Who Will Win “Dancing With The Stars?”


Emily Hahn

It happens twice a year. A group of “stars” are paired with a professional ballroom dancer to compete for a cheesy mirror ball trophy. I love Dancing With The Stars (DWTS), and I’m not ashamed to admit it. On Monday, September 12, thirteen new contestants took their shot to impress the judges and gather votes from the viewing public. In the past, I picked my favorites and tried to figure out who should win. But this year, I am going to do something a little different. Instead of deciding who “should” win, I am going to guess who “will” win. I will try to ignore my biases and base my decision on data from the previous 22 seasons.

In deciding who will win DWTS this season, I will award the contestants “points” based on measurable factors from previous seasons. A total of 50 points can be obtained by each contestant based on scores from 5 categories, with each category having a maximum score of 10. The scantly clothed celebrity with sequins, sparkles, pointy dancing shoes, and the highest score will be judged to be the favorite to win it all.


A maximum of 10 points will be awarded for dancing ability; after all, it is a dancing contest. The problem is that dancing ability can be difficult to gauge the champion after just one show. It’s more than possible that the contestant may have had a bad week, or has potential for improvement as the season progresses. Although half (11 of 22) of the past winners received the highest judges’ scores after their first dance, some of the eventual winners have not done so well initially. Of note, the football player Donald Driver (Season 14) was in 9th place after his 1st dance, but still managed to successfully tackle the ballroom trophy. In addition, the best dancer does not always win. For example, Paige VanZant, the UFC fighter, had the highest average judge’s score for the entire season 22, but came in second place to the model, Nyle DiMarco. Therefore, dancing ability (judge’s score) on week 1 will only count for 20% of the total score in determining who will win the competition.


In the past, the age of the dancer has played a role in determining the winner. Most winners were either in their 20’s (10 contestants) or 30’s (7 contestants), while there were only 2 teenage winners (Shawn Johnson and Bindi Irwin) and 3 mirror trophy champions over the age of 40, with the oldest being the singer Donny Osmond (Season 9), who was 51 years old. Every season, stars over the age of 50 are well represented on DWTS, but they rarely succeed. In season 22 for example, the three dancers over the age of 50 (Doug Flutie, Marla Maples, and Geraldo Rivera) finished in 9th, 10th, and 12th places (out of 12 contestants). For whatever reason, being wise and experienced are not rewarded on the dance floor, and youth seems to be an important factor in determining the winner of DWTS. Therefore, a maximum of 10 points will be awarded to a contestant depending on their age.


Historically, athletes have done very well in the ballroom, coveting 8 of the 22 mirror ball trophies. Considering athletes usually make up less than 25% of all contestants (10 of 50 contestants last 4 seasons), they enjoy more success than celebrities from other professions. Actors/actresses and singers have won 4 titles each, but make up the bulk of all the contestants. There were also 2 models, 1 reality TV star, and 1 soldier who have won. Two past winners, Rumer Willis and Bindi Irwin, cannot be easily categorized into a profession, and can only be described as children of famous people (Bruce Willis and Steve Irwin). Because the profession of the contestant appears to play a role in deciding the winner, a maximum of 10 points will be awarded depending on the celebrity’s occupation.


To a loyal fan of DWST like me, the real stars of the show are the professional dancers. It’s not surprising that 16 of the 22 winners were paired with a professional who has won the trophy more than once. In fact, Derek Hough has won the shiny mirror ball a record six times. In this season, only 5 of the 13 professionals have won the contest before, and their “celebrity” partners appear to have a decided advantage. For this reason, a maximum of 10 points will be given based on the success of the contestants’ professional partners in previous seasons.


The final criterion is considerably more subjective than all my others, but still plays a big role. In the past, a contestant with an inspirational story, or someone who has overcome obstacles or handicaps, have fared well on DWTS. Last season, Nyle DiMarco, who is deaf, won the hearts of TV audiences, dancing effortlessly without hearing any of the music, and became victorious. Bindi Irwin, who lost her father when she was a little girl, but remained cheerful and spunky, became a fan favorite, and won season 21. Inspirational celebrities often have an advantage because half the scoring is by fan voting. Therefore, a maximum of 10 points will be awarded based on how “inspirational” the dancer’s past is.


After all the points are tallied, the results are as follows, listed from last place to the champion…..


13th place: Rick Perry, 0 points.

A politician has never won DWST, and the former governor of Texas definitely will not be the first. The only other politician to ever compete was Tom DeLay, a former congressman, who came in 13th place in season 9.


