Dancing With The Stars NZ's argumentative contestants were 'passionate', judges say

Dancing With The Stars NZ's judges aren't mad with the sassy contestants they've had to face this year.

This year's competition was at a high level from the very beginning, with 10s raining down as the grand final drew nearer.

But judges Julz Tocker, Rachel White and head judge Camilla Sacre-Dallerup weren't making a song-and-dance out of everyone.

Those contestants getting less-than-glamorous feedback weren't prepared to lie down on the dance floor without a fight.

"It should be beautiful as in what? ... You said you have to be a professional to get this, I learned this in two-and-a-half days," K-Lee said to Rachel after her week six paso doble.

"I've won this twice and [Nadia Lim] done this amazingly, you know she pushes, she pushes she pushes... Sometimes I think we have to reward actually this journey instead of squashing lights," Nadia Lim's partner Aaron Gilmore said in week nine.

Aaron Gilmore (L) and K-Lee (R) on Dancing With The Stars NZ
Contestants Aaron Gilmore (L) and K-Lee (R) both clashed with the judges this season. Photo credit: MediaWorks

K-Lee was eliminated the week after her strong words, while Nadia had to call it quits in the semi-finals.

But in a press conference after the grand final, there were no hard feelings from the judges.

"They got a little sassy!" Camilla laughed.

"That shows that they're passionate. I think that's okay. I remember what that feels like to be standing there - I'm standing up for my partner, who's been doing well."

Julz added they're the only judging panel where all three have previously competed on Dancing With The Stars NZ.

"We know more than any of them exactly what they're going through," he said.

Even Rachel, often nicknamed the 'mean judge' on social media - and sometimes the one bearing the brunt of the negativity - was on board.

"We know that they get lost in it, it's so full-on - they believe in it 100 percent."

All the contestants came back for Dancing With The Stars NZ's grand final.
All the contestants came back for the grand final. Photo credit: MediaWorks

When it came down to it, the judging team were happy with the choices they'd made and the finale they'd ended up with - even if there were a few tempers flaring along the way.

"The minute they don't care, we don't have a show. We need them to care to give us a good final," Camilla said.

Manu Vatuvei and partner Loryn Reynolds were crowned the winners of Dancing With The Stars NZ 2019, lifting the glitterball trophy with joy.