He was the first spoken-word poet to grace the talent competition. And now, Leake is the first poet to win it all after being crowned the Season 15 winner during Wednesday’s live, two-hour season finale.
The Stockton, California, native, 27, has been one of the front-runners of the NBC talent show since earning a Golden Buzzer during the auditions round from Howie Mandel. Leake left the judges speechless throughout his “AGT” journey, with poignant performances about the Black Lives Matter movement, his newborn daughter and estranged father, and the loss of his sister.
“I’ve never been more moved in my life on this show by any other act,” Mandel said in the quarterfinals. “We need you on this show. We need in this world. … You matter.”
“This is a huge win for the spoken-word community,” Leake said Wednesday. “For an art form that has not been on the main stream ever to have a chance to win ‘America’s Got Talent’ is bigger than anything.”
He added: “I am going to show the world what a spoken-word poet can do.”
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Leake beat out nine finalists, including two other Golden Buzzer winners, and walked away with a $1 million prize and headliner status for an “AGT” show in Las Vegas.
Broken Roots finished in second place; singer Cristina Rae was third; singer Roberta Battaglia finished fourth; and aerialist Alan Silva came in fifth.
Earlier in the night, five acts were eliminated: singers Archie Williams and Kenadi Dodds, dancing duo Bad Salsa, singer Daneliya Tuleshova and acrobats Bello Sisters.
The two-hour season finale felt like a concert, with more than a dozen mash-ups and duets featuring the top 10 contestants, star musical guests and past “AGT” competitors.
Grammy winner Usher kicked off the show with a medley of his greatest hits and he had a little help. The judges joined Usher’s performance at Universal Studios’ famed backlot. Mandel hilariously showcased his fancy footwork.
“Not to brag but my dance moves are amazing,” Mandel boasted on Twitter.
It was a family affair Wednesday night. The Bello Sisters looked regal in white as they displayed their incredible feats of strength to tunes from Bishop Briggs. Then, Silva brought out his brother Alfredo Silva for a fiery danger act. Alfredo is from the daredevil act Deadly Games that competed on Season 11 in 2016 and the first season of “AGT: The Champions” in 2019.
Rae brought the house down during a duet with OneRepublic‘s Ryan Tedder on “Lose Somebody.”
All the finalists joined together with a special tribute performance of Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me.” It was particularly moving, since Withers died on March 30 at 81.
Williams sang an emotional duet of “Everything You Touch Is a Song” with Pastor Marvin Winans. The gospel song choice was extra significant because Williams said it “got me through Angola prison,” where he served 37 years after being wrongfully convicted in 1983.
Williams got a special congratulatory message from a famous fan: Duchess Meghan.
“I just wanted to let you know that we’ve been so moved by your story and cheering you on every week, and it’s not just because we are partial the name,” the duchess quipped, referring to her 1-year-old son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.
She continued: “Archie, we are proud of you and we are rooting for you and we can’t wait to see what you do. We are in your corner.”
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Tuleshova, 14, held her own with Ava Max on the singer’s “Kings & Queens.” Max was thoroughly impressed: “This girl has a killer voice. Watch out world.”
Detroit Youth Choir, the runner-up of Season 14 and host Terry Crews’ Golden Buzzer Winner, showcased how much they’ve grown over the past year with a powerful rendition of Imagine Dragons’ “Believe.”
Broken Roots teamed up with “The Voice” coach Blake Shelton on his hit single “God’s Country,” which won single of the year last week at the 2020 ACM Awards. Broken Roots looked like seasoned country superstars next to Shelton. Impressive.
Bad Salsa collaborated with fellow India natives V. Unbeatable, the acrobatic dance group that won Season 2 of “America’s Got Talent: The Champions.” The pairing was perfect as both groups are known for their fast-paced, high-flying routines. The results show was no different.
Dodds, 15, and Battaglia, 11, teamed up with Julia Michaels and JP Saxe for their single “If the World Was Ending.” Despite their youth, the singers sounded mature and seasoned next to their adult counterparts.
During a brief spoken-word poem, Leake talked about the resilience of “AGT” following an unprecedented season riddled with COVID-19 restrictions, injuries and illness.
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