While drama and scandal unfolded behind the scenes at America’s Got Talent this week — with ousted former judge Gabrielle Union formally filing a discrimination complaint against NBC, Fremantle, and Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment, and current host Terry Crews coming under fire for his “black supremacy” tweet — the show continued apace Tuesday, attempting to bring viewers some distracting feel-good content. Unfortunately, this evening it was judge Heidi Klum’s turn to generate controversy, when she rudely hit her red X button during plus-sized contestant Amanda LaCount’s audition.
Nineteen-year-old dancer, model, choreographer, singer, actress, and activist Amanda has a big online fanbase — 260,000 followers alone on Instagram, where she frequently posts clips of her dazzling, frenetically paced hip-hop routines. She has performed in Katy Perry and Walk the Moon music videos, on Dancing With the Stars and The Voice, in Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show at New York Fashion Week, at Coachella with Lizzo, and even in her own national dance tour "Amanda LaCount Live,” and she has also spearheaded a campaign, #breakingthestereotype, to inspire people of all shapes and sizes to pursue dance. So when size 2 supermodel Heidi buzzed Amanda before she’d even finished her performance to Todrick Hall’s “Nails Hair Hips Heels,” fans on Twitter were not happy.
Former supermodel @heidiklum gives #amandalacount the first buzzer of her audition? Big surprise. My son and daughter are disgusted. You be you, #amandalacount! #heidiklum #agt #saynotoALLdiscrimination#beyoutiful— McKenzie Haskell (@MGHaskell) June 10, 2020
the fatphobia is REAL with people talking about amanda lacount!!! she can DANCE!!! i’m a big girl and if i did that i would look like an absolute idiot lmao #agt— Teddie (@TeddieConfetti) June 10, 2020
I didn't have a problem with her no vote. But she could have refrained from buzzing her. Low class and trash.— Lori 🤦 #TeamJoe (@coalsmom) June 10, 2020
Shame on you @heidiklum You buzzed/voted no for a young girl who has been fat shamed and danced her heart out because u said “she can’t win” but laughed & hooted over 2 idiots who weren’t magicians and were marginally funny and put them through. @AGT #AGT #BadExample— Leah (@Makeawish3) June 10, 2020
You probably don’t know what it’s like to be overweight and be made fun of. Yes they may have given the sympathy vote but it’s made her feel good for a while. That’s probably as far she made it but I’m sure it made her feel good.— Bogart (@bogart1173) June 10, 2020
Another judge, Howie Mandel, also caught some Twitter flak for initially voting no for Amanda (he praised the dancer’s vivacious spirit, but argued that he couldn’t see her winning AGT). However, in the end, the roaring audience convinced Howie (but not Heidi) to change his vote — and so, Amanda scraped through with three yeses. (Simon, who was blasted for his rude treatment of plus-sized contestants back in his American Idol heyday, raved that he “loved every minute” of Amanda’s audition.) Amanda explained to the judges that she’s been told all her life that she can’t be a professional dancer due her weight, so something tells me this setback will only fire her up, to prove Heidi and Howie wrong next time.
Luckily for America’s Got Talent, and for Heidi, there was a bit of redemption at the end of the night, when formerly homeless, struggling single mom Cristina Rae — a striking figure with her blond buzz-cut, floor-sweeping coat, and leopard-lady pants — earned a different sort of buzzer from Heidi.
The aesthetician, who was living in her car when she was pregnant two years ago with her adorable son Jeremiah, told the judges, “This will change our life by putting us in a home — my own home. … I want [Jeremiah] to have his own room.” But it seemed like the chance of her realizing that dream and winning the show’s life-changing $1 million grand prize was quite slim. Even though the live audience erupted over her fiery rock ‘n’ soul rendition of Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight” — a performance for which she won Amateur Night at the Apollo this past February — at first Simon was oddly unimpressed. Although he didn’t hit his red X, thankfully, when Cristina was done he asked her to sing another song, without explaining why he needed to hear more.
It was obvious from the dejected expression on Cristina’s face that she was blindsided by Simon’s request (as was the crowd, who angrily booed, just as they had when Heidi and Howie had doubted Amanda). But like a true diva, Cristina didn’t even pause for a between-songs sip of water, saying, “I’m gonna let this adrenaline take me!” And — after a cliffhanging commercial break, of course — she channeled her inner Merry Clayton and sensationally tore into the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.”
Simon’s doubts were effectively silenced right then and there. “Cristina, there is only one way to describe your voice: It is in-sane-ly good,” he marveled. “There is absolutely no point making shows like this unless we find people like you. I adore you. … I think you may be one of the best singers we’ve ever had.”
The other panelists agreed, and judging from their standing ovation, they would have surely given Cristina four yeses… but Heidi beat them to it and hit her Golden Buzzer this time, thus ensuring Cristina’s automatic advancement to this season’s live shows. As for how far Amanda can go, that remains to be seen — but hopefully Heidi will be more respectful to her during the next round, as this troubled season continues.
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