As America’s Got Talent prepared to announce its 16th champion Wednesday, it was possibly the most competitive finale ever for the series, with no obvious frontrunner. Host Terry Crews even revealed that it was the closest vote in AGT history.
There were powerhouse singers like 9-year-old opera prodigy Victory Brinker (recipient of the show’s first-ever group Golden Buzzer), Brooke Simpson (a former top three finalist on The Voice), and showman Jimmie Herrod (a man so Broadway-ready, he held his own dueting with Idina Menzel on Wednesday’s finale). There was Aidan Bryant, a small-town teen aerialist who taught himself Cirque du Soleil-level stunts by swinging from sheets tied to trees in his backyard. And there were two edgy comedians, Gina Brillon and Josh Blue (the latter a former Last Comic Standing champ), both of whom seemed to have a shot at becoming the first comic to ever win AGT.
In fact, any of these contestants seemed to have a shot at winning the show’s $1 million prize and a headlining residency at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. But instead, that prize went to magician Dustin Tavella — who definitely wasn’t the obvious frontrunner this year.
Dustin never had a huge breakout moment on the show, and he certainly wasn’t one of the best magicians to ever compete on AGT, or even one of the best magicians to compete this season. But he always incorporated sob stories about his adorable adopted sons into his act (even once having his wife wheel them out onstage in strollers, when one of his tricks was tanking). And apparently this tugged at many viewers’ heartstrings.
But not all AGT viewers were thrilled that Dustin had beaten out so many other worthy contenders — and they of course made their displeasure known on Twitter. However, there were some tweeters who were happy for the 35-year-old doting dad.
Dustin Travella is one of the worst magic acts to come on AGT. How did he win? His stage presence is horrible and he is not memorable. Shin Lim, The Clairvoyants, Matt Franco, hell even Piff. That’s the standard. Dustin can’t meet that level of talent #agt pic.twitter.com/9FXwEiKMAl
— 90 Day Army ⁷ (@90DayArmy1) September 16, 2021
The worst winner of #AGT of all time, y’all really voted for a storyteller that gives 2 tricks per show lmao
— Bryce Hall (@BryceHaIlI) September 16, 2021
— DonutGirl79 (@DonutGurl79) September 16, 2021
— Rita ❤️⛱🏖🏝 (@RitaBarkley) September 16, 2021
#AGT Dustin is literally just a story teller who basically exploited his kids over and over and over. "My act isnt that great but I adopted 2 kids so love me"
— SenpaiJosh (@SenpaiJosh26) September 16, 2021
— Allie Bish (@AllieIsBatman18) September 16, 2021
Dustin Tavella and his story is truly empowering in all honesty. Props to him for winning #AGT !!!
— Katty🪄 (@kkatherineea) September 16, 2021
— Lindsie Rodgers (Lindsie Starr) (@MsLindsieStarr) September 16, 2021
It seemed the studio audience for Wednesday’s finale was also divided. When Terry announced that judge Heidi Klum’s Golden Buzzer pick, quick-change artist Lea Kyle, had finished in fifth place, there was a rumbling of boos in the venue — which only grew louder when Brooke, who looked positively crushed, came in fourth. The live audience’s booing escalated even more when Josh placed third and, finally, when Aidan (who at this point seemed the likely victor) stalled in second.
Well, regardless of this season’s outcome, hopefully America’s Got Talent will also serve as a springboard for the other finalists’ careers. Along with Jimmie singing “Defying Gravity” with Idina, highlights of Wednesday’s two-hour finale included Brooke dueting with Bishop Briggs, Gina teaming with her idol George Lopez, and Victory blending her vocals with The Sing-Off winners Pentatonix. Dustin also performed with Mat Franco, the first magician to ever win AGT. It remains to be seen if Dustin can carry on Mat’s magical legacy, or if his seemingly pandering family-man shtick will actually play well in Sin City.
Until then, America’s Got Talent will return to NBC next summer, and The Voice, with new panelist Ariana Grande, will resume on NBC next week.
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