Here are our best guesses for the remaining 'Masked Dancer' contestants ahead of the finale

Gabbi Shaw
·22 min read
masked danceer
"The Masked Dancer." Michael Becker/FOX
  • In "The Masked Dancer," each masked contestant gives the panelists clues on their identity.

  • There are three contestants left ahead of tonight's finale: Cotton Candy, Tulip, and Sloth.

  • These are our guesses for the celebrities behind the masks.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Tonight is the finale of the first season of "The Masked Dancer."

Just like "The Masked Singer," disguised celebrities wear wild costumes to perform and the panelists have to try to guess who it is ... except this time, the celebs are showing off their dance moves, not their voices.

According to Fox, the dancers on "The Masked Dancer" have amassed "more than 38 million albums sold worldwide, 20 Emmy Award wins, 20 Grammy Award nominations, 10 World Dancing titles, five New York Times best-selling titles, four Olympic gold medals, and three Broadway show appearances."

But besides those clues, each dancer gets their own clue package to help judges and viewers decipher the real identities of the dancers beneath the costumes.

Insider has reviewed all 10 clue videos, and we made our best educated guesses - here are our final three guesses for the first, second, and third place winners of this season.

Cotton Candy rebounded from an intense fall during practice to dance to "Glitter in the Air" by Pink in the first episode.

cotton candy
Cotton Candy. Michael Becker/FOX

Some of Cotton Candy's clues were a bowl of corn flakes turning into an English breakfast, a chalkboard drawing of a witch's hat and witchy things accompanied with the voiceover "I was an all-around wiz kid," references to moving away as a kid, living with a new family, and getting homesick. Other clues included a clock with the letters "LIFE" instead of the numbers 12, 9, 6, and 5, stating that she had "trouble keeping up," two 3-pound weights, a head-shot sent to "Some Very Important People," her family giving her a "save haven," a cloud with "B!RD" written on it, feeling "more glamorous than ever," and four cupcakes.

The second clue video was from inside of a book called "The Cotton Candy Story." Cotton Candy referenced growing up in a place that was carefree and simple for "everyone but me," a scale with the Roman numerals XII (12) spelled out in chocolate, with the voiceover stating she found it was "so hard to balance practice with everything else," feeling iced out by kids her own age, missing her high school prom, and a hawk with an American flag sticker. Cotton Candy also flashed a peace sign (or just two fingers) at the end.

The third video was quick — all we noticed was a sign with "Practice Practice Practice" written on it surrounded by seven golden engagement rings on each side, and a bundle of five golden balloons that she called "a piece of me."

Word Up words: Primetime, Team player.

First we though Cotton Candy might be none other than Julianne Hough, but now we're leaning towards Gabby Douglas.

Gabby Douglas
Gabby Douglas. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

We agree with the judges — only a trained athlete could pull off what Cotton Candy did, which is why we're guessing Douglas. Famously, Douglas competed on the uneven bars, which would explain why Cotton Candy said it wasn't the first time she's fallen in front of people. We'd imagine learning those routines involves a lot of falling.

Here's the rest of our evidence: Douglas was the first athlete to appear on a box of corn flakes (instead of Wheaties), she was a child prodigy in gymnastics (a wiz kid, you could say), she moved from Virginia to Iowa without her family to train, and she had a Lifetime movie made about her life entitled "The Gabby Douglas Story." The 3-pound weights could be referring to her three gold medals, and the four cupcakes could be referencing the fact that she's one of four kids — or that she was the only gymnast to compete in all four events at the 2012 Summer Olympics (vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise).

Douglas has also talked about the racist bullying she has encountered in the gymnastics world, and was also one of the victims of Larry Nassar (the setbacks Cotton Candy spoke about). The scale with XII and references to balance could be referring to the 2012 Olympics, which Douglas medaled at, and competed on the balance beam. The number two at the end could be referencing the fact that she's one of few athletes to compete at two Olympics. The hawk with the American flag sticker also could be a reference to the Olympics.

We're not sure specifically what the golden rings mean — but they look an awful lot like the Olympic rings, and there were two sets, another nod to how she's competed at two Olympic Games. The five gold balloons? A clear nod to her gold medal-winning days as part of both the Fiercem Five and the Final Five.

