Heather Mills with Jonathan Roberts, <EM>Dancing with the Stars</EM> Heather Mills with Jonathan Roberts, Dancing with the Stars

It was a very strong showing. Contrary to what many had predicted, amputee Heather Mills didn't get kicked off ABC's Dancing with the Stars the first elimination week. Or the second. Or the fourth. She survived until last night, shocking the judges and impressing voters enough to keep her in the game a long time and give her a respectable seventh-place finish out of 11 dancers. Mills says she knew on Monday night that her dancing days were numbered, exhausted as she was after commuting for the first time from L.A. to London and back in the same week. "That's the good thing about never drinking coffee," she says. "When you need it, you have one and it works."

But after she had done the fiery Latin dance the paso doble, the judges said again that they wanted to see stronger arms, a more polished upper body. 

"When the judges say I should take ballet, I say when?" said Mills right after the Monday-night performance show. "When am I ever going to have the time? And when can I focus on my upper half when I'm just lucky my feet are keeping me upright? So all I can do is listen and try to do my best."

Her best turned out to be astonishing. Dips, spins, lifts. She was game for anything and the choreography was often far more complicated than that of her two-legged competitors. And her professional partner, Jonathan Roberts, had the perfect, patient, soft-sell approach for this female firebrand who has attracted enough controversy for three lifetimes. "Jonathan's voice is in my head," says Mills. "He'll say, 'Get your shoulders down!' And when I feel myself slouching, I go, "Ooh. No." Because when I was younger, I had huge boobs. It sounds rude. But anyone with a big chest knows, you hunch over. So now it's like — chest out. Shoulders down."

And now she'll be back to the life she's carved out for herself in England, where she's been vilified as the estranged wife of the beloved Sir Paul McCartney. The terrible publicity over the last year has put a real damper on her fund-raising for endangered animals and cleaning up landmines. But now, because of Dancing with the Stars, "people are donating again," she says. "Because what people didn't realize was that when they're making up rubbish about me in the press, it affects thousands of lives. I'm responsible for nine countries being funded to be de-mined. So now, everyone wants to know how they can help."       

The show has also helped her on a personal level: Her daughter, 3-year-old Beatrice, suddenly thinks Mom is cool. "It's made my daughter fall totally madly in love with me," says Mills. "She was in love with me before, but now she thinks I'm a princess. And she's dancing all the time. She's going to ballet and tap."

In the end, Mills did a lot more dancing than she had originally bargained for. She assumed that, because of the bad overseas press that dragged her down like a heavy costume, she wouldn't last more than a couple of weeks. But even before the show got started, she knew even minimal participation would pay off "because the fee that they gave me in the beginning will go to my charities," she said at the time. "[That] will save loads and loads of animals and help fit up some kids with artificial limbs. So that's already done, just by me participating in the first show. If I go past that, that's just a bonus."

She got a big fat bonus. 

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