After Monday’s final performance episode of “Dancing With the Stars,” there wasn’t much doubt about who would win the Mirror Ball Trophy. Sure enough, 27-year-old Nyle DiMarco — a deaf model/actor who dedicated his final, stunning dance to the deaf community — walked away with the win on Tuesday night’s finale.
At the beginning of the season, DiMarco (who attended Gallaudet University in Washington) explained through his interpreter that his biggest fear was being criticized for his timing, given he was unable to hear the music. He and his dance partner, Peta Murgatroyd, had communication challenges at first, though Murgatroyd learned some sign language and worked to use physical cues during rehearsals.
The judges adored DiMarco — who won “America’s Next Top Model” last year — from the start. (“Are you for real?! I have to touch you, in case you are a fantasy,” judge Bruno Tonioli said in the premiere.) He was clearly the front-runner throughout the season, though he locked up the trophy in the finals with the aforementioned incredible freestyle contemporary dance with Murgatroyd on Monday.
In rehearsals, DiMarco said he wanted to tell a story through the dance of how he’s helping deaf people find hope. “Our dance is for millions of deaf people,” he said. “This dance has to make them proud.”
Performed to Disturbed’s version of a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” by Disturbed, the dance brought the judges to tears. Tonioli called it “a work of art” while Carrie Ann Inaba declared it “the best dance I’ve ever seen” in all 22 seasons of the show. Even grumpy Len Goodman was in awe: “You said that’s a dance for deaf people … that was a dance for everyone,” Goodman said. “Nyle, you’re a very special person. And that was a very special dance.”
Obviously, they scored a perfect 30. Afterward, DiMarco told co-host Erin Andrews that the deeper message of the freestyle was about how deaf people are ignored when they say they know how to raise their kids. “We know what’s best, so let us show you,” he said.
As is tradition, as soon as co-host Tom Bergeron announced DiMarco and Murgatroyd were the winners, the entire cast started screaming and celebrating. Bergeron was unable to grab DiMarco for the post-victory interview. Instead, Murgatroyd stepped forward: “This whole thing has been so incredible because of this man,” she gushed of her partner. “I owe everything to him.”
Meanwhile, the second place prize went to UFC fighter Paige VanZant and partner Mark Ballas. “Good Morning America” meteorologist Ginger Zee — who had a terrible back spasm going into the final performance week — and her partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, landed in third.