Nelly’s journey on Dancing With the Stars came to a respectable end during Monday’s season 29 finale, when he and pro partner Daniella Karagach finished in third place. It’s a conclusion the 46-year-old rapper is proud of, even if he still wishes he’d taken home the coveted mirrorball trophy.
After the big finale — during which Nelly and Daniella delivered two of their most impressive dances of the season — the pair opened up to ET’s Lauren Zima about the experience, which Nelly said was “bittersweet.”
“Of course you want to win,” he shared. “You’ve been doing this for three months, you’ve been putting yourself through training that you’ve never had a day in your life, you’re trying to go against people who basically studied this in college.”
While Nelly beat out fourth place finalists Justina Machado and her pro partner, Sasha Farber, it was Bachelorette alum Kaitlyn Bristowe and DWTS pro Artem Chigvintsev who took home the mirrorball trophy, while Catfish star Nev Schulman and his partner, Jenna Johnson, came in second.
When asked if he still would have signed up to do the show had he’d known ahead of time that he’d be going up against performers with backgrounds or prior experience with dancing, Nelly candidly admitted, “Probably not.”
“Because you don’t stack yourself up against that,” he explained. “Why would I get in a boxing match with someone whos’ been boxing since they were 12? Why would I go play basketball with somebody who played in college? There are certain things that you’re basically setting yourself up for.”
Nelly went on to explain that he didn’t fault Nev or Kaitlyn for tapping into their past experience with performing. “Obviously, it’s still a competition and you use whatever you have to win. So it’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing,” he shared. “So you want to work that much harder because the odds are stacked up against you.”
“You’re always happy for the winner,” Nelly continued. “Kaitlyn’s beautiful, she’s a sweet person, she really wanted it. She won! You can’t say anything about that… I just would have liked to have known that coming into it. That’s all. You don’t want to get side swiped once you get in.”
“But that being said, she deserves to win, because she won. She danced beautifully. She’s a sweet person, she did her thing,” he added. “Me and my partner, we did our best and the experience was great.”
Nelly and Daniella performed two routines on Monday. For their first number, their repeat dance, the pair recreated their week five samba, set to “Rhythm of the Night” by DeBarge, and earned a 27 out of 30. They also really shined for their steamy freestyle routine, which saw them perform to a wild and creative number set to “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion and “Hypnotize” by The Notorious B.I.G.
“I’m proud of us,” Daniella said of making it to the finals, and coming in third. “It’s crazy, it’s surreal and I’m just so thankful for this experience.”
This marked Daniella’s first season as a pro on the show, and to come so close to taking home the mirrorball trophy as a first-timer was truly impressive.
“I couldn’t have had a better time and I couldn’t have had a better partner to spend my time with,” she added.
“It’s a phenomenal show, and what makes it a phenomenal show is the people. The people in front of the camera and the people behind the camera, I’m gonna miss everybody,” Nelly shared. “I’m very happy I did it.”
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