Carrie Ann Inaba’s Season 16 Dancing With the Stars Blog: Season Finale!

May 22, 2013 at 2:24 pm , by

Photo by Dominick Guillemot/Contour by Getty Images

Season 16 has come to a close. I have to admit I had no idea who would take the mirror ball trophy home this season. The race was the tightest its been in a long time. I thought with Zendaya’s 2.7 million twitter followers, she was a shoo-in for the title. But Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough worked some magic on their freestyle routine and created a very profound moment of television. I ran into Derek backstage right after they won and he told me that he was inspired by my call to Kellie to find more expression and connect more to the emotions of the dance. I think he said it haunted him as he was putting the freestyle routine together. I’m so glad that he understood what I was going for when I made those comments. That’s what makes a winner to me—someone who can take on the challenges we give them instead of taking offense to them. Dancing With the Stars is a challenge that takes stamina, strategy and a willingness to face parts of yourself that you don’t want to. In order to win you have to find a way to incorporate our critiques and comments into your dances. When I gave Kellie feedback about the emotional quality of her dance, I was trying to help her grow.

I had a feeling that this season was going to be a tight race to the finish line. I know that the key to winning this competition is having breakthroughs and growth on top of the fantastic dances we expect in the finals. But magic is made when you push yourself to do something that’s really not a “sure thing.” When you accomplish that goal, there’s nothing like it.

A lot of shows out there will fake moments to create dramatic television, but I think the audience has become savvy to that and our audience is smarter than that. Kellie and Derek’s win is proof. I’m not saying that Zendaya and Val did anything fake or anything like that. Not at all. She is a phenomenal performer and Val’s choreography showcased her beautifully. She’s been outstanding the whole way and she has a special quality when she performs that will take her career very far. But Kellie hadn’t been completely connecting on an emotional level to her dances. She hadn’t really let go until that moment. She made progress, but in her final freestyle she discovered something new about herself and we all witnessed it. Derek created a piece of choreography that allowed her this discovery; in fact, it pushed her right into it. There was nowhere to hide. The movements lent themselves to vulnerability and heart connection. Kellie stepped right up to the plate and swung a home run.

I’m so happy for her success. As a dancer it is this heart-centered and honest type of performance that touches your audience’s core and creates loyal fans and supporters. I’ve been in this business for a long time. I’ve seen talent come and go and I’ve seen amazingly talented people never find themselves in their performances and get lost in the shuffle of the entertainment industry. Eventually they fade out, but every once in a while someone is able to push themselves past their own limits and dig so deep that they find a whole new layer. But this applies to anyone. You have to continue to push yourself. Just when you get comfortable, I think it is imperative that you push and see what else there is and what else you have to offer this world. This courage is what creates a satisfying life and that’s something we all crave.

This was a big season for all of us at DWTS. We hit our 300th episode and it was the end of our two-episodes-a-week run. That part is bittersweet. I love having all of the production numbers and I think we did some amazing work with the DWTS Troupe. They were brilliant and truly a highlight of the season. They gave our show a fresh energy and I think it’s a good time to give thanks. Who knows what will happen in the future for the show, but I know our talented producers will come up with some great ideas to ensure that the show is even better. Now we’re pushing ourselves out of our own comfort zone. We’re heading into the unknown with courage and excitement, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Change can be a bit scary, but it’s good and a very important part of life. I know I speak for everyone when I say we’re so grateful to all of our viewers and fans that have tuned in for our 300+ episodes and we look forward the next 300.

What’s next for me? I’ll be busy producing my gala for The CAI Animal Project which is on October 18th, 2013 at the Century Plaza Hotel Ballroom in Los Angeles. There will be dancing, and everyone asks me when I’ll dance; well I’ll be dancing in this show for sure! And so will a lot of familiar faces. It’s going to be exciting. Raising money for animals in need is going to be my focus for the next few months and if you’d like to help, please check out our website,, or if you’d like to help with our fundraising by buying some of the looks I’ve worn on the show, go to I have a closet there and I’ll be adding even more clothes so check back often. You can have a part of DWTS fashion history and do something good for the animals. It’s a win-win!

Congratulations to our Season 16 winners, Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough! And congratulations to our runners-up, Zendaya Coleman and Val Chermkovskiy. Both duos were fantastic and really wowed us with their talent and fortitude. I thought this was our best season ever and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Now it’s time for a mini-staycation! I’ll see you soon, and if you miss me, just follow me on twitter at

Take care and God bless.

12 Responses to “Carrie Ann Inaba’s Season 16 Dancing With the Stars Blog: Season Finale!”

  1. I think this was one of the best seasons yet. All the dancers did so well. I’m thrilled that Kellie and Derek won, Van and Zandaya were great also, it did bother me that she had been dancing for Disney for 8 years, she was excellent though and maybe had an advantage over the other dancers. Jacoby was so much fun to watch, he gave it his all. Mark and Ale were also great. I really enjoyed this season.

  2. Hi Carrie Ann, I totally wish I could sit down with you and discuss this article with you. I have so many questions lol…I don’t even know if you will read this, BUT, your following statement:

    ” I’m not saying that Zendaya and Val did anything fake or anything like that…She is a phenomenal performer and Val’s choreography showcased her beautifully. She’s been outstanding the whole way and she has a special quality when she performs that will take her career very far…”

    is completely insulting to the emotional connection that Zendaya and Val have built upon, improved up, and ultimately, consistently “swung home runs” on this season. One of the things I love about Val, which is so different from any other choreographer on this show or ANYWHERE ELSE is that he “choreographs connection.” When he said that, I was just like, that’s it — mind=blown, that’s why I love this guy. That’s what’s so magnetic about him and why his partners LOVE him and work with him so well. That connect was built and industriously and carefully nurtured from DAY ONE. That’s why Zendaya blew everyone away with her contemporary. That’s why ValDaya was so ridiculously and consistently fabulous this season. You yourself said it best, that Zendaya’s dancing “stylized dancing — bringing a story to life” — what does that other than a powerful emotional connection?

    I am not taking your praise of Kellie to task. In fact, I respect your opinion as a judge and recognize the authority behind your critical analysis. I’m just taking your patronizing tone of the emotional connection of what Val and Zendaya built (“magical” was used repeatedly by every judge) and calling it a “performance” to task.

    Voting SNAFU/FUBAR aside — feel free to insert any other synonym — (But seriously, you guys couldn’t get it together for the finals? Really, ABC? Really, DWTS? Please do better…Advanced students from any engineering school could have helped you with this problem. Mathematically, if you sit down and think about it, the odds parsed every which way make it nigh impossible for anyone OTHER than Zendaya to have won), you must admit that this article was completely patronizing to the point of condescension. This aggravates me to no end. Be critical, but don’t be patronizing. It also internally contradicts itself, but whatever. In either case, you’re completely right. We, the audience, (at least the audience-past of DWTS) recognize fake moments. The finale had those fake moments. Great job on trying to cover it up, but my dear, the seams are still showing…

  3. Correction:

    1) That connection* was built and industriously and carefully nurtured from DAY ONE.

    2) You yourself said it best, that Zendaya’s dancing was* “stylized dancing — bringing a story to life” — what does that other than a powerful emotional connection?

  4. Thank you Paradigmatic Kestrel

  5. So base on this article the relationship that we saw develop between Val and Zendaya was not genuine but was created for dramatic effect. Wow that really calls into question the integrity of both Val and Zendaya.

  6. Hi sashay, is this what you really took from this article?

    I can truly tell you that the friendship that developed between Val and Zendaya was 100% real. Check out this video —

    Not only did Val know all the correct answers to deep, personal questions about Zendaya, he was the only one to connect each response to an anecdote, showing he wasn’t just spewing answers but recalling memories. You don’t recall memories like that without them being deeply embedded and without a relationship built on honesty, trust, and truth.

    You don’t manufacture that overnight.

    Exhibit A:

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