Other guesses: Jenna Dewan, Julianne Hough, or Tara Lipinski

The Sloth is anything but slow when he dances.

sloth masked dancer
Sloth. Michael Becker/FOX

Here's what we got: a very clear '80s aesthetic, doctors wearing DR badges, a reference to a bad accident as a kid, calling himself not just a "Mickey Mouse operation," the word "Glee," a toothpaste tube labeled with Dentist Whitening Tooth System, a bug stuck in amber, a solo cup with "13" on it, and a clock set to 8.

The second video had multiple dancers holding a soccer ball, football, and a volleyball in a mirror, references to moving to a new place with a new language, a reputation as a "bad boy," a man holding up a boombox, the phrase "Maximum velocity," the Sloth proposing to someone, and a marker with "18" written on it.

Video No. 3 had a chalkboard with stick figures labeled "Mom," "Dad," and "Child," and a baby mobile with stars hanging and the number 18 again.

Word Up words: Broadway, Leading man.

First we thought it was Matthew Morrison, but now we're leaning towards Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Here's how the first clue set relates back to Chmerkovskiy: He was born in 1980 (the aesthetic); he was in a severe skiing accident when he was a kid, leading doctors to believe he'd never dance again; he started dancing as a kid (Mickey Mouse operation); and he's been on Broadway before. There were also plenty of clues to nod to his various partners on "Dancing With the Stars" and the show itself. First, the toothpaste tube's initials were "DWTS," the common acronym for the show. The "Glee" is a nod to his partner "Glee" star Heather Morris, the "DR" badge represents partner Denise Richards, one of his partners was Meryl Davis (MD, like medical doctor!), the bug in amber could be Amber Rose, and the solo cup with a 13 could be his partner on season 13, Hope Solo.

From the second video, the first thing that popped out was the mirror with balls — a "mirror ball" if you will, the famous trophy on "DWTS." Chmerkovskiy moved from Ukraine to the US as a kid (new language), one of his common nicknames is the "Bad Boy of Ballroom," the "maximum velocity" could be a nod to his nickname, Max, and the 18 could be referring to season 18 of "DWTS," which was his first win. The Sloth also was seen proposing to one of the dancers — Chmerkovskiy is married to another "DWTS" star, Peta Murgatroyd.

Again, the 18 refers to the season he won, and the stars on the baby mobile are also a nod to "DWTS." The stick figure represents his family: himself, Murgatroyd, and their son Shai.

Other guesses: John Stamos, Neil Patrick Harrison, Kevin Federline, or Matthew Morrison.

The Tulip danced to the song "Fergalicious" by Fergie and "Fields of Gold" by Eva Cassidy.

tulip masked dancer
Tulip. Michael Becker/FOX

The important clues we picked up in week one were a clock with the words "Tick Tock," a cereal box with the number 11 on it, a bus ticket with "AL-DC" written on it, and the Tulip clicking her heels three times while talking about home and a rainbow.

The Tulip also mentioned both Glee Club and Acrobatics Club, made a reference to "tumbling," and said she was bullied.

In week two, her clues mentioned social media and TikTok again, as well as feeling competitive with her "best bud." There was also a bell, references to "hyping" her up, being "frozen in place," and "day and night." The other clues were an eclipse and a pyramid.

In her third clue video, there was a painting of a table with judges holding signs saying "Not good enough," a video of her dancing on "Masked Dancer-gram," and a photo of her dancing with her mom at the "2nd Annual Mother-Daughter Dance."

Word Up words: Triple, Princess.

Our best guess is that the Tulip is former "Dance Moms" star Mackenzie Ziegler, and we feel more confident than ever after her second dance.

maddie mackenzie ziegler
Mackenzie Ziegler. Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Here's our evidence: The "AL-DC" bus ticket refers to the Abby Lee Dance Company, which is the dance company featured in "Dance Moms." The dancers used to travel to competitions on a bus — plus the show premiered in 2011 (the 11 reference). The heel-clicking and the rainbow could refer to Ziegler's performance as Dorothy in "The Winter of Oz," a holiday-themed production of "The Wizard of Oz," which famously features "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." The "tick tock" is also a reference to Ziegler's TikTok following — she has 19 million followers on the app.

Ziegler's reference to "Triple" could be her status as a triple-threat — she can sing (Glee Club), act, and dance. "Princess" is probably a nod to a movie she starred in as a princess, "Ice Princess Lily."

Her second clue package references to social media make our guess even stronger. Ziegler has had some drama with TikTok's Hype House, has openly spoken about feeling overshadowed by her sister Maddie Ziegler ("best bud"), performed a dance with her to "Frozen in Place," has a song called "Day and Night," and starred in a web series called "Total Eclipse." The pyramid is a nod to the pyramid in "Dance Moms," a huge part of the series and another way the girls competed against each other.

Again, the mother-daughter dance refers to "Dance Moms," there were more social media clues, and she constantly competed against her sister, hence the "Not good enough" signs.

Other guesses: Charli D'Amelio, Millie Bobby Brown, Shawn Johnson, or Heather Morris.

The first celebrity revealed on "The Masked Dancer" was underneath the Disco Ball's mask ...

disco ball masked dancer
Disco Ball. Michael Becker/FOX

Some of the clues before his dance included saying he grew up on a "rough block" and lost both of his parents at a young age. Other clues included a shark in the water with an emphasis on the fin, a mention of a "Fountain of Youth," a bone with the letter "J" on it, a glass of iced tea, saying he was ready to "serve and protect" with a gavel, and a military salute.

Word Up word: Grammy.

... It was rapper and "Law and Order: SVU" star Ice-T.

ice-t
Ice-T. Michael Becker/FOX

Ice-T grew up in South Central Los Angeles (the "rough block"), and lost his mom at 9 and father at 13, respectively.

He also hosts the true crime show "In Ice Cold Blood," which featured an episode about swimming with sharks. The bone refers to a film called "Johnny Mnemonic," in which Ice-T played a character named J-Bone.

The reference to a Fountain of Youth could be a reference to this tweet, in which he called music the Fountain of Youth.

More obviously, the glass of iced tea was a reference to his name, and the gavel and "serve and protect" was alluding to his long-running role on "SVU" as Odafin "Fin" Tutuola, as was the emphasis on the shark fin. The rapper was also in the Army, which explains the salute.

Lastly, his one word, "Grammy," refers to his Grammy Award for the song "Back on the Block."

The first dancer to get unmasked from Group B was the Ice Cube.

ice cub masked dancer
Ice Cube. Michael Becker/FOX

The most important clues that Ice Cube revealed were: stating that he was successful, saying his mom was always off doing work at the White House and his dad spent time behind bars, an emphasis on the letters "CORNL," calling TV his only friend, a pair of smelly ballet slippers, multiple references to climate change and the periodic table, and saying he was "in [his] element."

Word Up word: '90s icon.

It was ... Bill Nye the Science Guy

bill nye the science guy
Bill Nye. Michael Becker/FOX

Confused? Well, Nye is obviously an iconic '90s TV star with "Bill Nye the Science Guy." He attended Cornell University ("CORNL"), appeared on "Dancing with the Stars" was but wasn't great, hence the smelly ballet slippers, and is very focused on climate change. He's also a DC native, which might explain the White House clue.

The references to his parents were both true, albeit in sneaky ways. His mom was enlisted by the Navy as a code-breaker during World War II — so while she might not have literally worked at the White House, she was part of the armed forces. His dad did spend time behind bars, but it was as a prisoner of war in a Japanese POW camp for four years.

The Moth danced to two songs before getting eliminated in episode two.

miss moth masked dancer
Moth. Michael Becker/FOX

Both of the Moth's clue packages heavily mentioned a traumatic experience she had faced and overcome, leaning heavily into the metamorphosis aspect of caterpillars and moths. She mentioned how moths don't seek out the spotlight, and that she was a normal person until she was "making headlines with the president," and even showed a fake tabloid with the name "National Insectquirer."

There was also a box labeled "clothes," a blue dress that the Moth was eating, references to both the White House and the Capitol building, and the number 286. She also said that she retook her fame and uses it for good now.

Her second video looked like a motivational speaker's speech, showed a photo of Queen Elizabeth, the word "Metamorphosis" with the letters "EAS" in bold, the phrase "Be Yourself" with the letters "BYU" in bold, a clothesline of dates, and a newspaper with the headline "Survivor speaks! Be brave. Be smart," with a drawing of a lizard, and a video of a Salt Bae-esque chef.

Word Up words: Inspired, Best-seller.

While we thought it might've been Monica Lewinsky, it actually turned out to be ... Elizabeth Smart.

elizabeth smart
Elizabeth Smart. Michael Becker/ FOX

This one seemed pretty obvious — maybe too obvious — and, of course, we were burned. The real Moth was none other than Smart. Smart is now a child safety activist after getting kidnapped and held captive for nine months in 2002 in a case that gripped the nation.

