‘America’s Got Talent’: Contestants Who Made It Big
Many contestants have thrown their hat in the ring for the million dollar prize on America’s Got Talent. We’ve seen many acts who didn’t deserve to go get knocked off, but this doesn’t mean their journey is over.
Over the years many acts were able to make it big after the show. Some of them were winners who made the most of their new fame. Others didn’t win but still gained a following and a career from their appearance on the show. Who are some of the richest, most famous America’s Got Talent contestants? Here are seven who made it big.
1. Mat Franco
The magician won it all on Season 9 of the competition show. Being the first and only magician to win the show so far meant his career took a different path. Right after the show Franco headed to Las Vegas and began headlining at LINQ Hotel & Casino. The magician summed up his experience to Hollywood Life.
I didn’t expect to win this thing. So now that I have been named the winner of America’s Got Talent, the first thing I said to Howie on stage was, “I had a life. I had a plan. What do I do with my life now?” And his advice now was just have fun, and don’t take it too seriously and just enjoy it, have fun, do exactly what you do and keep that attitude. And I’m going to take that advice.
Although Franco might not take things too seriously, he has been hard at work. He starred in a two-hour TV special called Mat Franco’s Got Magic on NBC a year later. At that point, no other winner had received a special. Now the self-taught magician is back headlining in Vegas with his show, “Magic Reinvented Nightly.” According to Celebrity Net Worth, the winner is now worth $3 million.
2. Terry Fator
Every America’s Got Talent contestant should hope to have the career of this reality show winner. The ventriloquist and comedian won on Season 2 and he skyrocketed to stardom. The ventriloquist told Travel Zoo the following about his experience after the show:
Let’s just say that if I hadn’t won, right now I’d be the most talented singing ventriloquist pumping gas in Corsicana, Texas. The truth is that everywhere I go, to this day, people mention me winning “AGT.” And I never get tired of hearing them share with me how they and their family voted for me. It’s why every night I want to give every fan the best show they have ever seen.
After the show, Fator headed to Las Vegas and started headlining at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino (previously the Las Vegas Hilton). He is still in the city but has now begun headlining at The Mirage. The gig which includes his 16 entertaining puppets is certainly a well-paid one.
Fator is reportedly worth $120 million according to Celebrity Net Worth. A big portion of that money comes from his $100 million contract with The Mirage. After the initial contract, he reportedly gets an additional $60 million for every additional year he signs on.
The ventriloquist might not tour the world with his act. But he’s certainly made it big and is busy doing 200 shows a year. Fator has received endorsement deals and sold merchandise. He also wrote a book called Who’s the Dummy Now? which goes into his troubled childhood and his abusive father.
3. Michael Grimm
The fifth season winner took the lump sum prize and then went on the America’s Got Talent tour, which included a show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Grimm released a self-titled album in 2011, which hit No. 13 on Billboard album charts its first week. He opened for Stevie Nicks. Afterward, he released an album called Gumbo, which was recorded in his home, according to Las Vegas Weekly. He then followed up with another album, Moment in Time.
Consistency is partially the reason behind the winner’s success. But like other winners, Las Vegas has been a great place for Grimm’s career. Last year he returned to the city to do a three-month residency at Vinyl. The songwriter detailed his connection to Las Vegas to AXS.
Vegas is a good place to make a living for a musician, but I’ve seen it eat people up and spit them out. But, it’s been good for me. I’ve utilized the benefits it’s brought me and I’ve been able to do what I love to do for a living, every week since 2001. It’s fun, I get to experiment not only with songs that I grew up listening to, but I’m playing my own material there, as well.
Although the singer has the show to thank for his success there are some drawbacks. “You’re always afraid of being judged,” the winner told AXS. “That’s a big fear for anybody who gets on those shows. I went in thinking that it was not going to happen for me. If I made it on an episode, people would know me for a second and maybe I could use that to sell a few more CDs.”
4. Olate Dogs
The father-and-son duo amazed America with their intricate dog act — so much so that they won the seventh season of America’s Got Talent. And to think that Richard and Nicholas Olate were close to not auditioning at all. Nicholas explained to Pocono Record the duo’s thinking going into the show.
