It’s been almost four years since Grace VanderWaal won America’s Got Talent Season 11, and she’s already become a star. The singer and ukulele player is now 16 years old, and she’s definitely made a name for herself.
Next Tuesday, AGT will air a 15th anniversary special looking back at the most iconic moments in the show’s history. In a sneak peek, the show’s judges talk about Grace’s first audition, and her amazing journey on the show.
Grace was just 12 years old when she first graced the AGT stage. In her audition, she performed an original song called “I Don’t Know My Name” on the ukulele. She captivated the audience and judges — especially Howie Mandel, who hit the Golden Buzzer for her.
Looking back, Simon Cowell said seeing Grace walk out on stage was like seeing Carrie Underwood audition for American Idol. “There was just something about her when she came in,” he said.
Howie said her original song “blew me away.” He added, “I’ll never forget that moment. Everybody related to that song … Sometimes when you take your own path, that’s how you succeed. That’s what Grace VanderWaal did.”
Grace’s audition made a splash online, racking up millions of views. Judge Heidi Klum said that Grace even inspired her own daughter, who now plays the ukulele just like her. Simon called it a “that’s how you do it” audition.
Howie’s Golden Buzzer sent Grace straight to the live shows of Season 11, and she returned to perform in the quarterfinals, singing another original song called “Beautiful Thing,” which she dedicated to her sister.
In the semifinals, Grace sang “Light the Sky,” yet another original. She finished the competition by singing “Clay” in the finals, and reprising her audition song “I Don’t Know My Name” in the finale. When she was crowned the winner, Howie Mandel ran up onto the stage to celebrate with her.
Grace returned a few months later to sing “Frosty the Snowman” for the America’s Got Talent Holiday Spectacular in 2016. The next year, Grace performed during Season 12 of the show. “I never imagined that I’d be able to perform like this, and make albums, and be here, and it’s so incredible,” she said at the time.
After her audition, Simon Cowell predicted that Grace would be “the next Taylor Swift.” However, she’s carved out her own path for herself. After winning AGT, she headlined a show in Las Vegas and put out an EP called Perfectly Imperfect in December 2016.
In 2017, Grace released her debut album Just the Beginning, featuring the single “Moonlight.” She’s gone on two tours of her own, and also opened for Imagine Dragons and Florence + The Machine.
Last year, Grace released a new EP called LETTERS: VOL. 1, featuring songs like “I Don’t Like You” and “Waste My Time.” She released music videos to accompany these tracks, and showed off a funkier style.
In March of this year, Grace made her acting debut in the Disney+ movie Stargirl. She also performed music for the film’s soundtrack. She’s amassed quite the following of fans, with 3.5 million Instagram followers and 3.4 subscribers on YouTube.
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