"Dancing with the Stars": Champion Melissa Rycroft picks a winner

Melissa Rycroft attends the 20th Annual Race to Erase MS Gala "Love To Erase MS" at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on May 3, 2013, in Century City, Calif. Getty

Melissa Rycroft won't be competing in Tuesday's "Dancing with the Stars" finale, but having been a contestant not once -- but twice -- on the show, she knows the ballroom inside and out.

The reality TV star and former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader won the mirror ball trophy during the ABC series' all-star season last fall.

"I'm only the reigning champion for a couple of more hours," Rycroft told CBSNews.com on Tuesday. "And then I'm only going to be a former champion. I have been watching this season -- and I have been calling Kellie Pickler from the start."

But that doesn't mean Rycroft is necessarily rooting for the country starlet who got her start on "American Idol."

"I still think Kellie's got a good chance, but I would really love to see Aly [Raisman], who snuck in there towards the end of the season. I think it would be a really great statement if she came out and won this thing," Rycroft said. "I think Kellie is going to put up a big fight for that."

When asked what advice she has for the four celebrity finalists, Rycroft said, "Right now it's just kind of to relax. The hard work is over. At this point, there's nothing else you can do. Regardless of what happens and who wins, you're done. You've made it is as far as you can go. Appreciate the journey. Hope for the win, it's the end of the road. So just enjoy."

Rycroft said she enjoyed the all-star season more than her first time on the show in 2009, when she finished third.

"The best part for me was all-star season and during rehearsals we were all taking a break at the same time. And we got to kind of talk and chatter and make fun of each other," she said. "All those behind-the-scenes moments that nobody saw. We all got very close. It was kind of like a big fraternity and sorority house at the dance studio."

But her time on the show wasn't easy. Case in point: learning the dances. "It's almost like you're trying to learn a different language every week in four days and give a presentation fluently," Rycroft recalled. "It's so much harder than people think when you're watching it. You're learning new steps, new routines, new postures, new holds and halfway into it you're fried. Your brain can only hold so much information."

The 30-year-old TV star said she still keeps in touch with the dancers on the show, along with Shawn Johnson and Emmitt Smith. "Not many people have gone through this experience so when you do it bonds you," Rycroft said.

Right now, Rycroft is focusing on family. Her daughter, Ava, turned 2 in February. "She's a little handful," Rycroft said about Ava. "She's awesome though. This is much better than I ever could have imagined. It's just fun. Watching her become a little person with a personality and her likes and dislikes. It's really fun watching her grow up."

And Rycroft is trying to instill some good habits in her daughter, too, -- one of which is wearing sunscreen.

"We want to be outside as much as possible in parks and playgrounds...It's our job as parents to show our kids the importance of sunscreen and show them now," she said. "I couldn't help but want to spread the word to other families out there."

Rycroft is trying to get the word out through her new involvement with the Unconditional Fun Sweepstakes, hosted by Banana Boat and in partnership with Great Wolf Lodge Resorts. She's encouraging sunscreen-conscious families to upload photos on Facebook for a chance to win prizes.

"I was raised in a family where we didn't use sunscreen," Rycroft said. "I had to teach myself the older that I got -- don't chase the tan. It is important to keep your skin healthy because it's the only skin you're going to get. I've had a couple of family members have bouts with skin cancer. It's a wake-up call. You never want to experience it personally. It's important to stay safe while you're having fun."

Right now, Rycroft is taking some time out to focus on her daughter. "These days, you kind of got to fight for that family time. Careers get in the way and everything else -- life -- gets in the way. I really want to enjoy this time. It's summertime and it's the perfect time to take a time-out and go on trips together."

But Rycroft is keeping an open mind for new projects. "I learned really early 'never say never.' You never know what's going to come your way and if your situation is going to be different. I can say with 99 percent certainty I wouldn't do a docu-series again just because Ava is a little too old for what I would like to put on TV. The world is big place and you never know what's going to come your way. I love taking advantage of opportunities when they come if it's the right one at the right time."

At one time, being a contestant on "The Bachelor" felt right. But now looking back on that time and her engagement to "Bachelor" Jason Mesnick, Rycroft realizes how much she has changed.

"It's funny when I look back or see clips and pictures, it looks like a different person," she admitted. "I was in such a different place in my life. I was this lost I think little girl going through this experience because I was kind of looking for something. I wouldn't change any of it because it brought me to where I am now. It brought me to my husband. It gave me this great career. So as embarrassing as parts of it were to go through, you can't change it. You just kind of own it. I grew from it. I learned from it and I laugh at it now."

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