Country music star Kellie Pickler was named the winner of "Dancing With the Stars" tonight during the finale of the show's season 16, edging out Disney star Zendaya and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones.
Pickler had been a fan favorite, and her dancing skills markedly improved throughout 10 weeks of competition.
"Oh my God! This is amazing! Oh my God!" a surprised-looking Pickler said after hugging her pro partner, Derek Hough.
Zendaya took second place.
"I'm very proud. I'm very happy and I get to leave here with an amazing experience, so I'm very happy," she said.
Jones reacted with his usual humor.
"Out of all my trainings that I've had, I've never had a woman pushed me like she did," he said jokingly of his pro partner Karina Smirnoff, who was standing next to him.
The season premiered on March 19 with 12 celebrity contestants vying for the mirror ball trophy.
Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman was eliminated in the first hour of the results show, ending the competition in fourth place.
"This has been the best experience of my life. Thank you, 'Dancing With the Stars.' It's been so amazing," she said.
The remaining three finalists had to perform a final element of competition. They were given an instant dance, and were scored by judges. Those scores rounded out the judges' scores for both nights.
The Instant Dance Routines
The judges' scores from tonight were added to the judges' scores from Monday's performances. That total accounts for half of each star's overall total. The other half came from viewers' votes.
Jacoby Jones: The Baltimore Ravens wide receiver salsa's brought uniform praise from judges Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli. Goodman told Jones that he had a "naturalness" about his dance, and was full of fun and vitality. Tonioli said Jones had charisma and showmanship, adding, "I could watch you anytime." Inaba said that while Jones may have had a rough start in the finals, the important thing was how he finished. "You are a champion. That was the dance of a champion," she said. Jones earned a perfect score of 30 points, giving him a two-night judges' total of 86 out of 100 points.
Kellie Pickler: Tonioli told the country star that her jive had accuracy, precision and technique, and compared her to Julianne Hough, a former "Dancing" pro who is now a recording artist and actress. Inaba told Pickler that she and her partner, Derek Hough (Julianne Hough's brother), were "like a bright ray of sunshine." Goodman offered one of his trademark quips: "You're always clean, you're precise, you're sharp, your dancing is always polished. I'm telling you, Kellie, you're the bee's knees, my mama's pajamas, my uncle's carbuncles. You're awesome!" Pickler earned 30 points, giving her a two-night judges' total of 94 points.
Zendaya: The Disney star's jive won customary rave reviews from the judges. Inaba told her that she made every dance special, and Goodman added that, for a 16-year-old, she danced with precision and maturity and always turned in a performance, rather than just a routine. Added Tonioli: "For somebody so young you have pitch-perfect performer instinct." Zendaya earned 30 points, for a two-night judges' total of 95 points.
When all the points were tabulated, Pickler was the star with the highest combined tally of judges' scores and viewers' votes.
The Final Four
Of the four finalists, Zendaya was considered the most technically accomplished, and was the early standout. She was the youngest competitor in the show's history, and her performances consistently put her at or near the top of the leaderboard. She earned the first perfect score of the season.
Pickler was perhaps the most surprising contestant of the pack. She seemed to get better week after week, and she, too, was consistently at or near the top of the leaderboard during the competition. Her moving contemporary freestyle routine Monday night brought Inaba to tears and earned her a rare standing ovation from Goodman. Judges requested that routine as tonight's encore performance.
Jones' flair and showmanship lent him staying power even when his routines were less than perfect, but he improved during the course of the season, making up for technical flaws with energetic, crowd-pleasing performances.
Raisman turned in physically demanding routines that capitalized on her gymnastic skills, but judges also said she'd shown remarkable development of her dance abilities.
Tonight's show include live performances from Miami rapper Pitbull, Korean rapper PSY and Wynonna Judd, who was eliminated from the show early on in this season.
There were also dance performances from the rest of the season 16 cast.
"General Hospital" star Ingo Rademacher was voted off the show last week. He was preceded by "The Bachelor" star Sean Lowe, comedian Andy Dick, boxing champion Victor Ortiz, comedian D.L. Hughley, Judd and reality TV star Lisa Vanderpump.
Because of an injury, figure skating legend Dorothy Hamill withdrew from the competition in the second week.