The story behind 14-year-old Reid Wilson’s winning performance on ‘America’s Got Talent’

Surrounded by loved ones at a church in Montgomery on a Tuesday night, 14-year-old Reid Wilson was filled with disbelief as he witnessed a golden moment, one that he had already experienced in person several weeks prior.

Reid, who wowed the judges and the audience with her rendition of Lesley Gore’s classic hit “You Don’t Own Me,” couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw herself on television. “It was surreal to see myself on TV,” she said. Reid’s performance earned her a coveted golden buzzer on NBC’s popular show “America’s Got Talent,” and she couldn’t be more thrilled about the opportunity.

Reid, the son of Capt. Robert T. Wilson of Montgomery Fire Rescue and homeschool teacher mom Kelley Wilson, expressed his disbelief at the performance he witnessed, saying, “It felt like I was watching someone else’s show. I couldn’t believe it was happening in front of me.”

However, it did happen.

“Wow, that little kid has some serious guts,” commented Simon Cowell, the show judge and executive producer.

While Reid was singing, his mother stood beside show host Terry Crews off-stage, watching the performance. The song choice was made with the help of AGT producers and it was a personal favorite of Reid’s. He had previously performed the song only once before, at Hilltop Public House in Montgomery.

Reid reminisced that Hilltop was where he had his first public singing experience. “It was the first place that I ever sang in front of people,” he fondly recalled.

Before the performance, Reid sought assistance from a few singing competition sensations, including his 16-year-old brother Ryley Tate Wilson, and a close family friend from Montgomery, D.Smooth. Interestingly, both of them were finalists on season 23 of NBC’s “The Voice.”

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According to Reid, whenever he faced any difficulties with the song arrangement or anything else, Ryley Tate was always there to assist him. Reid also mentioned that D.Smooth played a crucial role in helping him improve his singing skills through improvisation.

During episode 6 of AGT season 19, Reid’s performance was incredible, leaving judge Howie Mandel so impressed that he believed it merited an additional reward.

During the show, Mandel expressed his surprise, saying “I was bowled over because I was surprised. You’re just a 14-year-old kid from Alabama, so I would imagine myself in your position. You were very nervous and it showed. However, that stage is the place where dreams come true. So, let me ask you, do you believe in dreams?” Mandel was taken aback by the contestant’s nerves but remained encouraging, highlighting the potential for the young performer to achieve their dreams on the show’s stage.

“Of course,” Reid responded.

Mandel stood up and exclaimed, “Well, one of them is about to come true!” He proceeded to press the golden buzzer and made his way up to the stage. Reid was showered with a massive amount of golden confetti, which she saved in a box at home. This life-changing moment has secured Reid a spot in AGT’s live performances that are scheduled to begin on Aug. 13.

Reid expressed surprise at the proximity of the situation, exclaiming, “Oh, my gosh. I didn’t realize it was that close,” during his conversation with the Advertiser.

Mandel praised Reid’s achievement, exclaiming “You are amazing, buddy!” and even went beyond his signature fist bump to show his congratulations.

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Reid admitted, “I was completely overwhelmed and shaking. I had no idea how to react, so I simply requested a hug.”

Mandel also embraced Reid’s mother with a warm hug.

Calming cow helped Reid to perform

The judges observed that Reid appeared slightly anxious before his performance. Behind the scenes, he was seen hydrating and taking deep breaths to mentally prepare himself before stepping onto the stage.

“He said he was just trying not to pass out,” as he recounted the incident.

Thankfully, Kalina Moolina, a former Disney employee and TikTok sensation who competed on the show while dressed in a cow costume, was by his side to offer support.

Reid expressed that he was pleasantly surprised by the kindness of the woman he met. In fact, he considers her to be one of the nicest people he has ever encountered. He credits her for helping him in a pivotal moment, where he was on the verge of passing out due to nerves. He appreciates how she recognized his discomfort and provided comfort by assuring him that everything would be okay. Reid believes that her support was exactly what he needed in that moment.

Musical tastes

Reid revealed that he drew his inspiration from the legendary Aretha Franklin when asked about his biggest musical influence. He reminisced about listening to her music a lot during his formative years, and credited her for shaping not only his vocal style but also his taste in music.

Reid expressed his admiration for Aretha Franklin’s music when he was younger, acknowledging that it was no easy feat to match her vocal prowess. “I’d sing her music,” he said.

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Reid shared that he enjoys listening to a variety of music genres, including R&B and soul. He also likes to mix in some upbeat pop music to his playlist. In addition to this, Franklin is another artist he enjoys listening to.

Cowell inquired, “Your folks must have exceptional music taste, don’t they?”

“Absolutely not,” Reid responded with a quick quip, eliciting a wave of laughter.

According to Reid, his dad is a fan of classic rock, while his mom prefers mainstream country music.

According to Reid, modern music isn’t really his cup of tea. He expressed his dislike towards most of the contemporary tunes.

So what would Reid like to do next on AGT?

Reid is looking to take his live performances to the next level after his impressive debut. He expressed his desire to have additional performers join him on stage if given the opportunity.

Reid expressed her desire to have a choir in her next performance, stating “I would love to have a choir maybe.”

A word to fans, friends and family back home

Reid expressed his gratitude to his hometown by saying, “I am truly grateful for all the support you guys have given me. I am eagerly looking forward to my next performance and hoping for a similar outcome as my audition.”

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