A couple of weeks ago, I noticed some displeasure among AGT fans when the show’s Season 13 premiere featured the audition of The Sacred Riana, a horror-based magician. It wasn’t because her act was bad, but because she had gone viral online a few months earlier in videos of her performances on the most recent season of Asia’s Got Talent, a sister version of the American program.
This ended up opening up the floodgates for fans to perform ”background checks” on other AGT contestants to see if any of them had achieved similar levels of success. Upon learning about things like Zurcaroh and Aaron Crow’s participation in Britain’s Got Talent, many of them were confused, angry, and even betrayed, feeling as if they’d been lied to in a way.
I’ll admit, when I first started watching AGT, I experienced similar feelings. But then I thought about it and realized that it might not be as big a deal as I’d been thinking.
Most of the performers that hop from show to show (or as I like to call it, running the “Got Talent Circuit”) are niche variety acts that don’t have a lot of opportunities to break into the mainstream. Talents like singing and dancing have enough widespread appeal that there are plenty of places on the stage and screen for those artists to shine outside of reality television, but performers like magicians and daredevils have more limited career options.
These shows – especially the Got Talent franchise – are one of the few ways for them to get worldwide exposure, and since most of the acts who have competed on multiple iterations of Got Talent have done so in completely different places, they’re reaching a whole new audience each time they compete; for example, “Professional Regurgitator” Stevie Starr has appeared on the British, German, Czech-Slovak, Italian, French, and American versions of the franchise.
Going back to The Sacred Riana, I understand a lot of the backlash towards her specifically is because she actually won her season of Asia’s Got Talent. The participation of former winners is much less common, but we actually had another one of AGT a few years ago: Season 11 finalist Laura Bretan competed after winning the Romanian version of the show. I can see how the participation of international champions – as opposed to contestants who didn’t actually win – is difficult for some viewers to swallow, but at the same time I can’t blame the performers in question for taking the opportunity to gain a fanbase in another part of the world.
This ongoing debate about repeat contestants is one reason I’m happy we have America’s Got Talent: The Champions on the way. An All-Star spin-off featuring acts from the Got Talent franchise around the world may be the way to allow regular AGT to be an opportunity for relative unknowns while giving acts that are more established in other countries a way to build and American audience. This may be the solution fans upset about seeing people with careers in their art on AGT are looking for, I’m excited to find out which worldwide Got Talent alumni we’ll be seeing on the show!