The season is over but there’s one more power ranking left to do. Who won the season – really? And who truly, truly lost the season? And who the hell is in between? Sam Brooks power ranks Dancing with the Stars one last time.
12. Robert Rakete
Poor Robert Rakete. Coming into this competition, you’d think he was a sure bet to be a finalist. He had a solid fanbase due to white-wine-wife-bait radio station The Breeze, and one would have expected him to be a well-honed dancer due to his stint in The Wiggles, but neither translated into iconic moments or success. He hung around for a while, but he was sent home with little anger or fanfare.
11. Zac Franich
Reality stars had a hard time on the show this year. And while DWTSNZ’s other two reality stars had some kind of fan cachet or camp factor, Franich was the most recent reality show star and thus had the hardest hill to climb. Most of his dances were stiff, and he was lucky to peak as he left.
He seems like a sweet guy, and I wish only nice things for him, but television might not be the best calling for Zac Franich. It’s not as though there is an easy path back to stardom for a pseudo-celebrity after consecutive turns down The Bachelor Road and Dancing with the Stars Avenue.
10. Gilda Kirkpatrick
Gilda was a super high-profile contestant, the first announced along with David Seymour, and in an alternate universe I can imagine him going home early and her sticking around for as long as he did (imagine the outfits). But it wasn’t to be. Her two performances were stiff, and felt under-rehearsed in a way that didn’t grab voters, and she was the first to go home.
9. Naz Khanjani
Naz is one of the sadder could-have-been stories of the season. There was a clear and prescribed arc set out for her, a redemption arc that has saved and catapulted many an unfairly-maligned reality show villain into moderate fame. But being one of the best dancers in the competition didn’t help her, her partner being injured didn’t help her and… being voted off didn’t help her.
The public outcry (and any attempt at redemption) was then cut short by the unfortunate rumours that followed. Alas, Naz.
8. Rockin’ Rog
Points against: heterosexuality, falling over (twice!), not being a very good dancer.
Points for: reminding us all that heterosexuality is a sin, being a little bit delightful.
7. David Seymour
Okay, by some measures, David Seymour won this season. He got the most headlines, the most press, the most votes some weeks, and to speak in gay vernacular for a moment, he was the gag of the season. He comes out of this season more famous than he was when he went into it, and for a lot of people, a whole lot more likeable and charismatic.
By other measures, David Seymour lost this season. He stayed around just past the point where people had stopped laughing at the novelty, he was by some measure the least talented dancer, and his fame now rests in a place where he is more famous for his (in)ability as a dancer than he is for any of his policies. Whether that’s unfortunate for him, funny for you or I’m being an absolute shithead by even mentioning that this might possibly have an impact on his actual career likely depends on where you sit on the political spectrum.
Therefore, I split the difference.
6. Shavaughn Ruakere
Based on her first few performances, I was surprised to see Shavaughn hang around as long as she did. But she improved consistently, and even exponentially, over the long trek that is Dancing with the Stars. She was a worthy finalist, and I would’ve been happy to see her win.
If she reminded us anything during her stint on the show, it’s how easy and fun a television presence she has – and how welcome she is on our local screens, be it hosting or acting or even, in this case, dancing.
5. Jess Quinn
Dancing with the Stars must be a daunting thing for a reality show star to consider. Can the kind of fame that reality TV provides be crossed over into a competitive television show where you’re competing against celebrities who require buy-ins? It’s worked before, but televised dancefloors across the world are littered with the easily slain bodies of reality show stars cashing their cheques before they burn.
Coming into this competition as a social media influencer is another thing entirely – it’s a completely untested proposition. And I’d wager that anyone who was less skilled, less charming or less committed than Jess Quinn would’ve been amongst those reality show bodies that lay in the wake of the early weeks of the competition.
For all the hubbub about how ‘inspiring’ Jess has been on the show, which is the kind of tired narrative that gets unfairly heaped upon anybody who is otherly abled, the most impressive thing that Jess managed was translating the kind of relatable and offbeat charm that makes someone successful as a social media influencer into authentic, actual celebrity. It’s an impressive narrative, and one that appears to have snuck up on her.
Look, she’s got one more Instagram follower, is what I’m saying.
4. Suzy Cato
Oh Suzy. That promo remains the most bone-chilling and awe-inspiring moment of the season. With each announcement, I got less and less excited for the season. Then they got to the final contestant they could possibly announce and you pushed your way through these lesser celebrities to show us what a true icon looked like.
Suzy’s run on the show lived up to the promo. She never faltered one bit, she kept the iconic ‘seeya-seeya-later’-ness that she’s maintained since she first left our screens; even more than that, she was all class all the way through.
Bring her back to our screens, please. Guest stint on Shortland Street, presenter of Seven Sharp, host of the Great Kiwi Bakeoff, literally anything!
3. Sam Hayes
It seems strange that the winner of the season shouldn’t be the number one on this list, but this is my list! It’s been two and a half months of this stuff! Anything goes at this point!
But I digress: Sam Hayes came into this competition being one of the most recognisable faces on the show, she did consistently well with the judges (she even danced consistently well!), and she never once dipped into the bottom two, the only contestant for whom this was the case. I’m not saying it was an easy ride into the winner’s seat for her, because that final dance was not easy, but anybody who picked Sam Hayes in their office pool picked wisely.
I came into this season sceptical about Hayes as a dancer, and I left it thoroughly charmed by her. Changing my mind is a difficult thing, and kudos to her, from me and literally nobody else, for doing that.
2. Chris Harris
Former Black Hat Chris Harris is the runner-up, and in some ways this is the perfect position for the South Island’s Fun Uncle. He revealed himself to be one of the most consistently high-scoring dancers in the competition, and to be a seriously charming guy. It might seem strange that he didn’t win despite scoring two 30s in the finale, but in some ways it suits him better to simply to dip his black hat and disappear back to Canterbury.
It could’ve been easy for him to be a novelty contestant, but Harris actually brought his best every week, and stepped well outside his comfort zone (see above, and see also: Shakespear’s Sister) to provide it. It’s a good thing he’s not still playing for the Black Hats, or I might actually be tempted to watch some cricket.
1. Marama Fox
My bias is showing here (as if it ever stopped showing), but Marama Fox’s stint on this show is one of the most important things to ever happen in reality television in this country. It’s very easy to shrug off the way reality TV can be an effective tool for sneaky social commentary – like how you might crush up your cat’s medicine and put it in her wet food, because you know it’s good for her even if she doesn’t, dammit.
The way Marama Fox mixed Māori culture with Western styles of dances and did it on primetime network television was revolutionary, important and necessary. To see a woman of colour, a woman of age, dance on television and do it with charisma, fierceness and genuine enjoyment was as valuable as this kind of television gets. The one moment I remember more than anything from this season was Fox’s gorgeous paso doble set to Tarakihi – as sure and fierce a display of dancing talent and creativity as anything else on this show.
Should this show return, and I would be surprised if it doesn’t, I hope they let more contestants take risks like this. Even if Fox went home early – far earlier than she should have – she made the competition a more interesting and vital thing to be a part of, even as an observer. She deserves praise, kudos, and everything good that I can think of for doing that.
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