It's hard to believe that just 11 weeks ago, The Bachelor's Melissa Rycroft was suffering from a broken heart after being rejected by Jason Mesnick on national television. But last night, the 25-year-old Texan beauty stood tall and proud alongside dance partner Tony Dovolani as second runner-up on the Dancing With the Stars May 19, finale. Considering Melissa donned her dance shoes at the last minute (just days before the competition was due to start), she has a lot to be proud of.
"I am a lot stronger than I gave myself credit for," Melissa tells In Touch. "I came into this terrified and would come out [to dance] frozen. But I learned to say, "What do you have to lose? You've come this far." And Tony made me feel so confident throughout."
"Eleven weeks ago, no one knew who I was," she adds. "But the audience voted for us and pulled us through. It's a strange concept for me, as few people have been in a situation like this." Throughout the season, Melissa received constant praise from the judges and her partner Tony, who has toyed with the idea of taking her into the pro-am dancing circuit. "She has the right work ethic to accomplish anything," Tony tells In Touch. However, Melissa is not jumping at the chance. "Tony keeps saying I should go professional," she laughs, "but absolutely not - I'm hanging up my shoes."
And when it comes to losing to 17-year-old Shawn Johnson. there are no hard feelings. "These guys have become great friends," reveals Tony. "And she is a sweet, sweet, young woman."
For more with the Dancing With the Stars second runners-up, click here.
"I consider my season a complete success."
How did you feel up there?
Melissa: The thing that was cool about this season is that no one knew who would win. Backstage we were all happy with ourselves, and reminiscing about our journeys during the season, how far each of us has come and how close we have gotten. The last chance we had to come out here, we all got perfect scores, so personally, I consider that we all won. I consider my season a complete success.
Tony: As she should.
Melissa: I wanted the mirror-ball trophy, I really did, but I don't need it because I know I accomplished more that I ever thought I could.
Will you miss rehearsing?
Melissa: I keep telling Tony that if you give me a week away from this, I'll want to do it again. I'll be, "Can we just go rehearse?" I am going to miss it. It's been my life for three months, and I have fallen in love with it and love going to practice every day. I love coming out here and performing, so it's a bittersweet day.
What's next - will you be performing again?
Melissa: I really don't know. I am not going to pursue anything right now. I am going to go home and if things come my way, I will absolutely look into them. I take advantage of every opportunity and never say never, but at this point I don't know.
Did you dust off a space for the trophy?
Melissa: I wanted it. And it took me a while to say that because I am not competitive at all. I felt bad saying it, but when I thought about who was left, I thought Shawn did not go into the Olympics not caring, she wanted the gold medal. Gilles goes into an audition because he wants the role. So it became okay to say, "I want to win this."
Tony: It took me until last week to admit I wanted it, too.
What did you learn about yourself doing the show?
Melissa: That I can want something and not feel bad about it. Also, I am a lot stronger than I gave myself credit for. I came into this terrified and would come out frozen. But I learned to say, "What do you have to lose? You have come this far." And Tony made me feel so confident throughout. <br.
There's no chance of you coming back next season as one of the pro dancers?
Tony: Oh, there's no chance of that!
Melissa: Why, Tony? Why?
Tony: It takes a lot more to be a pro than that - sorry!
Melissa: Oh, and we were doing so well today! [laughs] And now, this is what you do? I am going home and am getting a puppy. My boyfriend, Ty, said he'd get me a dog if we made it to the finals. Now he really has to - as I told everyone!