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Grace VanderWaal
Birth nameGrace Avery VanderWaal
Born (2004-01-15) January 15, 2004 (age 20)
Kansas City metropolitan area, Kansas, U.S.
OriginSuffern, New York, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • ukuleleist
  • Vocals
  • ukulele

Grace Avery VanderWaal[1] (born January 15, 2004) is an American singer, songwriter and ukuleleist from Suffern, New York. In September 2016, at age 12, she won the eleventh season of the NBC TV competition show America's Got Talent (AGT). She soon signed a record deal with Columbia Records and released her first EP, Perfectly Imperfect, in December 2016. VanderWaal also creates videos of her original songs and covers for YouTube, and she continues to perform.

Early life and music[]

VanderWaal was born near Kansas City, Kansas, to Tina and David VanderWaal, who lived in Lenexa at the time. The family later moved to Suffern, New York.[2] Since winning America's Got Talent (AGT), VanderWaal has been home-schooled and enrolled in online courses.[3][4]

VanderWaal began composing her first songs at age three, using a wireless microphone.[5] As a preteen, she found songwriting inspiration by watching movies and trying to imagine what a character was feeling, and "what it would be like if I were them, and wrote a song."[6] She was inspired to learn the ukulele after watching a family friend play and seeing a Twenty One Pilots video on YouTube.[7] She then bought one, using money she had received for her 11th birthday, and watched more videos to teach herself how to play.[8][lower-alpha 1] She has also played the saxophone in her school's marching band.[10] After learning to play the ukulele, VanderWaal began to perform during open mic events at small venues near her home[5] and to study music theory.[2] In July 2016, after her audition on AGT, VanderWaal performed at the Lafayette Theatre in Suffern and at the Ramapo Summer Concert Series at Palisades Credit Union Park.[11]

VanderWaal has written original songs (including those she has sung in competition) and recorded them, accompanying herself on ukulele, for her YouTube channel, Oh Never mind it's just me.[12] The channel also includes her cover versions of popular songs.[13] Her Instagram account has more than 1.5 million followers.[14]

She includes among her musical influences such artists as Jason Mraz, Twenty One Pilots and Katy Perry.[7]


2016: America's Got Talent[]

On the June 7, 2016, broadcast during the eleventh season of NBC's AGT, VanderWaal auditioned with her original song, "I Don't Know My Name", and was Howie Mandel's "golden buzzer" act.[12][15] Simon Cowell called VanderWaal "the next Taylor Swift."[16] Brittany Spanos in Rolling Stone magazine termed the song an "emotional, catchy, quirky tune".[17] VanderWaal continued to perform only original songs on the show, including her next performance at the quarterfinals on August 23, 2016, titled "Beautiful Thing", a song written for her sister; USA Today characterized VanderWaal's voice as "endearingly croaky".[18] For the semifinals on August 30, she performed "Light the Sky",[12] and for the September 13 finals, she sang "Clay", a song about dealing with bullies.[19] Lindsay Peoples wrote for New York Magazine: "The songs she wrote and performed on AGT were not only catchy but emotional and unique to her own sound, a mix of raw and folk".[20] AGT's videos of the four songs have accumulated a total of more than 65 million views.[21] Her audition video was ranked as the No. 5 trending YouTube video of 2016.[22]

VanderWaal again performed "I Don't Know My Name" for the September 14 finale episode, then introduced a performance by Stevie Nicks, who compared her style with VanderWaal's and said, "[W]e like to be a little different ... and not like anybody else. She's got it. Whatever happens, Grace is going to the top."[23] At the end of the broadcast, VanderWaal was announced as the season 11 winner.[24] She is the second female winner and second child act winner in the show's history.[16][lower-alpha 2]

Post-America's Got Talent[]

Soon after winning AGT, VanderWaal appeared as a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and Billboard magazine named her on its 2016 21 Under 21 list of "music's hottest young stars".[25]

VanderWaal plans to use part of her winnings from AGT to make a donation to charity and to buy a tree house for herself and her sister.[26] She headlined four sold-out concerts in the PH Showroom at the Las Vegas Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in October 2016, performing with other AGT finalists.[27] VanderWaal headlined the America's Got Talent Holiday Spectacular in December 2016 on NBC, where she performed her arrangement of "Frosty the Snowman".[28]

2016 – present[]

