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Why ABC thought Dancing with the Stars 30’s winner would never win

Why ABC thought Dancing with the Stars 30’s winner would never win
DWTS 30's final two couples dancing during the finale: Jenna Johnson and JoJo Siwa (left) and Daniella Karagach and Iman Shumpert (right) (Photo by Eric McCandless/ABC)

As Dancing with the Stars season 30 came down to two contestants, host Tyra Banks explained—as the credits rolled because the show ran out of time in its two-hour finale—that “either of these winners will be making history tonight as a first.”

Yes, a former star of a cable reality series on Lifetime, E!, and VH1 had never before won the ABC ballroom dance competition, and the final two both have that on their resumes:

  • Iman Shumpert is the co-star of E!’s We Got Love Teyana & Iman and VH1’s Teyana & Iman
  • JoJo Siwa is a former cast member of Lifetime’s Dance Moms

Oh, also, neither NBA player nor an LGBTQ person dancing with a same-sex partner have ever won Dancing with the Stars, which is probably what Tyra was referring to.

Dancing with the Stars season 30's final four couples
Dancing with the Stars season 30’s final four couples (Photo by Eric McCandless/ABC)

Both received perfect 40 scores for their final two dances, and after a record-breaking but unidentified number of votes were received, Iman Shumpert and his pro partner Daniella Karagach won.

JoJo and her pro partner, Jenna Johnson, placed second.

Tyra announced the results in literally the final seconds of the two-hour finale, saying his name after the credits started rolling. My DVR cut off as he was celebrating.

That’s some great producing! There certainly was no time wasted in that previous two hours that might have gone to actually watching him celebrate his win for more than a few seconds.

Peloton star Cody Rigsby placed third, while The Talk co-host Amanda Kloots placed fourth.

Why ABC thought Iman would not last on DWTS 30

Iman Shumpert and Daniella Karagach celebrate their win on DWTS 30
Iman Shumpert and Daniella Karagach celebrate their win on DWTS 30 (Photo by Eric McCandless/ABC)

While Iman is the first NBA player to win, he is certainly not the first pro athlete to have a mirrorball trophy. They generally have an advantage on DWTS, either because of their athleticism or fame or both. During the first 25 seasons alone, 10 pro athletes won.

Iman was the only finalist without prior dance expereince, however.

Iman’s showmanship and growth during the competition were universally praised throughout the season, but when Dancing with the Stars was casting, executives and producers didn’t think he had a chance.

Robert Mills, the executive in charge of unscripted at Walt Disney Television, tweeted “When we were casting this season, we thought Iman was too tall to make it past the first few weeks but he would be so fun. He’s proved me totally wrong.”

Iman is 6 feet 5 inches tall. “We’re usually at a disadvantage,” Iman told Extra back in October, when talking about how they used the height difference to their advantage during their Disney night foxtrot.

Clearly, they were able to overcome the height difference to dance extremely well—and also win over fans, which matters because ultimately Dancing with the Stars is a popularity contest.

Mills also tweeted that “I love everyone in this finale but Shump exudes more joy than anyone we’ve ever had in all 30 seasons.”

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.


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Monday 29th of November 2021

I hope this will be the end of the "Tyra Banks Show" and the four-judge panel.


Friday 26th of November 2021

JoJo, while a little bit of a ringer for her Dance Mom's background, was totally robbed. I really think she deserved the win. At least Iman was a decent dancer.. unlike Bobby Bones who should never have won.


Wednesday 24th of November 2021

Melissa Rycroft, of DCC: Making The Team Seasons 1 + 2 & host of Redneck Island, won Season 15 of DWTS, too (but I guess since she wasn't the "star" of those shows, this is different?)

Andy Dehnart

Wednesday 24th of November 2021

Oh, good point! I was thinking of her as filling The Bachelor/ette slot, but she obviously did DCC before that!