Even her battered knees couldn't stop her from waltzing away with the trophy. Amber Riley and her pro partner, Derek Hough, beat out Corbin Bleu and Karina Smirnoff to win Season 17 of Dancing With the Stars Tuesday night. "I definitely feel beaten down right now," Riley says with a laugh. The Glee star, 27, who has been plagued with knee injuries all season, is looking forward to giving her whole body a rest — probably in Hawaii. "I've always wanted to go there," she says.
But not before taking her victory lap in Los Angeles and New York with the Mirror Ball trophy. "There were times when I could've quit," she says. "I could've come back from the doctor's office and said, 'This is what he said that it is.' But I tried to find every solution that I could. I had needles in my knees [painkillers] about four times, I got them drained and lubricated. Because I really just wanted to stick with this to the end. I've always considered myself a strong person, but this was a different kind of strength. This was the type of strength where I had every single reason to quit, but I didn't."
Riley says that despite the sore joints and serious fatigue, she feels better now than when she started: "I'm a stronger person mentally, I sweat a lot faster, my metabolism's better, I have more muscle strength, and I have better energy every single morning. So this entire experience has been good for me."
The win only adds to an already impressive resume. She can act, she can sing. And now, can she dance! Will she keep it up? "I'm always gonna dance," Riley says. "It's a new way of expressing myself."
Though Riley says she "was genuinely shocked," when she won, it was presumably less of a surprise for Hough, who has now racked up five wins, including both 2013 seasons. "I feel really blessed, especially this year," he says. "To win this show twice, and then to win an Emmy? It's been a good year."