With a baby bouncing happily on her knee, Kristie Williams says she still feels like a winner despite being voted off Dancing with the Stars NZ and having to sashay away from the competition with partner Zac Franich.
And that's all down to taking on the biggest challenge of her life – transforming from a mum nursing a newborn and carrying 20kg of baby weight to a slinky dancer slipping into a skin-tight leotard to dance on live TV. And she did it all in three months.
"There was no question that I wasn't going to do the show," Kristie says.
"I had three months to lose the weight and get performance fit, and I was determined to do it. But there was a lot of sweat and a lot of tears. Oh, and a lot of running too!"
In August 2017, Kristie, 29, welcomed son Ayden, her second child with husband and fellow dance professional Jonny, who is also on this year's show as Jess Quinn's dance partner. The couple, who have been together for 10 years and married for five, also have six-year-old Ayvah.
When Woman's Day arrives at their home in Kumeu in rural West Auckland, it's all systems go. There's a waistcoat ready to be emblazoned with diamantés in the lounge, a chubby-cheeked Ayden enjoying The Wiggles, and their pet pooch Cha Cha running laps as Jonny makes cups of tea for everyone.
"We are always doing a million things at once," Kristie laughs. This is perhaps the reason why when the Dancing with the Stars call came, just days before Christmas and four months after giving birth, the dancer jumped at the chance to join the hit Three series again.
"I know what it takes to be on this show," says Kristie, who had danced on the hit reality series in 2009 with Chris Hobbs and with Colin Mathura-Jeffree in 2015. "I also know that I was in full mum mode at the time. It was a challenge.
"I did feel nervous. I hadn't actually danced professionally for the last two years as I'd been teaching instead."
Over the last decade, she and Jonny, 36, have travelled internationally to compete in ballroom dancing competitions. But when Kristie was struggling to conceive with baby number two in 2016, she took a break to focus on growing their brood.
"I stopped competing as I needed to get in a different frame of mind," she says.
But for a woman who has danced competitively since she was two years old, Kristie knew it would all come back to her. "My mum and nana are both dance teachers, so it's always there.
"But physically, you really need to be in shape to dance professionally. If you're carrying extra weight, it can make the performance look slow – and actually, it's just hard work."
So in order to get leotard-ready, Kristie started running morning and night, and joined KC Fit, a local boot camp for new mums.
The dancer focused on eating a low-carb diet, ditching potatoes and rice in favour of salads and smoothies. And Jonny was on hand to help keep her on the straight and narrow when it came to her diet too.
"Jonny is such a good cook, and he does this amazing pasta dish with pork and chilli," she says. "If I had a treat meal, it was always that."
Jonny grins, "I'm really proud of her. It was so good to see her hungry for a goal. It's not easy after having a baby."
Over the last few weeks, Kristie wowed the judges by transforming Zac, 29, from a towering Bachelor NZ star to a smooth mover who was regularly handed top marks. But despite their impressive gains on the dance floor, they still ended up going home in week four.
Kristie is now 100% backing her husband, who is training hard at their co-owned Limelight Dance Studio in Albany with Jess – a favourite to win. "They are there until 10pm most nights," says Kristie.
"He and Jess deserve to win it. They're putting in more hours than anyone else!"