On Wednesday night, “AGT” crowned Brandon Leake, a 27-year-old spoken word poet from Stockton, California, the winner of its 15th season. Earlier this season, during the show’s audition round, Leake was “AGT” judge Howie Mandel’s choice for the Golden Buzzer. That audition clip, which shows the poet giving a powerful tribute to his sister, has more than 6 million views on YouTube.
After his audition, Leake went on to grapple with subjects like racial injustice and his father’s absence from his life. For the finale, he performed a prayer for his 6-month-old daughter, Aaliyah.
“I will never forget, never forget all the things that you made me feel, how I was already in love with you before I could ever hold you,” he started. “Before your mother cradled you into existence, I prayed for you the best way I knew how. By praying for me.”
Leake first auditioned for “AGT” in 2017. Now he has $1 million to his name and a headlining show in Las Vegas. After being declared the winner, Leake called his victory a “huge win for the spoken-word community,” according to USA Today.
“I want to win but win, lose or draw, I came here with a purpose and part of it has been fulfilled,” he previously told Stockton’s The Record. “At the end of the day, my desire is for my art form to get people to think critically. … I really want my art to be a reflection of the times, but also an aspiration of what the times can become.”
Top 10 finalist Kenadi Dodds, a 15-year-old country artist from North Logan, Utah, was visibly emotional prior to her elimination. Before “AGT” revealed the results, the singer reflected on her audition. She was one of the last contestants to audition before “AGT” completely shut down production due to the pandemic.
“Walking out on the X, with the audience not being there, every footstep echoed,” Kenadi recalled. “Because It was just so quiet. It was nerve-wracking.”
The young singer added that being on “AGT” was “life-changing.”
“You hear a lot of people say it, but it’s true,” she said. “It just changes everything.”
For her first two appearances on “AGT,” Kenadi took a more unique path, choosing to perform original music rather than covers. The first song, “One Way Ticket to Tennessee,” was about her dream of becoming a country music star. The second, “Dancing Through the Stars,” paid tribute to her 9-year-old sister, Alexis. During Wednesday’s episode, Sofia Vergara, the show’s newest judge, called Kenadi “brave” for performing original music on the show.
“On ‘AGT’ I’ve always said it’s risky to try singing original songs,” Mandel reiterated during Wednesday night’s episode, although he did admit the young singer made him question that view a bit. “Kenadi Dodds’ audition, I don’t know, it felt so special.”
Kenadi previously told the Deseret News that regardless of how far she went on “AGT,” she hoped the show would bring her closer to her dream of becoming a country star — something she’s envisioned since 2015, when she saw Shania Twain from the front row at Vivint Arena.
“I see my shows in the future hopefully looking kind of a mix between Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift, that kind of thing,” she said. “I just want people to be able to escape and have their money’s worth. I want to have fun and put on a show.”
After Kenadi’s final performance on “AGT,” judge Heidi Klum assured the young singer that she has a “super bright future.”
“I even see like a country music award for you in there,” Klum said. “I sometimes think of you as like a young Taylor Swift when she started writing her own songs with her guitar. I think you’re just as amazing. I wish you all the best.”
“She’s going to have a great career in music,” Vergara added Wednesday night.