When Grace VanderWaal took the stage for the very first time on America’s Got Talent, the judges didn’t know what to expect.
At just 12 years old, the ukulele player wanted to perform an original song in front of millions of strangers. And in another plot twist, Grace admitted that her closest friends didn’t even know she was a singer.
“Do you believe you could win,” Simon Cowell asked the New York resident. Grace replied, “Well I mean miracles can happen so possibly.”
What came next was a moment fans of NBC’s hit reality show may never forget. With her ukulele in hand, Grace performed “I Don’t Know My Name” that resulted in a standing ovation and rave reviews from the judges and viewers at home.
“Every time I do something or release something or announce a new project, there’s always that fear that it won’t go well,” Grace shared with E! News exclusively when recalling the special day. “So to have people being happy, it makes me really proud of the projects that I’ve done.”
The audition would earn Grace a golden buzzer from judge Howie Mandel. And after wowing in the live shows, America crowned her the winner of AGT.
As NBC’s summer series prepares to vote in a brand new winner during the two-night finale kicking off tonight, it’s hard not to celebrate an unforgettable contestant who is just getting started.
While many finalists from various competition shows step out of the spotlight soon after being crowned the winner, Grace has developed a loyal fan base and strong spot in the music industry.
In the past 12 months alone, she has been able to open for Imagine Dragons in sold-out arenas across the country. She earned the Rising Star award at Billboard‘s annual Women in Music ceremony.
And most recently, the AGT alumna obtained a role on the big screen thanks to Disney’s Stargirl. “I just wanted to switch it up and I heard about this role and I really, really wanted it to be me,” Grace shared with E! News.
That’s not to say music has become less of a priority. In fact, she’s more attached to the ukulele than ever before. She’s even launching two signature ukuleles with Fender that will be available online and in select retailers starting October 2.
“I wanted these ukuleles to be pretty, but also have a great sound. Fender perfectly accomplished that and made my dream ukuleles come true,” Grace previously shared. “I’m seeing my passions come full circle. I think everyone has music inside them and my hope is that I can help them find it.”
That music continues to leave fans, critics and the AGT judges impressed. Simon previously predicted that Grace would become “the next Taylor Swift.”
Taylor and other stars including Katy Perry, Ellen DeGeneres, Reese Witherspoon and Jason Mraz have since voiced their support online.
While there are many talented singers performing during this week’s finale, it’s become clear that Grace will be one of AGT‘s greatest success stories. And if the past few months are any indication, this is only the beginning.
“She’s so interesting with her ukulele, her voice, her great looks. She’s a superstar,” Howie shared with E! News’ Ellie Lee just last month. “I just think we are watching this meteor take off and let’s just enjoy the light and watch. “
America’s Got Talent airs Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 p.m. only on NBC.
(E! and NBC are part of the NBCUniversal family)