Now that we know, it all seems pretty clear. "EAS" are her initials, the "BYU" and Salt Bae refer to her home city of Salt Lake City, Utah, the photo of Queen Elizabeth refers to her name, she has appeared on "Dateline," has met a president, and became a political activist (spending a lot of time in DC). The number 286 might've been a sly reference to episode 286 of the podcast "This American Life," which had a segment dedicated to Smart's story. The lizard on the newspaper was a reference to Liz, and the "Be Smart," was obviously a nod tot her name.

She's also written multiple best-selling books and become a motivational speaker, in regards to her two Word Up clues.

The Cricket grooved to "Jump (For My Love)" by the Pointer Sisters and "This Is How We Do It" by Montell Jordan.

cricket masked dancer
Cricket. Michael Becker/FOX

Here's what we picked up on from Cricket's clue package: He's tall, not a dancer, and frequents Las Vegas. There was a reference to the numbers 90210 and the number 12. He called himself "pretty lucky in life," mentioned "love at first sight," said he always gets "punked" when it came to love, and mentioned being an "apprentice," and being in a power couple. Other clues: three gold bars with the number 10 on each of them, and a hand of cards with four aces.

Clues for round two: many references to getting his big break in the '90s, two silver medals and coming in second place, judges holding the scores 9, 4, and 7, a "super phone," the phrase "back at one," an elevator button with "PH," and a Gemini constellation.

Word Up words: Accomplished, All-Star.

We thought it was Ian Ziering, but it turned out to be ... Grammy-winning musician Brian McKnight.

brian mcknight
Brian McKnight as the Cricket. Michael Becker/ FOX

Here's how we were able to connect Cricket's Clues to McKnight. The "90210" jackpot was a nod to his appearance on an episode of "Beverly Hills, 90210." The "12" was probably a reference to his song "6 8 12." The four aces referred to his musical act the Brian McKnight 4, or that he's one of four brothers. He's also performed in Las Vegas many times, competed on "Celebrity Apprentice," and has been married to his wife since 2017.

In 1998, McKnight signed with Motown Records and was nominated for his first American Music Award and MTV Video Music Award. The silver medals could be a nod to the fact that, while he's been nominated for 16 Grammys, he's never taken home the statue. His statement about being "back at one" was, of course, a nod to his song and album "Back at One." At first, we thought the "PH" button meant penthouse, but now we're thinking it's a nod to his wife, who is from the Philippines (PH). Lastly, the constellation is a reference to his 2005 album "Gemini."

The Hammerhead proved he had dancing chops before getting eliminated ...

hammerhead masked dancer
Hammerhead. Michael Becker/FOX

There were plenty of clues to choose from in the Hammerhead's intro. The big ones were the many references to the beach, an odd-looking burger, a cup of alphabet soup with the word "Talk" spelled out, a cup of coffee with "Joe" written on the mug, something being added to the coffee, references to becoming famous too quickly, feeling like their best moments were behind them, and feeling like they shifted from who they were to who they thought people wanted them to be. There was also a painting of a lifeguard surfing, a clock going from 6:01 a.m. to 6:05 a.m. (and then back again), references to moving backwards, and staying hungry for "learning, life, [and] love."

The second clue video established that the Hammerhead, whoever he is, really struggled with fame. He gave up his "dream to be a lawyer," and felt trapped in a cage. The big clues were an eye-chart with "THIS IS A HUGE CLUE" written on it, a wedding cake topped with two grooms, and a woman wearing a jersey with No. 1 on it, doing her best thrusting. There was also a book, "Navigating the Shores of Life" by E.E., and references to stand-up comedy, "Fear Factor," and a "situation."

His third video contained a map of the East Coast with New Jersey circled, suntain oil, and a sign for Las Vegas.

Word Up words: Dramatic, Heartbreaker

We thought it was the Keto Guido, Vinny Guadagnino ... and we were right!

vinny guadagnino masked danceer
Vinny Guadagnino as the Hammerhead. Michael Becker/FOX

We were right! All the nods to New Jersey, suntan oil, the beach, and vacations were all pointing to Guadagnino, one of the original cast members of "Jersey Shore."

In two of his clue videos, the Hammerhead busted out some serious break-dancing and "stripper" moves, which could be explained by Guadagnino's extended run at Chippendales, which was also reference with the Las Vegas sign.

The other clues: The burger was a reference to his time on "The Hard Times of RJ Berger." Guadagnino has talked about how he wanted to be a lawyer, and studied political science in college. The eye-chart is a nod to his clothing line IHAV (I Have a Vision), he's tried stand-up comedy before, the book's title is a nod to "Jersey Shore," as well as the woman dancing in a jersey. The wedding cake with two grooms, obviously, is a reference to his love story with Pauly D. They even had a "Bromittment" ceremony.

