09/30/2009 at 12:00 AM EDT
For Kathy Ireland
, the good news is that she broke the longtime Dancing with the Stars
curse against models by managing to escape the first two eliminations. The bad news, however, is that she and partner Tony Dovolani
were deemed the third couple to be eliminated from season 9 Tuesday night.
“I wouldn’t change a minute of it," Ireland, 46, told PEOPLE minutes after the show. "To be able to work with Tony the past six weeks has changed my life forever. I can do so many things I never thought I could do. I feel like the biggest winner because I got him as my teacher."
The former Sports Illustrated
Swimsuit Issue cover girl, who now heads Kathy Ireland Worldwide, a billion dollar brand marketing company, warmly embraced her partner when the announcement was made. On Monday night
, the pair danced a quick step that earned them just 18 points and complaints from the judges that Ireland wasn't engaging and too reserved.
“I was not ready to go because I was having so much fun," Dovolani said backstage. "I always walked into practice with a smile on my face because I knew she was ready to work. I’ve grown to love her family and she happens to really like mine, too. I’ve gained such an incredible friend."
And Dovolani wasn’t alone. Even though it was only the show’s second week, the impact of Ireland’s departure will be felt in the ballroom, according to pro Cheryl Burke
“She has such a positive energy. She always has a smile on her face,” Burke told PEOPLE. “She’s so positive and you always want to be around that.”
Burke's partner, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
says the news of Ireland's departure not what he expected. “She’s a very elegant, very charming young lady,” he said. "I was prepared to go. We all knew coming into this that somebody has to leave every week and we’ll miss her.” --Monica RizzoTell us: Did the right person go home? Will you miss Kathy and Tony? What did you think of the show?