William Levy, the Southwest Ranches telenovela heartthrob, came in third place on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."
The actor and model didn't get to take home the coveted Mirabal trophy Tuesday night on the dance reality show. The top prize went to Green Bay Packers star Donald Driver and his professional dance partner Peta Murgatroyd. Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins and her dance partner Mark Ballas placed second.
Levy had a total score of 89 from the judges for his cha-cha, salsa and freestyle dances.
"It was an amazing experience," said Levy on the show. "This show has definitely been one of the greatest experiences of my life."
Although he didn't win, he was already a big winner to a devoted group of South Florida fans who cheered him on every week -- his Cuban family.
"He definitely makes us proud. We looked like lunatics screaming and cheering him when he got the three 10s," said Levy's cousin Zoila Maya-Sustiel, a Fort Lauderdale resident who organized weekly family viewing parties. "William is a very devoted, determined, and disciplined individual. Once he sets his mind on something he usually gets it."
Levy has been a show fan favorite and an overnight sensation ever since he began shaking his hips and unbuttoning his shirt as half of "Team Fuego" with professional dance partner Cheryl Burke.
South Florida fans tuned in each week, and Levy's relatives gathered for viewing parties at restaurants on the Broward-Miami-Dade border and ate Cuban food in his honor.
"He was already a household name in Latin America, where he starred in several telenovelas.
Between "Dancing with the Stars" and the network's news programs, ABC has allowed Levy to share his Havana-to-Hollywood story, which endeared him to viewers.
He was born William Levy Gutierrez and raised by his mother in Cojimar, Cuba. He was preparing to leave the island nation by boat when his family received asylum to Miami. He enrolled as a freshman at Barbara Goleman Senior High in Miami Lakes, where he learned English and competed on the baseball team. That led him to St. Thomas University on a baseball scholarship but he decided to pursue acting and modeling.
"Modeling, I knew, was like a door for acting," he said in a recent interview with ABC. "And telenovelas was definitely my big break."
That came in 2007 when he had a breakout role in the telenovela "Pasion," followed by starring roles in 2009's "Sortilegio" (The Spell) and 2010's "Triunfo Del Amor" (Triumph of Love). Fans dubbed him king of the telenovela. After he appeared in Jennifer Lopez's video "I'm Into You" last year, he also became known as the "Latin Brad Pitt."
South Florida was one of his biggest fan bases, and the region has contributed to the show's rating success nationally and locally. One episode this month drew 218,000 total viewers in the Fort Lauderdale-Miami TV market. The show has been the second or third most-watched locally.
"He has an overwhelming following," said Maya-Sustiel. "He is known internationally between Latin America and now America."
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