One of TV’s most inspirational stories came to an end Wednesday night, as Marlee Matlin was eliminated on Dancing with the Stars.

The Oscar-winning deaf actress made her exit from the hit ABC reality show after her mambo performance on Monday failed to impress the judges and audience, earning her and partner Fabian Sanchez a score of just 21 out of 30.

Throughout her stay on DWTS, Marlee managed to prove doubters wrong and touch everyone’s hearts – even bringing stern judge Carrie Ann Inaba to tears — as she showed that her inability to hear the music was not going to keep her from learning how to dance like a pro.

“I came here knowing that America would get to see me do something I had never done before and defy expectations," Marlee told OK! after being eliminated. "And I’m damn proud of what I did.”

And in addition to honing her dancing skills, the 42-year-old managed to lose an incredible 18 pounds during her time on the show! For more on Marlee’s diet and fitness regimen, check out the new OK! — hitting newsstands on Thursday.

The Children of a Lesser God star said that DWTS was “an experience far beyond what I thought. I got to dress in a fantastic wardrobe, dance opposite some unbelievable competition and get into the best shape of my life. It also was probably the hardest job I’ve ever had, but I loved it.”

Marlee was also pleased to do something her four children — Sarah, 12, Brandon, 7, Tyler, 5, and 4-year-old Isabelle — could enjoy. “I did it for my kids so I could be the ‘cool mom.’" she explained. "Most of my work was stuff they couldn’t watch. DWTS is probably the best family entertainment on TV.” Marlee said her husband, police officer Kevin Grandalski, 43, also encouraged her to do the show: “He’s so proud of me.”

She’s made a lifelong friend in her dance partner Fabian, who pulled off the seemingly impossible feat of guiding the deaf actress through her moves. “I am humbled by his knowledge and skill," she told OK!. "And I’m so glad to have had the chance to dance with him. Stars, if you come on the show, you can ask for him, but remember, I had him first!”

After six weeks of intensely hard work, Marlee says she’s now looking forward to spending time with her family. “I plan to pack my kids’ lunches, take them to school, pick them up at the end of the day, read them bedtime stories, give them a bath, be a wife.”

Marlee’s post-DWTS career will include more acting. She told OK! she might briefly return to the show The L Word, in which she played Jennifer Beals’ character’s girlfriend, just to tie up loose ends. Otherwise, she’s, “I’m looking forward to jumping into another series and doing more features. I just hope that after DWTS that people know there’s a lighter, funnier side of me and there’s certainly no need to think ‘well, can Marlee do this?’ I think I’ve proven I can do pretty much anything. You’ve just got to be willing to listen."

By Carole Glines

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