“My mind went blank for a minute,” Melissa told us on the ballroom after the show. “I’ll be honest: When we were standing there and it was us and Shawn [Johnson] and Derek [Hough], I assumed it was Shawn and Derek [who would win].
“When it was our name called, I just went, Oh my God, how did this just happen?”
“We thought we’d go home in week one,” laughed Tony.
“We never thought we’d be champions or be the last ones standing,” agreed Melissa. “I wish we hadn’t underestimated ourselves — but at the same time it kind of makes you more proud of what you’ve accomplished.”
Season 15’s runner-ups are also bursting with pride for the winners — especially for Tony, who just nabbed his first win after 14 seasons on the show. “I’m so proud of him,” Derek told us. “We knew it meant so much to him.”
“To be honest, they deserved it, they worked really hard,” enthused Shawn. “It
meant just as much to them as it did to us. And seeing the joy on their face
when they were called was neat to watch.”
“Honestly, if you’re not gonna win, this is the way to feel, right now,” continued Derek, “to see how happy he was. Listen, we know Tony’s been through the trenches. He has paid his dues. He has had some doozies [as celebrity partners]. For him to realize that he has a gem [in Melissa] and that he had an opportunity [is] amazing.”
“I’ve paid my dues,” agrees Tony, “but it was worth the entire 14 seasons to get somebody like Melissa. It was worth this moment — this unbelievable moment, this incredible ride — all the stars have to align sometimes and tonight they all did.”
“The support behind us the entire season feels good,” said Melissa. “It feels like the cast is genuinely happy for us … I feel really blessed.”
When asked where she planned to display her mirror-ball trophy, Melissa said, “It’s heavy … like in my front yard, on my mailbox or on the top of my car. Somewhere where everybody can see it all the time!”