Where Are the ‘America’s Got Talent’ Winners Now? (Part 1)
America’s Got Talent has dazzled us with unique acts for 12 seasons. Have the winners achieved success after the season ends?
For most of its run, the winners of AGT have received $1 million and a headlining gig at a venue in Las Vegas. But what happened after that? I thought I’d check in with the first six champions to see how their lives and careers changed — or didn’t — after winning the love of America.
Season One – Bianca Ryan
Simon Cowell called the 11-year-old “potentially one of the best singers I have ever heard in my life,” and she signed a five-record deal with his SYCO Music label. However, she only released one album and one Christmas EP before leaving the label. Since then, Bianca has released another Christmas EP with Music Forever, and produced several singles and music videos independently. She continues to perform Christmas music and tour; she’s singing in New York this holiday season.
Season Two – Terry Fator
Simon called the singing ventriloquist “one of the two most talented people on the planet.” The Mirage in Las Vegas agreed, signing Terry to a five-year contract worth $100 million in 2008. And Terry is still there, having just created an all-new show with his diverse cast of funny, musical puppets.
Season Three – Neal E. Boyd
As an opera singer, Neal was an unlikely winner of AGT, (most Americans have never seen an opera). After his upset victory, he headlined a night of performances at the Las Vegas Hilton and released his only album, My American Dream, in 2009. After that, he twice ran for a seat in the Missouri state legislature. He still performs, though there are currently no dates on his website. He may be back running Cox & Boyd Insurance Solutions in Missouri.
Season Four – Kevin Skinner
It was only a matter of time before a country singer won the competition. Along with the $1 million, Kevin’s prize included headlining a 10-week show at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. A year later, Cypress Tree released Long Ride, a country album that did not chart. After that, he reportedly struggled with depression and divorced his wife. He doesn’t seem to have released any music since 2010.
Season Five – Michael Grimm
The Mississippi soul singer headlined a 25-city tour with other AGT finalists after his win in 2010. He released an album through Epic the next year — actually his fourth effort, since he performed for ten years before finding success on AGT. Michael appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2011 as well. He then self-released two more albums in 2012 and 2015, without much fanfare. His win did change his life in at least one way: Appearing on Ellen DeGeneres to discuss his victory, he brought his girlfriend and proposed to her during the taping.
Season Six – Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr.
The jazz singer, who sounds a lot like Frank Sinatra, was at one point living in his car, so his win in Season Six was a powerful, feel-good story. Landau headlined a concert in Las Vegas and released an album of standards, My Life, through Columbia Records. The disc peaked at #34 on Billboard. But something must have happened because, two years later, Landau’s next album was self-released. After that, he toured, and released two singles in 2016. He’s performing in his home state of West Virginia and in Southern California in 2018.
Looking at these six winners, a pattern seems to emerge: They get the money, a Las Vegas show, and one album with a major label. But with the exception of Terry Fator, still performing in Vegas 10 years later, the other five winners struggled to keep up their success. The label drops them (or vice-versa), and they sign with a smaller outfit or simply release their own music. They tour, either based on AGT fame or pure talent (which certainly all the winners have). A few performed for presidents and at major events, like NBA games or the Macy’s parade. But none has become a superstar.
Did the winners’ luck improve? Did the labels treat their work better? Did the show pick different kinds of winners? Check back here when I review the winners of America’s Got Talent, Seasons seven through 12.