spike’s LL Cool J-hosted “Lip Sync Battle.”
But this season, I had to tune in. Granted, I was only interested in the performances of one particular dancer, but I tuned in just the same instead of rolling my eyes once again at the premise of this show.
In September of 2006, I was a baby-faced freshman at Lock Haven University. I was just beginning my journalism classes, adjusting to dorm life, and trying to make new friends out of a sea of over 6,000 students. And in my first weekend, I received the news that shocked most of America: Steve Irwin, wildlife warrior and famed Crocodile Hunter, had died in a tragic accident.
I loved watching Steve. His joyful mission to save animals was full of so much passion and enthusiasm that it was instantaneously contagious. He inspired me. And I cried right along with his wife, family, and friends during the publicly aired memorial service a little over a week later.
So when DWTS revealed that their 2015 shining star would undeniably be 17-year-old Bindi, Steve’s bubbly and charming daughter, I knew I would want to watch.
Paired with five-time champ Derek, she killed it. She busted out of her khaki in week one into a shower of green sequins to “Crocodile Rock” and I knew she was going to sweep the whole competition. I didn’t see every performance, as my television roster is quite full and I often forgot she was even on, but she’d be all over my go-to entertainment news outlets each week and I’d remember to go looking for video clips.
Her most emotional performance by far was when they tackled the theme of “Most Memorable Year” in week 4 and she finally opened up about the experience of losing her father at such a young age. The package that played before their dance was heart-breaking and I lost it when she tearfully told the camera, “For the rest of my life, I’ll kind of feel like he’s gonna come home.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and she earned her first perfect 10.
She knocked it out of the park again in the finale, dancing a breath-taking freestyle to “Footprints in the Sand,” which concluded with a photo display of sweet young Bindi kissing her father on the cheek (left). She received a perfect score from all three judges.
Throughout the three-month competition, the Aussie never let Hollywood go to her head. She remained a bright ray of sunshine, hugging the judges, hugging the hosts, gushing over her wonderful dance partner and how he had become her brother, and speaking openly about her love for her father and her country. While her enthusiasm almost seemed ingratiating and sanctimonious at times, it was easy to see that she is simply her father’s daughter. She’s so genuine that she seems fake to us jaded Americans.
Her sob story did not win her that mirror ball—her spirit and determination did. She deserved to feel like her life had been changed, even if by such a commercial experience.
Good on ya, Bindi!