It’s a lot harder for us than other acts. Dogs have to go to the bathroom, and you have to find a place to take them out. We had never really watched the show. We didn’t understand how big it was. In Orlando, they said, “Come in, we’ll make it quick, you can audition.” Dad didn’t really want to. He thought it was going to be a hassle.
Although dog shows aren’t exactly a big business, that hasn’t held them back from succeeding. They took their act on the America’s Got Talent live tour. They also headed to Las Vegas after the show to headline at The Palazzo. Afterwards, they struck out on their own again. Richard and Nicholas started bringing their act to halftime shows at NBA games including an Oklahoma City Thunder game. They also toured county fairs, but that’s not the only way the duo makes their money.
The act released a holiday album called, The Olate Dogs’s Christmas in 2013. Then they made their TV debut in the special, Paws: An All-Star Dog Spectacular. Their success goes to show that it’s still worth trying to win America’s Got Talent if you have an unusual act. Given all their success it’s a good thing the duo didn’t decide to stay home during auditions.
5. Jackie Evancho
The singer was only 10 when she was on the reality show. (She’d auditioned twice before, but didn’t make the cuts.) Even after Evancho secured a spot, she didn’t win, but America’s Got Talent helped her career. Evancho went on the America’s Got Talent tour and was signed to Columbia Records and Syco music. Her first album release under the label was O Holy Night, which made it to No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart that year. She’s since released four albums.
“I learned a great deal from the whole experience,” the soprano told Teen Vogue years later, “It launched me in a big way, which I’m very grateful for.”
Now that she’s 16, Evancho is understandably changing a few things about her music. Before she mostly sang classical or gospel music but the blonde recently released a new pop single called, “Apocalypse.” “It’s not going to be the only thing I sing, but I am kind of dabbling in that area,” Evancho told Billboard. “That started when a friend of mine sent a song that he thought I would sound good on, and I sang it in a pop voice, and I guess it blew people away and they were impressed with how I sounded.”
The singer’s constant work definitely benefits her. According to Celebrity Net Worth, she is reportedly worth $2.5 million — and that’s without the paycheck from America’s Got Talent.
6. Kevin Skinner
This talented singer-songwriter has a huge fan following but not as much Billboard success to show for it. After winning Season 4 of America’s Got Talent, Kevin Skinner took the $1 million prize — in an annuity paid out over 40 years — and released his debut album, “Long Ride,” the next year. Unfortunately the album didn’t make it in the Billboard Top 200. His net worth is an estimated $1 million.
Luckily, his lack of chart-topping success doesn’t mean much to his fans. Skinner earned a loyal following when he sang Garth Brooks’ song “If Tomorrow Never Comes” during his live audition for the show. His calendar has included a benefit show for St. Jude, many live concerts, and a headliner in Las Vegas. In an interview with Moments by Moser, Skinner details what he’s been up to:
I am the same old guy I have always been. When I was in L.A. and Las Vegas, the people there came to me and my band after the shows and told me to not let anyone change me, because I am from the country. I always tell them that they are going to have a hard time changing me. I would like to keep writing music and keep doing the same things that I am doing and let the fans hear my music.
7. Neal E. Boyd
A couple seasons after Skinner’s appearance on America’s Got Talent, Neal E. Boyd captured audiences with his beautiful voice on Season 10. The tenor opera singer auditioned with the song “Nessun Dorma” by Puccini, and he beat out a singer and violinist group — among 100 acts — to win it all, which included the $1 million prize. Boyd headlined a Vegas show and signed with a record company, releasing his first album (My American Dream) in 2009.
Since then, he’s performed for many presidents as well as several prominent political figures from his home state, Missouri. In 2013, Boyd got more involved with politics when he ran — and lost — the Missouri House of Representatives election. He was involved in a terrible car accident in 2017, but Boyd has recovered since then. With an estimated net worth of $1 million, Boyd will hopefully put it to good use and advance his singing career.
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