Since 2006, the Got Talent franchise has launched the careers of many singers, dancers, puppeteers, comedians, acrobats, magicians, and animal acts — and in the new spinoff America’s Got Talent: All-Stars, which premiered Monday, 60 champions, finalists, and fan favorites will be competing in the ultimate AGT showdown. But main judge and executive producer Simon Cowell revealed Monday that if the alumnus with the biggest career of all hadn’t agreed to compete, All-Stars would have never made it to air.
“I’m going to let in on a little secret,” Cowell told AGT Season 2’s champion, singing ventriloquist Terry Fator. “When we decided to make All-Stars, we had one condition: We’re only going to do it if you competed. Seriously! Because if you’re going to say we’ve got the ‘best of the best,’ then you’ve got to get the best of the best.”
While Fator may not get mentioned in the same breath as talent show superstars like American Idol’s Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood or The X Factor’s Harry Styles, he is literally one of the most successful reality show contestants of all time. After winning AGT in 2007, at the late-blooming age of 42, he signed a five-year, $100 million contract with the Mirage on the Vegas Strip — “one of the biggest Vegas contracts of all time,” Cowell proudly pointed out — which regularly landed him on Forbes’s annual list of highest-paid comedians. (Fator’s Mirage contract ended up being extended three times, until July 2020.) Self-declared “superfan” Cowell actually confessed that he was “actually quite star-stuck” to see Fator back on the AGT stage.
But shockingly, while Cowell insisted that All-Stars could have never happened without him, Fator was not on that stage for long — as he was eliminated at the night’s end.
Ten alumni competed on Monday’s season premiere of America’s Got Talent: All-Stars, but only two of these “best of the best” contestants advanced — one selected by a jury of (non-Cowell) supposed “superfans” remotely watching the (pre-taped???) episode, and another chosen, via Golden Buzzer, by one of the judges. (Howie Mandel wielded the Golden Buzzer power this week.) “Under normal circumstances, you’d see them in the finale,” Cowell grumbled, as he watched so many talented and deserving contenders go home.
And Cowell wasn’t wrong. Frustratingly, among Monday’s immediate castoffs were Caly Bevier, a singer-songwriter and cancer survivor who’d received Cowell’s first-ever Golden Buzzer back in Season 11; Season 14’s French beatboxers Berywam, whose original AGT audition set a record for the most-watched AGT performance on YouTube; balladeer Jeanick Fournier, the actual winner of Canada’s Got Talent just last year; Season 16 crooner Jimmie Herrod, whom Mandel actually declared the greatest male singer in AGT history; piss-taking comic magician Lioz Shem Tov, who’d previously competed on both America’s Got Talent and Australia’s Got Talent; adorable 7-year-old poet/environmentalist Aneeshwar Kunchala, a Britain’s Got Talent sensation; and Season 15 aerialist Alan Silva, who really upped his game and the danger stakes for his latest gravity-defying performance.
But certainly the most surprising result was Fator’s early exit, after his charming Elton John impression (which Cowell called “obviously brilliant”), and especially after he’d been hyped all evening by the downright worshipful judges — who called him a “legend” and “OG,” and told him it was “an honor to have” him appear on the show.
Mandel ended up using his Golden Buzzer on dazzling Ukrainian dance troupe Light Balance Kids, seen above, fast-tracking them to the All-Stars finale. And while they certainly earned it, almost any of the above-mentioned acts were just as Buzzer-worthy. As for the “superfan” panelists, they voted for hand-balancing trio the Bello Sisters over Fator, which shocked both the judges and audience. “I would have never guessed that,” gasped Mandel.
But as Fator graciously said, “America’s Got Talent is the reason I’ve had all my dreams come true,” and Cowell noted that Fator clearly “didn’t have to come back and compete,” given all of his success in the real world. The Bello Sisters, on the other hand (no pun intended), really needed this opportunity, because they had some unfinished AGT business. The acrobatic siblings made it to the Season 15 finals in 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were only able to appear on the AGT stage once, with the rest of their daredevil performances submitted via video — which no doubt hurt their chances. Maybe now they’ll be able to compete on a live AGT finale, but regardless, they’ve already won, in a way. “You’ve just beaten the best of the best,” Cowell told them, admitting that their Monday performance was “as close to perfection as I’ve ever seen.”
Returning all-stars to look out for in future episodes of the eight-week America’s Got Talent: All-Stars series are singer/pianist and Season 14 winner Kodi Lee, spoken-word artist and Season 15 champ Brandon Leake, lovable comedian Josh Blue, teen aerialist Aidan Bryant, saxophonist Avery Dixon… and, probably much to Cowell’s chagrin, even recurring merry prankster Sethward. (Apparently the “More Parmesan” guy couldn’t make it.)
Will any of these alumni end up having the sort of blockbuster career that Fator has enjoyed over the past 15 years? They must surely hope so, because despite his early elimination this week, Fator is still the star that has set the standard for post-AGT success. As Cowell told the Season 2 champ, “You have inspired more contestants than anyone, on any show, around the world.”
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: