A new celebrity has been crowned the winner of Dancing with the Stars!
They beat out former Bachelorette and runner-up Gabby Windey and her partner Val Chmerkovskiy, actor and TV host Wayne Brady and partner Witney Carson (who placed third), and drag queen superstar Shangela and partner Gleb Savchenko (who finished in fourth).
The season 31 finale got off to an energetic start, beginning with an opening number to “Everybody Dance” by Cedric Gervais & Franklin ft. Nile Rodgers, featuring the show’s professional dancers.
Co-hosts Tyra Banks and Alfonso Ribeiro then took the floor to celebrate the four finalists, who would be performing two routines: a Redemption Dance chosen by one of the judges and the beloved Freestyle.
Throughout the episode, viewers were taken on a trip down memory lane as they recapped the season’s biggest moments week-by-week and all of the eliminated contestants returned to perform a final dance. Most notably, Selma Blair and Sasha Farber returned to dance, weeks after Selma had to step away from the competition due to complications from MS.
The evening also featured two retirement celebrations: pro Cheryl Burke took the dance floor for a final performance after announcing her retirement following 26 seasons, and Len Goodman, who announced his retirement last week, was honored with a tribute video and his own mirrorball trophy.
First Round: Redemption Dance
Shangela and Gleb Savchenko
Shangela said it was “scary” to end up in the bottom two for the first time, but now, “It’s full steam ahead to the mirrorball trophy.”
Reflecting on her journey, Shangela said she thought her Halloween Night performance was her “breakthrough moment” after receiving a perfect score.
“I’ve only been at the top of the leaderboard once,” she added, noting that she wants to prove to others “if you can commit, you can do it… now it is time to show them why I deserve to win.”
For their redemption dance, judge Bruno Tonioli came into rehearsals and said he wanted them to re-do their quickstep. He helped with technicalities, including Shangela’s frame – and later, was beyond thrilled by their final performance to “Queen Bee” by Rochelle Diamante.
“Your frame was so much better,” he said, though he did acknowledge, “You went on the wrong foot.”
Carrie Ann Inaba told Shangela “you excite me” and pointed out “that was way more elegant” than her first time performing the quickstep. Len said “the improvement was vast” and called their dance “dynamic” while Derek Hough commended Shangela for her historic run on the show and called her dance “fantastic.”
Speaking to Alfonso afterward, Shangela addressed the shooting at the LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado. “An attack on the LGBTQ community cannot be supported… we need more love, less hate. Just know, there is hope, baby,” she said.
Wayne Brady and Witney Carson
Wayne said he was “surprised” to be in the finale, “but I wouldn’t have wanted to start this journey unless I knew I would be standing here.” He also spoke about the challenges his busy schedule posed and emphasized how he “wanted to prove to myself” that he could do this.
Wayne and Witney welcomed Len into rehearsals, where he told the pair that he wanted them to redo their quickstep. “I wanna see a really good frame,” he told them.
Speaking to cameras, Wayne said: “The redemption dance, I can’t even stress how important it is because everything is going to be critiqued within an inch of its life. This week is a big one — trust me, we are going to bring it.”
After their dance to “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson, Len said he enjoyed working with them because “it was so full of joy.” While he thought Wayne’s “frame was stronger,” Len admitted the dance “needed a little bit more movement” and “could’ve been done with a little bit more flow.”
Derek told Wayne his dance was “definitely an improvement” but pointed out how “there was a little bit of a misstep on the side-by-side [part].”
Bruno added that “whatever you do, you make it look good,” and Carrie Ann commended Wayne, telling him, “Your posture and frame are so improved… you are so balanced when you dance.”
Charli D’Amelio and Mark Ballas
Charli said she was “so excited” about her scores last week. “What a way to go into the finale!” she celebrated.
Reflecting on her jive earlier in the season, which was performed during week five on Prom Night, Charli told Mark, “I don’t think I spent enough time working on the character aspect.”
The duo then welcomed Carrie Ann into rehearsals to help with their redemption jive. “I’m looking for a little bit more emotion,” she told the TikTok star.
After the pair danced to “Grown” by Little Mix, Carrie Ann raved…
Read More: See Who Won Season 31