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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

Angelica Hale makes it to America's Got Talent final: ‘Dream come true’

During the semi-final round, her performance received a standing ovation from the reality talent programme’s judging panel

Nine-year-old Angelica Hale has advanced to the final of America's Got Tale. Courtesy Greg Gayne / NBC
Nine-year-old Angelica Hale has advanced to the final of America's Got Tale. Courtesy Greg Gayne / NBC

The tiny girl with the big voice has done it. Nine-year-old Filipino-American singer Angelica Hale has made it to the final of America’s Got Talent.

During last week's semi-final round, Hale sung a cover of David Guetta and Usher’s hit collaboration Without You. Her performance received a standing ovation from the reality talent programme’s judging panel, comprised of Mel B, Heidi Klum, Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel.

“You’re only nine years old and you literally have the voice of an absolute angel. You really, really do,” said former Spice Girl Mel B. “I have to say that was a really brave choice for you. It wasn’t perfect, but you definitely owned it — so well done.”

Cowell also praised Hale for her unexpected song choice.

“You know why I really applaud what you did tonight? There’s nothing worse than sitting here — hearing what I’ve heard before on other shows — and you took a risk. Like I said last week: the only risk is mediocrity. That was not mediocre. There was one point where it was like, boom! You hit me in the face with that note,” he said. “You deserve to be there next week, Angelica. You really do.”

Klum, meanwhile, declared Hale her favourite in the competition. “I think that you are a phenomenon. You are my personal favourite. I hope that America agrees with me,” she said.

Mandel added: “You just made it harder for the American public because it’s easier when you’re not good. And you’re great.”

During Wednesday night’s live results show (Thursday in the UAE), the programme’s viewers voted for Hale to advance to the final.

A tearful Hale told the show’s presenter Tyra Banks: “I’m feeling so overwhelmed right now. I can’t believe this is happening.”

Hale also took to social media to express her excitement and gratitude to her fans around the world, including those from the Philippines who have been messaging her online and uploading clips of her performances. They have also been campaigning for US-based viewers, particularly Filipino immigrants, to vote for Hale.

“The AGT finale is right around the corner and I could not have made it this fair without you all! Since I started America’s Got Talent, my performances have been viewed over 250 million times,” Hale wrote on her Facebook page. “It is clear that my life has changed forever in so many ways. Thank you for being a part of all this.”

She added: “This all still feels like a dream — a dream come true!”

Hale will compete against nine other finalists in a two-day showdown that will air on the American network NBC on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

They include front-runners Chase Goehring, a 21-year-old singer and guitarist, and Darci Lynne Farmer, a 12-year-old ventriloquist. The other acts are: acrobatic dance group Diavolo, 13-year-old singer Evie Claire, stand-up comedian Preacher Lawson, singer Kechi Okwuchi, dance group Light Balance, deaf singer Mandy Harvey and dog act Sara and Hero. The winner of the talent competition will receive a US$1 million (Dh3.67m) cash prize.

Hale’s journey on America’s Got Talent started last summer, when she auditioned for the show’s 12th season with a cover performance of Andra Day’s Rise Up. “I want to be the next Whitney Houston. I want to be a superstar,” she told a stunned judging panel.

During the next round of competition, Hale sung a powerful rendition of Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys, prompting guest judge Chris Hardwick to award her the Golden Buzzer, which automatically sends a contestant to the quarter-final.

“I’m so blown away. You open your mouth and it’s like — how do those pipes fit in that tiny body? You are unbelievable,” Hardwick told Hale. “Angelica, you are the chosen one.”

At the quarter-final, Hale sung Clarity, a track by Russian-German electronic dance music producer Zedd and British singer Foxes. Her performance reduced judge Mel B to tears, who told the young contestant: “You’ve literally did everything to that song.”

Hale lives with her Filipino parents and newborn sister in the US state of Georgia. Prior to joining America’s Got Talent, Hale battled serious illness, contracting a life-threatening infection at age four. In need of a kidney transplant, her mother Eva donated a kidney to save her daughter.

On the day of the show’s semi-final, the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta expressed their support for Hale on Facebook, revealing that the child’s surgery took place on that same day in 2013.

“Four years ago today, this budding superstar was undergoing surgery with our kidney transplant team. Angelica, you’re an inspiration to everyone — especially your big and little fans back home!” read a post on the hospital’s Facebook page.

Hale responded: “Without them, I wouldn’t be here today to share my gift of singing with the world. Mommy gave me the gift of life and is my hero.”

Earlier on the show, Hale said that if she wins the competition’s cash prize, she plans to donate a portion of it to the Children’s Miracle Network, which raises funds for children’s hospitals and medical research.

In an interview with hometown paper Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hale’s piano teacher Warren Woodruff said: “The joy she has that you see on the television — it’s so real. It’s not staged. To her, life is precious.”

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