On the Tuesday night finale of Dancing With the Stars, race car driver Helio Castroneves left Spice Girl Mel B. and entertainer extraordinaire Marie Osmond in the dust, as he and pro partner Julianne Hough zoomed away with the championship trophy.
OK! was right there to share in Helio’s joy, as he became the third consecutive male athlete to win the ABC reality show, following football legend Emmitt Smith and last season’s champ, speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, who also had the good fortune of having Julianne as a partner.
“I really want to jump!” Helio laughed to OK! after winning. “My dream was to become a race car driver and win everything I can — Indy 500 and things like that. And I had the chance to become a dancing star and I’ve won. It’s beyond my dreams.”
But the two-time Indianapolis 500 champ, who charmed America with his bright smile and broken English, admitted he had doubts he’d take home the disco ball trophy. “There were a lot of rumors this morning on the Internet and Web sites that Mel would be the winner and — I call Julianne Ju Ju — I said, ‘Ju, Ju, you know what? We did everything we could.’ That’s why I was really shocked when they called my name because I’m like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding!’ This is crazy! I’m so proud; I’m so happy.”
As for Julianne, the two-time champ told OK!, “This season has been so unpredictable. I think he was definitely the rightful winner, but I had no idea.”
So where will Helio put his DWTS trophy? It’s going to go “between my two Indy trophies, on a big mantle.”
Helio isn’t sure where the DWTS championship will take him. “I’m going to continue racing; that’s what I love most,” he told OK! “Hopefully from this, I can have other opportunities, but right now, racing is what I have in mind.” Helio said his next race will most likely be the Daytona 24 Hours at the end of January.
Also set for January is Helio’s wedding to his fiancée, Ali Vasquez, who works in jewelry design in Miami.
For more on the DWTS winner’s marriage plans, check out OK!’s exclusive interview and photo shoot with Helio and Julianne in the new issue — on newsstands everywhere Thursday.
Meanwhile, runner up Mel B., who performed with Maksim Chmerkovskiy, was gracious in defeat, telling OK! “I thoroughly enjoyed the whole of this thing. I didn’t expect to be in it this long. I want to thank America because they’re the ones who kept us in.” Next up for Mel is the Spice Girls tour: “We have a show on Saturday.”
While Marie opted out of talking to most reporters after her disappointing loss, she told OK! after her widely panned “living doll” routine on Monday’s show that her partner, Jonathan Roberts, was her rock. “I probably wouldn’t have made it through the 10 weeks without this guy. It’s been a really hard 10 weeks and when I’d get discouraged by comments or whatever, he’d say, c’mon, keep going. So, I really wanted to win for him.”
Despite her huge fan base, it was not to be.
Helio’s win seemed almost anticlimactic after a ton of drama on this season’s show, including Marie’s collapse, Jane Seymour’s hospitalization for food poisoning and Cheetah Girl Sabrina Bryan’s surprise ouster.
Host Tom Bergeron summed up the season for OK!: “It’s been an emotional roller coaster. It became something more than a dance show.”
By Carole Glines