12th place: Maureen McCormick, 6 points

The former child actor from the TV show, Brady Bunch, received all of her points just because she is an actress. Considering she has no other sources for points, it is highly unlikely she will join Alfonso Ribeiro (season 19 winner) as the only other former child actor winner.


11th place: Babyface Edmonds, 9 points

No contestant over the age of 51 has ever won DWTS, and the 57 year-old R&B singer-songwriter will probably not be the first. In addition to his age, he had a mediocre performance on the first night (tied for 5th), and doesn’t have a past champion for his professional partner (Allison Holker).


10th place: Vanilla Ice, 14 points

Although he earned points for being a “singer”, a rapper has never come close to touching a mirror ball trophy. The last rapper to compete was Redfoo of LMFAO who came in dead last in season 20.


9th place: Jake T. Austin, 16 points

The former star on the Disney Channel series Wizards of Waverly Place received points for being young (21 years old). However, finishing in 11th place in the judges’ scoring on the 1st show probably guarantees an early exit, as no one who finished 10th or worse after the 1st dance has ever walked away with the trophy.


8th place: Amber Rose, 17 points

The former wife of Wiz Khalifa is paired with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. “Maks” has won the mirror ball trophy once in 14 tries. To have a better than 1 in 14 chance of winning, Rose needs to drastically improve on her 9th place finish on the first show.


6th place (tie): Jana Kramer, 18 points

The country singer did well on the 1st show, finishing tied for 3rd. She is also young (32 years old), and a female country singer has won before (Kelly Pickler, season 16). However, having a professional who has only competed once before, Gleb Savchenko (finished 10th in season 16), will probably hurt her.


6th place (tie): Terra Jole, 18 points

The star of the reality TV show, Little Women: LA, captured 8 inspirational points for her determined story, and I’m sure she will have many fans cheering for her. However, she will need to improve on her 7th highest judges’ scores on the first night to have any chance at victory.


5th place: Marilu Henner, 20 points

The actress best known for her role on the TV show Taxi hit the jackpot when she was paired with the six-time champion, Derek Hough. No other professional dancer has won more than twice. He has also won with the second oldest winner, Jennifer Grey, who was 50. However, the 64-year-old actress has to beat the record by 13 years to be crowned the oldest champion ever, which seems like an unreachable goal.


4th place: Calvin Johnson, 22 points

Of the 8 athletes who have won DWTS, 3 have been football players, with 2 being wide receivers (Hines Ward and Donald Driver). Johnson, a former wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, seems to have history behind him. However, at 6’5”, he may be too tall, unlike the other two wide receivers who were both 6’0”. In addition, his matchup with a much shorter Arnold may prove to be too difficult to overcome.


3rd place: Ryan Lochte, 25 points

4 Olympic gold medal winners have added the mirror ball trophy to their display case (Apolo Ohno, Kristi Yamaguchi, Shawn Johnson, and Meryl Davis). Lochte’s 6 gold medals in Olympic swimming should certainly place him as a one of the favorites at any DWTS competition. In addition, his dancing partner, Cheryl Burke, is a two-time winner. However, his 9th place standing after the 1st dance is a bad omen, and he may have accumulated negative “inspirational” points for his false robbery report at the Rio Olympics.


2nd place: James Hinchcliffe, 30 points

Although some may not consider race car drivers as athletes, if Hinchcliffe wins the mirror ball trophy, he will be the second IndyCar driver to beat all others to the finish line. In season 5, Helio Castroneves drove home with the title despite being outperformed by the Spice Girl Mel B on the judges’ scores. For some reason, fans of DWTS seem to love guys who like to drive really fast around an oval. In season 19, NASCAR racer Michael Waltrip consistently received the lowest scores by the judges, but still managed to come in 7th place. Considering he finished tied for first after the 1st week (with Laurie Hernandez), Hinchcliffe should definitely be one of the favorites. His only disadvantage is his dancing partner, Sharna Burgess, who has not won on her previous 7 attempts.


1st place: Laurie Hernandez, 34 points

Like Lochte, Hernandez is an Olympic gold medalist, but she got 2 extra “inspiration” points for just being so darn cute. She may actually be too young (16 years old) to win, as no one under the age of 17 has won before. However, dancing with a past champion (Val Chmerkovskiy) should give her an edge over her co-leader in the judge’s score, Hinchcliffe.


Using the same scoring system, last season’s winner Nyle DiMarco would have received 40 points, and season 21 winner Bindi Irwin would have received 38 points, so Hernandez is far from a sure thing. However, I am cheering for her. How can you not like someone whose nickname is the “Human Emoji”?