MARVELOUS

mELissA
By rACheL sokoL

ancing with the Stars (DWTS) is one of ABC’s highest-rated reality shows, and just wrapped up its fifteenth season. What made this season so special and fun was that fan favorite celebrities from previous seasons were brought to strut their stuff on the dance floor once again—with a professional partner. After the glitz and glam subsided, in the end, Melissa Rycroft—a correspondent for Good Morning America and Entertainment Tonight—and her pro-dance partner Tony Dovoloni emerged the winners of Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars. The duo—who was also paired up when Rycroft first competed in Season 8—received DWTS’s coveted glimmer- ball trophy. Just two days after her exciting November 2012 victory, the ever-cheerful Rycroft spoke with A Distinctive Style once again from her Dallas home about the entire experience—and how she went from feeling like an underdog to a top cat!

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“I’ve Grown”
“It just doesn’t feel real—I still have to tell myself I won,” she gushes. “The first time I was on the show, right after I was on The Bachelor Season 13, I was very guarded. I sometimes feel when I watch clips from my Season 8, I look like a little girl; my eyes are so big....” Her voice trails off, remembering. “It’s been three and a half years since then. Now, I have a husband, a child. (Husband Tye Strickland is an insurance agent; the couple has a young daughter, Ava) I’ve grown up a lot since then, and this time around, Tony (Dovoloni) and I had more fun with it all. Plus, you have a different type of freedom on DWTS. Unlike The Bachelor, cameras aren’t with you twenty-four seven. They’re there when you practice, but you have your own life.”

Rycroft and Dovoloni became close friends during the whole experience. “I credit my confidence this time around to Tony,” says Rycroft. “Tony said don’t worry what you look like!” I’m my own worst enemy. Even if I looked like ‘the awkward girl,’ he always made me feel like I was a great dancer. He’s been one of the few people who has been here from the beginning of this whole journey.” The dancing duo bonded over their children, too. “We had so much more to relate to, we understood each other when one of us said, ‘I’m not mentally here now, I need to talk to my kids, my husband...we got it--we had the same priorities this time, which bonded us’.” Rycroft says she felt America’s support week after week, as fans voted for their favorites to remain in the competition. “I would think, ‘we must be doing something right and we don’t even know what it is! I kept thinking, ‘Don’t underestimate yourself’.”
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RYCROFT Continued

Friends till the end
What Rycroft will miss the most—besides her amazing abs, she jokes—is the friendships she formed on the show. “Shawn (Johnson, an Olympian and fellow contestant) and I were just texting yesterday; we got real close this season. I’m going to miss her. It was a really great environment. This time around, it could have been uncomfortable and competitive, but I’m so grateful it was the exact opposite.” For more about Melissa Rycroft, follow her on her Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/ MelissaRycroft

Fight or Flight
Although both Rycroft and Dovoloni were sidetracked by injuries this season, she insists her neck is doing much better. Not only did she get back out on the dance floor after her neck strain, but her co-stars used her as a human jump rope in a group dance the very next evening! “It must be an optical illusion, I promise my neck didn’t move, I looked more contorted than I really was,” she insists, adding that doctors gave her the OK to dance again. “It’s in my nature to say ‘no’ when faced with physical pain, but this circumstance brought out the fight or flight in me. It’s kind of cool when you’re a bit stronger than you thought you were.” Rycroft looks forward to reclaiming her full title as mom and wife now that DWTS is over. “This is the stuff that makes me happy—family,” she beams. As for her 2013 career plans? She’s got more tricks up her sleeve, but remains mum on them. “My worst case scenario is that I live in Dallas, and I’m a wife and a mom and that’s not so bad.”

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