There are two key things we’ve learned about Ryan Di Lello this season: He was a spectacular dance partner and he has an incredible torso. He made it to sixth place this season— finishing just behind his wife. Ryan called up EW to talk about how happy the Di Lellos were to both make it to the finale, how he felt to land in the bottom four times this season, and why people fixating on his ripped abs makes him laugh.
So you finished sixth last night. Was that what you expected?
I don’t know if any of us had any expectations really. Maybe we did, but at least in my conversations with everyone we were just so happy to make it to the finale, and I couldn’t be happier with how far I got in the competition. I have no regrets and I’m just glad I made it to the finale and went as far as I did.
So you didn’t have any expectations or goals?
No, I really didn’t. I tried not to, because if you do then you can be let down. I think I had the perspective of, this is a wonderful experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’ve given everything. I think that’s the most important part of this competition: knowing you’ve given everything you can, because at the end of the day, it’s out of your hands. It’s America’s choice, and they will decide.
Did you expect Russell to win?
In terms of expectations for him, I thought he had a really good chance. He’s been just a really stand-up character the whole season, he’s done a really great job and I’m just really proud of him.
How did it feel dancing with your wife?
That was the crowning moment of this whole experience. Honestly, we didn’t expect to both make it this far. We thought, we have two of us in this — two Di Lellos — hopefully at least one will make it into the finale. And for us to both make it into the finale was really just a wonderful experience because then we did have a chance to dance. And both of the numbers we were able to do I think were perfect. The contemporary piece, [initially] we were kind of bummed because it wasn’t a Latin number, that would have been more our style, but we couldn’t be happier with [how it turned out]. We actually think it was better. This whole experience has been about doing other styles and growing, and through that touching piece that Travis Wall choreographed we were kind of able to share our hearts, and kind of able to share our marriage with the world in a way.
Has the competition changed your relationship?
The competition has absolutely brought us closer. You can’t go through something that stressful and strenuous and wonderful and exciting with your spouse without becoming closer and bonding. At least for us.
Were you happy to get Ellenore as a partner?
I was so happy to get Ellenore. She is just one of the sweetest people I have ever met and we’ll be friends the rest of our lives. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. We had chemistry right from the beginning, like I said, we’re just really good friends, so it was easy to get into the characters and the piece. Each week was easy — it was effortless. I looked forward to every week with her.
Did you have a favorite dance you did?
Well, the most special was for sure my dances with Ashleigh, and the contemporary was the most touching. Apart from that, with my other partners, I’ll have to give two to you. My cha-cha with Kathryn, we got a standing ovation for that. Even though it was in my own style, I had never felt that way in a cha-cha — it was electric. And Travis Wall’s contemporary piece was my biggest eye-opening moment of my whole experience here, because I truly felt like a contemporary dancer. I felt like I had completely put on that persona and genre and I never thought I could do that.
Would you have done anything differently looking back on this season?
No, I have no regrets. I’ve loved every moment. The good ones and the bad ones, well, not the bad ones, but the hard ones. You know, when you’re in the bottom and your stomach is up to your throat and it’s hard to stand there. And then seeing friends go that you care about. It’s been a bonding experience, it’s been a beautiful experience. I came into it with the idea of, ‘This is going to be tough, it’s going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, so I’m going to go full out and give my whole heart to it and hopefully go home with no regrets.’ Happily at this point I can say that.
About that… you were in the bottom four times, were you actually worried you would be sent home?
Absolutely, the thing I’ve learned about the show is that you can never expect anything. The blogs say things and they predict things but they’re not right all the time. And you can try to get a feel for what your family and friends are thinking, but usually the result is different from what you thought. It was hard and there were moments where I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m going home tonight.’ And I was very surprised I didn’t. I think one of the moments especially was standing there with Legacy, because he’s done so well throughout the competition, and had a huge fan base, and making that cut was really surprising for me. Me and Legacy just looked at each other before we went on stage and said, ‘There’s really only two positives to this. Either you make the top 10, or one of your friends makes the top 10.’ And that was a really neat moment with him because we’re really good friends as well.
Your abs became a fixation point throughout the season. Was that embarrassing or did it make you feel weird?
Kind of weird because yeah, I’m just me, and for people to talk about me and my body…it is weird. I just see myself as me and I don’t see myself as different. I like to work out and I like to be healthy. I just kind of laughed at it, it made me laugh.
Are you looking forward to the tour?
I’m really looking forward to the tour, just to be able to get back together and spend all that time with our friends, we’ve all come so far.
Do you have any post-tour plans?
Absolutely, we want to pursue all the avenues that are available now with dance, especially ballroom dance. It’s such a great time to be in the industry and we really want to be ambassadors for ballroom dancing, for dance in general. And I’m really interesting in acting. I’ve always wanted to do acting so I’ll be excited to see any opportunities that might come through with that.