Nightbirde is the Real Winner of ‘America’s Got Talent’ Season 16

Samantha Agate
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NightbirdeTrae Patton/NBC

America’s Got Talent Season 16 came to an end with Dustin Tavella named the winner. Those of us that have been following the season from the very beginning know that one Golden Buzzer was missing from the finale. Nightbirde dropped out of the competition due to her ongoing cancer battle. Had she stayed in the competition, she would have walked away with the $1 million prize.


Nightbirde Has Generated the Most Buzz Out of Any Other ‘AGT’ Contestant

Even though she only performed once this season, Nightbirde is the most popular contestant out of the entire bunch. Her audition generated over 34 million views, the most of any Season 16 contestant. Her impact was felt all over the world when she performed her original song, “It’s OK.” From early on, we even predicted she was going to win the show.

Just hours after Nightbirde’s moving audition aired on television on June 8, “It’s OK,” topped the iTunes charts. A second version of “It’s OK” landed in the third spot on the Billboard Digital Downloads chart right underneath BTS and Masked Wolf. To find success with both the acoustic and pop versions of the song is a tremendous accomplishment for a contestant who did not perform beyond the auditions.

In June, Nightbirde was ranked third on Billboard’s Top 10 Emerging Artists chart. At the time of her audition, Nightbirde had cancer left in her lungs, spine, and liver. She had a 2% chance of survival. Still, she wanted everyone to know that she is more than just the bad things that have happened to her. News that she was leaving the competition rattled fans of AGT and people who didn’t even follow the season.


Before and after announcing her AGT departure, Nightbirde’s story was covered by most major news outlets. She spoke with Chris Cuomo on CNN twice. The other contestants did get some news coverage and buzz here and there. But, when all is said and done, Nightbirde is still the most talked-about months after her audition aired.

Simon Cowell Has Kept in Touch with Her

It is very rare when Simon Cowell makes a personal connection with an AGT contestant. It was clear from the second Nightbirde walked out onto the stage that he was impacted by her story. Cowell got all choked up during her audition and was on the brink of tears. We rarely ever see this side of him. That’s how you know Nightbirde’s talent is very special.

Cowell continued to keep in touch with Nightbirde even after she left the show. The judges spoke to Nightbirde virtually during the live shows on Season 16. Cowell was holding back tears again during this interaction.


“You made the decision rightfully so that your health is your priority right now and I know last time we spoke you actually said that you feel that you let people down,” Cowell said. “I just want to say on behalf of all of us, you haven’t let anyone down.”

During the first night of the AGT finale, Terry Crews took some time to talk about Nightbirde’s impact on the show. He asked Cowell for another update on how she is doing.

“We are missing Nightbirde, Jane, tonight,” he said. “I spoke to her earlier. The great news is she is doing better and I know she would be here in the finals tonight and we’re all sending you our love. We miss you. Just get better. We love you.”

Cowell is right. Nightbirde would have made it to the finals without question. There is something so captivating about her stage presence. Her triumphant attitude was a hit with AGT fans all over the world. Never has someone had such a huge impact on the show after only a couple of minutes of air time. However, health is a top priority and we can all understand why she chose to leave the show.

She Reflected on Her ‘AGT’ Experience Ahead of the Finale

She has been dropping subtle hints on social media and song lyrics from original music that she is working on. Ahead of the finale results show, Nightbirde wrote a post to reflect on her AGT journey.

“It’s so hard for me to not be on the @agt stage for the finals this week,” she wrote. “I bet you never saw someone win so hard and lose so hard at the same time. This isn’t how the story was supposed to go.”

AGT opens doors for people. Nightbirde has such huge potential to land a record deal and head out on the road once she beats cancer. Cowell believes that Nightbirde’s dream did come true by entering the competition.

“Unfortunately, she is really ill and could not make the finals,” he told People. “However, it was always her dream for her music to be heard by millions. That’s what’s happened off the back of this.”

With over 5 million streams on Spotify already, Nightbirde did win the love and support of the people rallying behind her. She did not get to finish out the competition, but really is the winner in the eyes of so many. She continues to fight and push through her illness. It’s not easy to keep a positive outlook on things sometimes. She manages to do it with a beautiful smile on her face.

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