On Wednesday night, the winner of this season’s America’s Got Talent was announced: singer and pianist Kodi Lee.
Lee, who is blind and has autism, was a season favorite.
Kodi Lee is a STAR. 🌟💛🌟pic.twitter.com/AVATsIlRAm
— NBC Entertainment (@nbc) May 29, 2019
Known for his soulful performances—in particular his rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the 22-year-old from Lake Elsinore, California was born with optic nerve hypoplasia and diagnosed with autism at age 4. His mother, Tina, accompanied him on stage for the whole competition.
“He’s making people believe in something they didn’t even know is attainable. He’s magic,” Judge Gabrielle Union told People magazine.
“Kodi’s family fought to make sure that he had a stage to be brilliant on—whether that stage was in their living room or on the world’s biggest talent show,” Union continued. “They never stopped fighting for him, that’s huge.”
You did it @Kodileerocks!!!!!!! From the first note you sang, I knew you were something special and that you were here to change the world. I am SO proud of you my #goldenbuzzer. This is just the beginning. #agt pic.twitter.com/rLpq62HOcv
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) September 19, 2019
“I feel so amazing, unbelievable,” Lee said after host Terry Crews asked him about how it feels to win.
Folks on Twitter were also feeling the love.
CONGRATULATIONS @Kodileerocks! All of your friends from Special Olympics were cheering you on tonight & we are so proud!
— Special Olympics (@SpecialOlympics) September 19, 2019
— Howie Mandel (@howiemandel) September 18, 2019
— College Park Mom (@lindsayoz) September 19, 2019
Kodi Lee!! This is inclusion. This is allowing someone to have a voice who is generally shut out in all other aspects of life #AGT
— Kels (@hallkels27) September 19, 2019
Judge Simon Cowell called it one of the “best seasons ever.” Lee beat finalists including the Detroit Youth Choir, dance group V, and comedian Ryan Niemiller—who also has a disability.
Niemiller, who does not have all five fingers on either hand, uses his platform to spread awareness and talk about how having a disability inspires his comedy.
“Growing up with a disability, I learned really early on that the best way for me to survive and not get made fun of was to be able to make the jokes before anyone else could even think of them,” Niemiller told The Mighty. “I was so good at them that I never really got bullied that much.”
Lee posted on Twitter last night that his journey on America’s Got Talent “has helped me with communication, and no matter what happens I’m so thankful for the love and opportunity that @agt and all of you have given me!”
This entire journey has helped me with communication, and no matter what happens I’m so thankful for the love and opportunity that @agt and all of you have given me! Don’t miss the #AGTFinale tonight! #heckyeah pic.twitter.com/BRRRSZzfiW
— Kodi Lee (@Kodileerocks) September 18, 2019
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