That audition racked up 67 million views on YouTube, and solidified the ventriloquist as the “AGT” contestant to beat that season. Farmer ended up winning the competition at the age of 12 — the youngest winner in the show’s history.
Farmer’s 19 now, and in her return to the “AGT” franchise, competing on the spinoff “Fantasy League,” she wanted to make a couple of things clear: She’s not the little girl she was when she first competed on the show, and she’s more than a ventriloquist.
“I think people have frozen me at 12,” Farmer recently told The Oklahoman. “So, I’m trying to kind of break out of that.”
It’s an effort that got mixed results from the judges on “AGT: Fantasy League.” Although Farmer got enough audience votes to secure the last remaining spot in the semifinals, her time in the competition ended following her semifinal appearance Monday night — a surprising performance that saw her completely abandon her puppet Petunia.
Here’s a look at Farmer’s run on “Fantasy League” — and what the judges had to say about the artist’s attempt to forge a new path.
Darci Lynne Farmer competes on ‘AGT: Fantasy League’
Farmer didn’t completely abandon Petunia — at least at the start. For her “Fantasy League” debut, she brought the beloved rabbit out for a duet of “I’ve Got The Music In Me,” the Deseret News reported. But after the first verse, the ventriloquist let go of Petunia, strapped on a guitar and took the lead on the song — although Petunia still managed to get some singing in from time to time.
The crowd seemed to enjoy the performance, which has more than 2 million views on YouTube. But the judges weren’t as convinced. All of the judges believed Farmer was moving away from a tried and true recipe for success.
“I’m glad you didn’t abandon Petunia all the way, because this is how we fell in love with you,” judge Heidi Klum said, per Deseret News.
Simon Cowell added that Farmer’s combination of singing and ventriloquism is her “unique selling point,” and stated that this new direction detracted from what she does so well.
The criticism makes what Farmer did next in the competition all the more surprising.
Ahead of her appearance in the semifinals, Farmer reiterated in an intro package that she’s trying to take her career in a new direction: “I was a very shy little girl who had just started ventriloquism when I came to ‘AGT’ for the first time, but that’s definitely not who I am now. I’m not 12 anymore.”
To make that message stronger, Farmer took the stage sans puppet to perform her debut single, an original country-rock song she wrote called “Push Our Luck.” It’s the latest effort in the Oklahoma City native’s attempt to pursue a full-time music career — she starred in the 2022 film “A Cowgirl’s Song,” and wrote and recorded the song “Just Breathe” for the soundtrack, per American Songwriter.
“Ventriloquism connected with so many people and it felt like the puppets really connected with people, but now, with music, I want to connect with people,” Farmer said in her “AGT” intro package.
While the judges still seemed disappointed that Farmer wasn’t embracing ventriloquism in the competition, this time around, they praised her for sticking to her conviction.
“I think as an artist you need to follow your own instinct,” Klum said. “You have to at some point not listen to the noise anymore, and you just have to do what’s in your gut. And that is maybe a risk, but this is what you wanted, and you did it.”
“A couple weeks ago, Darci did less of ventriloquism and more singing, and we said we think that’s a big mistake. And so you completely disregarded our advice, threw away the puppets, and decided to come out and do it yourself,” Cowell added with a laugh. “But you know what, I’ve always believed the most successful people in life are people who make their own decisions and don’t listen to other people. Good for you for sticking with your guns.”
While judge Mel B noted that she believed Farmer should’ve respected the competition by sticking to the talent she’s known for, she said if Farmer is happy with what she did, then “that’s all that matters.”
The performance ended up marking Farmer’s last appearance in the competition, as she was eliminated ahead of the final round. But the singing ventriloquist doesn’t have any regrets.
“My mantra is I don’t want to be put in a box or limited in any way,” she recently told People. “Singing always came first. Singing is what I grew up doing as long as I can remember. And then the ventriloquism came around. Now I’m able to step out and be more confident in my own skin without the puppet. I think it was always kind of meant to go down this road. ... It’s important that I show this side of me and show that I can hold my own as a solo artist now, singing with my mouth open.”
Is Darci Lynne Farmer done with ventriloquism?
Although Farmer is eyeing a full-time music career, this doesn’t necessarily mean she’s completely pushing ventriloquism away.
“I’m not throwing that away or closing the door on it at all. But now I’m just opening another door, another pathway,” Farmer recently told The Oklahoman. “I’m hoping to find a really cool way to bridge the gap between my puppets and my music and maybe go on the road with that. But I’m not sure. ... I’m just still trying to figure it out.”
When is the ‘AGT: Fantasy League’ finale?
The top 10 acts will compete in the “AGT: Fantasy League” finale on Feb. 12. The show will reveal the winner of the $250,000 grand prize on Feb. 19.