Dancing with the Stars by Michael Desmond/ABC
How's this for a good time: Try sitting in the audience for the
Dancing with the Stars
finale next to designer Rami Kashou, runner-up on this season's
. "Love that," says Kashou, catching sight of redheaded pro Anna Trebunskaya as she arrives on stage to dance with Steve Guttenberg in a dazzling, fire-engine red gown. "That color is great for her."
There is a note-worthy connection between the two hit reality shows: Kit Pistol, another recent
contestant, is the stylist for
cohost Samantha Harris. That means for the last ten weeks, Pistol has been scouring Los Angeles to find roughly one hundred gowns for Harris to try on, twenty of which made the final cut. Tonight, however, as Harris stands with host Tom Bergeron, Kashou is underwhelmed. "It's a little too stiff," he says of the pale lilac gown. "And the color needs to be a little stronger."
A fashion show, a dance show and a championship, all rolled into one. And
taking the crown? "It was no surprise," says last season's runner-up, Mel B. "But it's a good thing that a woman's won, that's for sure."
"If she had been on my season, I would've been like, 'That's not fair!'" says Season 4's Laila Ali, looking radiant as she expects her first child. "I consider her a dancer already, but on ice. The truth is the truth. But it all comes down to the viewers and who makes them want to pick up the phone."
"She was the best dancer, and the best sport," says pro Karina Smirnoff. "She was never conniving. She came in to do her job, she did the best job, and she took home the trophy. I take my hat off to her. She worked her butt off."
"I went to some of her rehearsals and she really did struggle," says pro Julianne Hough. "Nobody believes that, but it's true. She was so humble, so likeable, and she was hands down the best dancer."
Those sentiments are echoed by the two talented men Yamaguchi defeated:
Cristián de la Fuente
. "For me, the finale was perfect," says de la Fuente, who will finally have surgery on that ruptured tendon in his left arm Friday and is facing a six-week recovery. "Cheryl and I wanted to be with Jason and Kristi in the finals. We wrote it down ten weeks ago on a piece of paper, and here we are. Nobody deserved that trophy more than Kristi. She's been perfect since day one."
"You can't help but be happy for her," says Taylor. "She set the bar so high. The thing about Kristi is that she really did push us to do more and do better."
Yamaguchi, hugging her surprisingly heavy mirror ball trophy, has looked like a different woman from the moment the freestyle was over on Monday night - happy, relaxed, finally able to release all the tension and nerves and just enjoy herself. What will she tell her young daughters (Keara, 4, and Emma, 2) in ten years about doing this show? "That dancing can inspire people," she says. "My daughters dance all the time. Our favorite time of day is after bath. We put on music and the whole family dances around in the family room."
Her partner, Mark Ballas, can't wipe the smile off his face. Why did their partnership work so well? "We have a lot in common," he says. "We have the same attitude, the same approach to things. We know when to take a break and when to push it to the limit. I think it was a match made in heaven." -
Deborah Starr Seibel