'America's Got Talent' judge Gabrielle Union presses Golden Buzzer for blind, autistic singer Kodi Lee
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/29/2019
America's Got Talent featured the first Golden-Buzzer recipient, Kodi Lee, during Tuesday night's Season 14 premiere episode on NBC.
Kodi, a 22-year-old blind and autistic singer and pianist from California, took the America's Got Talent stage last night, aided by a cane, and delivered a jaw-dropping vocal performance that brought new judges actress and producer Gabrielle Union and former Dancing with the Stars pro Julianne Hough to tears.
When Kodi first stepped on the stage, his mother Tina Lee explained to the panel, "We found out that he loved music really early on. He listened and his eyes just went huge and he started singing. And that's when -- I was in tears -- I realized, 'Oh my gosh, he's an entertainer.'"
Tina added that performance and music has allowed Kodi "to withstand living in this world."
"Because when you're autistic, it's really hard to do what everybody else does. It actually has saved his life, playing music," Tina concluded.
After Kodi noted, "I'm ready," Tina guided her son to his seat at the piano.
Kodi then belted out a beautiful rendition of Donny Hathaway's "A Song for You," complete with falsetto, runs and pretty perfect pitch.
All of the judges gave Kodi an enthusiastic standing ovation, and Julianne was trying to fan the tears out of her eyes.
Howie called Kodi a "great inspiration" and a "great talent." He said Kodi is truly authentic and amazing.
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Julianne then raved, "Everybody needs a voice and an expression, and I really feel your heart and your passion. Your voice blew us away. I heard you and I felt you, and that was beautiful."
Simon subsequently called Kodi's performance "extraordinary" and "absolutely fantastic." Simon also complimented the tone of Kodi's voice and gushed about how he'll remember this audition for the rest of his life.
And finally, Gabrielle proclaimed, "I'm a new judge this season and I'm also a new mom this year. It's the toughest job I've ever had and the most rewarding job I've ever had. You just want to give your kids the moon, the stars and the rainbows. And tonight I'm going to give you something special."
With that being said, Gabrielle hit the Golden Buzzer for Kodi, and confetti fell from above as the singer celebrated with his family.
Gabrielle also ran up on the stage to hug the contestant.