Dancing With The Stars has a new Mirrorball champion.
Laurie Hernandez and her partner, Valentin Chmerkovskiy, were crowned the winners of Season 23 Tuesday night (Nov. 22) after a two-hour Christmas themed finale broadcast live from The Grove in Los Angeles. The pair–front runners for the entire season on the ABC dance competition– sealed the deal after nailing their fusion dance of foxtrot/argentine tango mixed with athletics lifts and Hernandez’s dazzling personality.
The dance received a perfect 40 out of 40 points with a rave from judge Len Goodman, who said it was a “fabulous dance to close a fabulous season.” Bruno Tonioli praised the Old Bridge, New Jersey Olympic Champion–who has more than earned her nickname as “The Human Emoji”–as a “fantastic dancer…and performer.” Hernandez is the youngest competitor in the history of the show to win the coveted Mirrorball trophy.
“My goal is to inspire others as I go on with my journey, and thank you for being there for me,” said the 16-year old gymnast.
“To all the kids out there, you don’t have to wait to grow up to change the world,” added her partner, Chmerkovskiy. ‘”Be great. You’re the future. Thank you so much!”
While Hernandez was spectacular, she faced fierce competition from James Hinchcliffe and Sharna Burgess and Calvin Johnson and Lindsay Arnold–the first time in history the top 3 included all professional athletes. Both received 40 out of 40 for their dances, but Johnson didn’t make the cut, finishing third in the competition.
The finale was packed with plenty of highlights, including performances by former DWTS dancer Andy Grammer, who performed his new single, “Fresh Eyes” and Season 23 competitors Vanilla Ice, Babyface Edmonds (who performed holiday classics with former American Idol alum and current member of the Dancing with the Stars band Felicia Barton) and country singer Jana Kramer, who delivered a beautiful version of her new single, “Circles,” before the winner was crowned.
Fans can see Hernandez dance again on the just announced DWTS tour, host Tom Bergeron announced on the finale.
Watch the finale opening below: