Entertainment

Amazing Grace VanderWaal

Just 12 years old, she won $1 million and is heading to Vegas

This little girl impressed the judges from Day 1.

Grace VanderWaal, 12, who won America’s hearts and votes and took the top $1 million prize on the “America’s Got Talent” finale Wednesday night, is on her way to stardom.

“I think you are the next Taylor Swift.” — Simon Cowell

The singer/songwriter/ukelele player from Suffern, New York, earned praised from judges Simon Cowell, Howie Mandell, Heidi Klum, and Mel B. early on in Season 11. Mandell pressed his Golden Buzzer at her first audition in June,when she sang “I Don’t Know My Name.” This sent her into the competition no matter what the other judges felt about her.

Turns out they all loved her, too.

“There’s so few people that pop up now and then that can really make a difference, and she will make a difference in music 100 percent,” Klum told People after VanderWaal’s win.

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Cowell said earlier in the season that she was “the next Taylor Swift,” while also using the word “croaky” to describe her raspy delivery. VanderWaal has said her voice is more like Sia or Halsey, and she compares herself to Hannah Montana.

Part of the seventh-grader’s appeal is that she comes off as humble and gracious — although she obviously has no problem being on stage in front of a camera.

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VanderWaal began writing songs when she was three, took piano lessons at age four, and started playing the saxophone when she was 10. At 11, she bought a ukulele with her birthday money and learned to play by watching YouTube videos.

Her reaction to the Swift comparison? “I want to be unique and my own person. I think what Simon meant by that was the success,” she told Hollywood Life in June. “I mean, everyone knows Taylor Swift. There is not one person who doesn’t know Taylor Swift and I think that is what he implied by that!”

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“America’s Got Talent” is proving to be a good starting point not just for ventriloquists, magicians, and dog acts (previous winners) — but for young singers.

In 2010, Jackie Evancho, at the age of 10, finished second in the competition and launched her career with her angelic voice. She has since released five albums, including a platinum and a gold album, plus three Billboard 200 top 10 debuts. She has also starred in three solo PBS specials.

VanderWaal will headline the PH Showroom at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on Oct. 27, 28, and 29. The Season 11 winner will be joined by The Clairvoyants, the mentalist duo who came in second place behind VanderWaal, and by creepy mime Tape Face, for all three shows.

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