“I was in complete shock. I didn’t even know my name had been called as the winner — I heard my name, but I thought it was just as the runner-up,” Brown tells Variety in one of her first interviews since winning “Dancing With the Stars” Season 28 Monday night on ABC.
“I haven’t gotten out of that initial state of not knowing what the heck is happening,” she says. “I’m just really grateful because I have been challenged and pushed, but I’ve also been supported by people who have rallied around me and made this possible. I feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude because I did not win this Mirror Ball alone. It is just really a surreal blessing that I’m experiencing right now.”
Brown and her partner, Alan Bersten, were crowned the winners, beating out the other final three couples: country singer Lauren Alaina and pro Gleb Savchenko; actor and Nickelodeon star Kel Mitchell and pro Witney Carson; and Fifth Harmony pop star Ally Brooke and Sasha Farber.
Brown came onto “Dancing With the Stars” after a star-making turn as one of the most successful leads of “The Bachelorette,” which catapulted her into reality television and social media stardom with over 2.5 million Instagram followers and her name suddenly plastered all over the media. Brown’s dramatic storyline especially captured America’s interest: she was engaged on the show, only to break off the engagement on live TV after finding out that her new fiance had a girlfriend back home.
“I came on the show after a very crazy heartbreaking, but also empowering time on ‘The Bachelorette’ because I made my own choices for what I really wanted, but it was just a crazy time. I was really vulnerable, but also closed-off and did not know who I trusted,” she says of the time leaving “The Bachelorette” and jumping into “DWTS,” adding that she’s learned much more than dance moves during her time on the competition show.
“I feel like I learned that I am so much stronger than I ever thought I was, not just emotionally, but physically. I can handle more than I ever thought I could,” Brown says. “And I need to let go because I want control and to know that I’m doing everything right, but sometimes, the way to do everything right is just to live in the moment and not think about everything that’s next — that’s when I really do shine and when I perform my best. I feel like it’s something that I can take into the next step of my life with whatever is next. When I’m at my best is when I’m truly at peace with myself and when I allow other people in and can trust somebody to feel like I can be exactly who I am.”
Speaking with Variety, Brown says the adjustment to life in the spotlight has not been easy and she hasn’t truly had a moment to take it all in. She expresses her excitement to go home to Alabama for Thanksgiving with her family this week — straight off a media blitz that took her from Los Angeles where “DWTS” is filmed to New York City overnight for “Good Morning America.” “I have not been able to spend much time with them since all of this has happened,” she says.
Brown admits that “Dancing With the Stars” was more of a challenge than she expected it to be. “I knew it was going to be hard, but it’s been harder than I’ve ever imagined, but it has made this victory such an amazing win,” she says. “I’m just grateful for Alan and the people that voted that have gotten me here.”
The reality star will have a chance to thank the voters soon enough because she’s set to embark on the Dancing With the Stars Tour with some of her fellow castmates from Season 28.
“I’m really excited to meet some of these fans who have helped make this dream a reality,” she says of the tour. “And also, dancing without any scores! And just being able to dance freely with this new family that I now have. It’ll just be really fun to be able to go out there and perform. I’ve really grown to love ballroom dancing and I’ll be excited to get back at it.”
Her fans will also have the chance to see her on TV once again. On Monday night, ABC released a promo for the new season of “The Bachelor,” starring Brown’s ex Peter Weber, which revealed that Brown makes a notable appearance on the new season that premieres in January. (For more on that, click here.)
As for where Brown is keeping her new trophy? She hasn’t figured out a permanent place for the Mirror Ball, but for now, she’s keeping it close by. With a laugh, she says, “I’ll be putting it by my bed now so I can look it when I go to bed and wake up.”