Exotic Bird's last dance was to Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract," which was the final nail in the coffin for our guess ...

exotic bird masked dancer
Exotic Bird. Michael Becker/FOX

The clues we noted were two runners on a race track wearing the number 17, a starter pistol with glitter, references to being competitive, starting as a teen, a perfume line, winning big at the beginning of her career, a Venus flytrap, body shamers, stating that she felt attacked for "losing, my relationships, [and] just for being a big bird," the phrase "Best by '07," cooking, a cracked egg, and calling herself a "true warrior."

In week two, Exotic Bird's clues were an apple pie, a football statue, references to getting sick and being barely able to breathe, a close relationship with her mom, and a big break.

The latest clue video contained nods to the Janet Jackson album "Rhythm Nation" (released in 1989), becoming a "mama bird," and a rose tattoo.

Word Up clues: Scored, Number one.

... and we were correct! The Exotic Bird was "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks.

jordin sparks masked dancer
Jordin Sparks as the Exotic Bird. Michael Becker/Fox

We were right! While we first thought it was Hope Solo, we switched to Sparks during her second episode, and we were proven right during the February 3 episode.

Here's how all the clues fit: The "Best by '07" label is a nod to the year she won "American Idol," 2007, and the runners wearing the number 17 are a nod to her age at the time she won. She has a perfume line, she's been open about being body-shamed and shamed for her relationships, the Exotic Bird called herself a "true warrior" and Sparks has an album called "Battlefield."

In the second clue video, the football statue is a reference to her dad, former NFL player Phillippi Sparks, the references to barely being able to breathe connects to her song "No Air," and the pie is a nod to her leading role in the pie-obsessed Broadway musical "Waitress."

"Rhythm Nation" was released in 1989 — the same year Sparks was born. One of her biggest hits is a song called "Tattoo." She gave birth to her first son in May 2018.

The Zebra has added a little Latin flavor to the competition.

zebra masked dancer
Zebra. Michael Becker/FOX

The Zebra's clue package had references to many boy bands, including One Direction, New Kids on the Block, the Backstreet Boys, and *NSYNC — but we think that was all a misdirect.

His first clue package took place on a movie set with the 2019 Oscar winners for director and cinematographer, Bong Joon-Ho and Roger Deakins. He said he had been out of the limelight for a while. Other clues included the letters "OS," the number 11, a medal with the number three on it, a dancing hotdog, a tabloid with the headline "This Is a Clue," a license plate with the numbers 154-128, and a sign that said "Zebra for Mare."

His second video focused on his career. Zebra talked about a "golden promotion" to ZEO, Dad's Appliance Shop with records, an alien ship with "UFC" highlighted, an Instagram live with 17,000 viewers, smashing records, cinnamon churros, and many references to family, friends, and being a hero to "little zebras."

The third video had a graham cracker with an "E" written on it, and a dancer with a white shirt with the letters "K. O."

Word Up words: Comeback, Champion.

After the second week abandoned all references to boy bands, we switched our guess from Nick Lachey to retired boxer Oscar De La Hoya - and we were right.

oscar de la hoya
Oscar De La Hoya as the Zebra. Michael Becker/FOX

Zebra's strong emphasis on a comeback is what solidified this for us. De La Hoya retired from boxing in 2009 — but has been teasing a comeback in 2021. Other things that fit: then Oscar winners, the Oscar Meyer hotdog, and the "OS" all referred to his name, the 11 for the 11 world titles he has under his belt, the medal is referring to his Olympic medal (while the three is for the fact he's competed in three weight classes), and the "ZEBRA FOR MARE" sign was a nod to his potential presidential campaign.

From the second video, we picked up on the ZEO sign and the "golden promotion" phrasing. De La Hoya founded the fighting promotional firm Golden Boy Promotions in 2002. One of the fighters he reps is Canelo Álvarez ("canelo" means cinnamon in Spanish). The "Dad's Appliance Store" is a nod to the family business — his father, grandfather, and brother were all boxers as well. Although De La Hoya didn't fight for the UFC, he is in a public beef with UFC president Dana White. The 17,000 viewers was a nod to his age when he won the US National Championship for the first time: 17.

Video three clues: the white shirt, clearly, means "Knock Out," a boxing term.

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