VanderWaal signed a recording deal with Columbia Records in September 2016, soon after winning AGT,[29] and began recording sessions in October[30] for her debut EP, Perfectly Imperfect, which was released on December 2, 2016. Pre-orders for the recording entitled purchasers to an instant download of VanderWaal's song "I Don't Know My Name".[31] There are five songs on the EP, including all four of VanderWaal's original songs from AGT and another original, "Gossip Girl". The recording is produced by Greg Wells. A Walmart version features one additional song, "Missing You (Coffeehouse Version)".[3] The artwork for the EP was created by VanderWaal's sister Olivia.[32]

The EP debuted on the Billboard 200 albums chart at No. 9.[33] Its lead single, "I Don't Know My Name", debuted on Billboard's Digital Song Sales chart at No. 37[34] and on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart at No. 24.[35] Another song on the album, "Light the Sky", is featured as background music in Google's "Year in Search 2016" video.[36] Billboard magazine praised VanderWaal's vocals, finding them "reminiscent of a Taylor Swift-Regina Spektor hybrid".[37][38] Brianna Wiest of Teen Vogue wrote: "The EP takes you through Grace's range, touching on issues that are all-too-well-known for young people, as well as soul-stokingly beautiful medleys that almost anyone could relate to. ... [W]e see ... her ability to master both a softer, vowel-breaking folk tone as well as push through a serious power-ballad by the end. It's rare that you see both at once, but that's part of the magic of Grace's sound: it's at once completely new, and totally unexpected."[39] Lyrics videos of the songs from Perfectly Imperfect were released on VanderWaal's YouTubeVEVO channel.[40]

VanderWaal has been promoting the EP with a series of appearances and performances. She performed "Light the Sky" and "Riptide" at halftime during the New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 6, 2016.[41] VanderWaal performed "I Don't Know My Name" in the 2016 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade,[42] on NBC's Today show on November 28[4] and at the Christmas tree lighting at South Street Seaport, in New York City, on November 29, where she also sang "Light the Sky".[43][44] She sang "I Don't Know My Name" on The Wendy Williams Show on December 2[45] at Cyndi Lauper's annual holiday fundraiser at the Beacon Theatre on December 3 (where she also duetted with Lauper on "True Colors"),[46] on CBS's The Talk on December 8,[47] and at Z100's Jingle Ball Tour 2016 stop at Madison Square Garden on December 9, 2016.[48] In reviewing the last event, Jon Caramanica of The New York Times commented: "One of the loudest receptions of the night was for Grace VanderWaal, a precociously thoughtful 12-year-old singer-songwriter-ukulele player".[49] VanderWaal returned to NBC's Today Show on December 27, 2016, to sing her song "Light the Sky".[50]

Personal life[]

VanderWaal resides in Suffern, New York, with her mother, father, and older sister;[51] she also has an older brother.[5] Her father is a vice president of marketing at LG Electronics.[52]

See also[]

  • America's Got Talent (season 11)

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  1. VanderWaal told Access Hollywood that she was hoping for a ukulele for her 11th birthday, "and I remember my mom did not buy me one, 'cause she thought I would never play it."[9]
  2. Bianca Ryan was 11 years old when she won season 1 of AGT.[16]


