It’s hard to recall another Dancing With the Stars contestant who was as universally beloved as Bindi Irwin.
So it’s not surprising that fans and judges chose to recognize Bindi’s talents and her indomitable spirit by rewarding her with the show’s highest honor last night.
The 17-year-old Aussie and partner Derek Hough took home the Mirrored Ball for DWTS Season 21 after earning yet another round of perfect scores for their Argentine tango.
"Thank you so much for everything. I can’t believe that I’m here," Irwin told the crowd after accepting her trophy. "Thank you for changing my life."
Indeed, for Bindi, this was far more than a dancing competition. It was a chance to pay tribute to her father, Steve Irwin, who was the first member of the family to win the world over with his boundless energy and enthusiasm.
Her dancing partner, Derek Hough, had nothing but the highest praise for the young TV personality and conservationist:
"She taught me you can have struggle, but you can struggle with joy," Hough said, when reflecting on his time with Irwin. "Whenever it feels too hard, she looks at the challenge with a smile on her face."
Irwin beat out fellow celebs Nick Carter and Alex Skarlatos to take home the season’s top prize.
For many American viewers, it was their first exposure to the infectiously optimistic teen who’s already a household name in Australia. Something tells us it won’t be their last.