  1. VanderWaal, Grace (confirmed account) [@GraceVanderWaal] (June 22, 2016). "Avery" (Tweet). Retrieved September 15, 2016 – via Twitter.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Izadi, Elahe. "America's Got Talent winner Grace VanderWaal, 12, has Lenexa roots", The Kansas City Star, September 16, 2016, accessed September 16, 2016
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mallenbaum, Carly. "Exclusive: Grace VanderWaal's Perfectly Imperfect tracklist", USA Today, November 16, 2016, accessed November 17, 2016
  4. 4.0 4.1 D'Zurilla, Christie. "Grace VanderWaal performs 'I Don't Know My Name', shares her age-related angst on Today", Los Angeles Times, November 28, 2016
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 John, Caroline. "Grace VanderWaal Family: 4 Things You Need To Know", Earn the Necklace, August 31, 2016, accessed December 10, 2016
  6. Savayan, Tania. "AGT star Grace VanderWaal calls herself 'pretty bland'", USA Today (verified channel), YouTube, video at 2:16–2:38, September 15, 2016, accessed December 10, 2016
  7. 7.0 7.1 Sikorski, David. "Grace VanderWaal Reflects on Her Showstopping America’s Got Talent Performance", The Daily Beast, June 10, 2016, accessed December 10, 2016
  8. Petit, Stephanie. "5 Things to Know About America's Got Talent Winner Grace Vanderwaal", People, September 15, 2016, accessed December 10, 2016
  9. VanderWaal, Grace. "AGT Winner Grace VanderWaal Sings For Natalie & Kit!", World Airline's YouTube channel, video at 4:16–4:23, September 28, 2016, accessed December 10, 2016; and Roberts, Karen. "Check out Grace VanderWaal's ukuleles", The Journal News, July 31, 2016, December 10, 2016
  10. Muppala, Savitha. "Grace VanderWaal's Popularity Creates Record Ticket Sales for AGT Show at Planet Hollywood", Movie News Guide, October 28, 2016
  11. Roberts, Karen. "Grace VanderWaal is in L.A. for her next AGT appearance", The Journal News, September 9, 2016, December 10, 2016; and D'Onofrio, Michael. "AGT star Grace VanderWaal sings in Rockland", The Journal News, July 11, 2016, accessed December 10, 2016
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Salazar, Hayley. "Artist to Watch: America’s Got Talent's Grace VanderWaal", The Collegian, September 6, 2016, accessed December 10, 2016
  13. Villanueva, Mariel Ann. "America’s Got Talent 2016 Grace VanderWaal to Sing Another Original for Live Shows?", Hall of Fame Magazine, August 12, 2016, accessed October 30, 2016; and Wicks, Amanda. "Grace VanderWaal’s Top 3 Cover Songs",, June 9, 2016, accessed December 9, 2016
  14. VanderWaal, Grace. gracevanderwaal (verified), Instagram, accessed December 17, 2016
  15. Roberts, Karen and Sharon Rhodes. "Grace VanderWaal wins AGT, will sing in Vegas", The Journal News, September 15, 2016, accessed December 14, 2016
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Izadi, Elahe. "'The next Taylor Swift' – Meet the 12-year-old singer-songwriter who won America's Got Talent", The Washington Post, September 15, 2016, accessed December 18, 2016
  17. Spanos, Brittany. "America's Got Talent Star Grace VanderWaal Talks Songwriting, Katy Perry", Rolling Stone, June 9, 2016, accessed October 29, 2016
  18. Mallenbaum, Carly. "Grace VanderWaal: 5 things we learned about the America's Got Talent phenom", USA Today, September 13, 2016, accessed December 18, 2016
  19. Heldman, Breanne L. "America's Got Talent: Grace VanderWaal wows with original song about bullies", Entertainment Weekly, September 14, 2016, accessed December 18, 2016
  20. Peoples, Lindsay. "America's Got Talent Star Grace VanderWaal Is Just Getting Started", New York Magazine, December 5, 2016
  21. America's Got Talent. Grace VanderWaal Playlist, YouTube, accessed December 17, 2016
  22. Elizabeth, De. "The Top 10 Trending YouTube Videos of 2016", Teen Vogue, December 7, 2016; and Raynor, Madeline. "Adele, Channing Tatum make YouTube's top trending videos of 2016", Entertainment Weekly, December 7, 2016
  23. Angermiller, Michele Amabile. "Stevie Nicks Praises Grace VanderWaal on America's Got Talent: 'She's Got It'", Billboard, September 14, 2016, accessed December 18, 2016
  24. Angermiller, Michelle Amabile. "America's Got Talent Winner Grace VanderWaal Books Vegas Concerts", Billboard, September 15, 2016, accessed December 18, 2016
  25. "21 Under 21 2016: Music's Hottest Young Stars", Billboard, September 29, 2016, accessed December 27, 2016
  26. Haas, Mariah and Stephanie Petit. "America's Got Talent Winner Grace Vanderwaal, 12, Reveals What She's Going to Do with Her $1 Million Prize", People, September 15, 2016, accessed December 27, 2016
  27. "America's Got Talent winner, Suffern native VanderWaal plays sold-out Vegas show",, Westchester County, New York, October 28, 2016, accessed December 14, 2016 (content preview)
  28. Briones, Isis. "Grace VanderWaal Performs 'Frosty the Snowman' on America’s Got Talent's Holiday Spectacular", Teen Vogue, December 20, 2016; and Angermiller, Michele Amabile. "America's Got Talent Winner Grace VanderWaal Set to Headline Holiday Special", Billboard, November 7, 2016, accessed November 7, 2016
  29. Angermiller, Michelle Amabile. "America's Got Talent Winner Grace VanderWaal Joins Adele, Beyonce at Columbia Records", Billboard, September 20, 2016, accessed September 21, 2016
  30. McDermott, Maeve. "Grace VanderWaal teases new music, tweets about her first recording session", USA Today October 10, 2016, accessed October 30, 2016
  31. Kaufman, Gil. "AGT Winner Grace VanderWaal's Debut EP, Perfectly Imperfect, Coming Dec. 2", Billboard, November 14, 2016, accessed November 14, 2016
  32. Heimbrod, Camille. "America's Got Talent Season 11 Winner Grace Vanderwaal Shares Photo of Perfectly Imperfect Mural on Instagram", International Business Times, December 8, 2016
  33. Caulfield, Keith. "The Hamilton Mixtape Debuts at No. 1 on Billboard 200 Albums Chart", Billboard, December 11, 2016
  34. "Digital Song Sales: The Week of December 10, 2016",, November 29, 2016
  35. Cantor, Brian. "Noah Cyrus, Bruno Mars, Melanie Martinez, DJ Suede, Lil Yachty, Grace VanderWaal Land On Bubbling Under Hot 100",, November 29, 2016
  36. Heldman, Breanne L. "Watch Grace VanderWaal's glowing new lyric video for 'Light the Sky'", Entertainment Weekly, December 14, 2016
  37. "Grace VanderWaal Unleashes Stunning Vocals on New Single 'Clay'", Billboard magazine, December 2, 2016
  38. Spanos, Brittany. "Meet Grace VanderWaal: Pop Prodigy on the Edge of 13", Rolling Stone, January 6, 2017
  39. Wiest, Brianna. "Grace VanderWaal’s First EP, Perfectly Imperfect', Is Here", Teen Vogue, December 2, 2016
  40. Heimbrod, Camille. "America’s Got Talent Season 11 Winner Grace Vanderwaal Shares Beautiful Fan Art Via Instagram", International Business Times, December 31, 2016
  41. Brelsford, Erin. "AGT Winner Grace VanderWaal Gives Flawless Performance of 'Riptide' and 'Light the Sky' During New York Knicks Halftime Show",, November 15, 2016, accessed January 8, 2017; and VanderWaal, Grace. "At the Garden today singing halftime for the NY Knicks", Facebook (official account), November 6, 2016, accessed January 8, 2017
  42. Strum, Phil. "Grace VanderWaal performs at Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade", The Journal News, November 24, 2016
  43. "Christmas Tree at South Street Seaport", The Tribeca Trib, accessed November 22, 2016
  44. Bladow, Janel. "Seaport Report: December 2016", Downtown Express, December 1, 2016, accessed January 8, 2017
  45. Daw, Robbie. "Grace VanderWaal's Perfectly Imperfect EP Flies Up iTunes Chart: Watch 'Clay' Lyric Video",, December 2, 2016
  46. Daw, Robbie. "Grace VanderWaal and Cyndi Lauper's 'True Colors' Duet in New York Is Perfection: Watch",, December 4, 2016
  47. "The TalkAGT Winner Grace VanderWaal Is Still on School Honor Roll",, December 9, 2016; andCantor, Brian. "Grace VanderWaal Set To Appear, Perform on December 8 The Talk", Headline Planet, December 2, 2016
  48. "Jingle Ball 2016: See photos from the MSG concert", Newsday, December 9, 2016; and Angermiller, Michele Amabile. "Jingle Ball 2016: Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande & More Celebrate the Season, Hailee Steinfeld Gets a Birthday Surprise Backstage", Billboard, December 10, 2016
  49. Caramanica, Jon. "Review: Jingle Ball Tour Shows Radio Still Rocks", The New York Times, December 11, 2016
  50. Weiss, Shari. "Grace VanderWaal Performs 'Light The Sky' On Today Show", Cities 97, December 27, 2016
  51. Rao, Naveen. "Grace VanderWaal Family: Things to Know About AGT 2016 Winner’s Parents", Earn the Necklace, September 15, 2016, accessed January 8, 2017
  52. Wolf, Alan. "She Did It: Industry Daughter Grace VanderWaal Wins Top Prize on America's Got Talent", Twice, September 15, 2016, accessed January 8, 2017

External links[]