9-Year-Old Latrobe Opera Singer Reflects on Historic America’s Got Talent Audition
Victory Brinker of Latrobe is the first-ever contestant to receive all five golden buzzers.
What has Victory Brinker been up to in the two days during which her “America’s Got Talent” audition racked up more than 4.9 million views on YouTube?
“I’ve been doing a lot, a lot, a LOT of interviews,” the 9-year-old opera singer from Latrobe says.
Between Jackie Evancho, Ashley Marina and Gabby Barrett, Pittsburgh’s had its fair share of young singers on notable talent reality shows. But after Brinker’s audition on season 16 of “AGT” Tuesday night, she is the first one to make history.
A show notorious for rejecting contestants with a red buzzer, “America’s Got Talent” also lets each judge use a golden buzzer to reward the auditions they deem extraordinary. Each of this year’s judges — Howie Mandel, Sofia Vergara, Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell — in addition to host Terry Crews, had already used their golden buzzers by the time an “ex-nervous” — excited and nervous — Brinker took the stage.
But after Brinker performed a rendition of “Juliet’s Waltz” that made the judges’ eyes widen, Cowell — who has a reputation of interrupting singers mid-audition — took the lead in breaking one of the show’s precedents.
“We’re not going to give you a ‘yes’ today,” Cowell said. “We’re going to do something else we’ve never, ever, ever done on the show before. We’re all going to give you something special.”
Then Crews and the judges all hit the golden buzzer simultaneously, shooting confetti into the air and securing Brinker a spot in “AGT’s” live shows.
Brinker and her family — which includes her 10 siblings — watched the audition on TV at a local restaurant with friends and community members. Christine Brinker, her mom and backstage supporter during the audition, says the response her family has received makes her emotional.
“The response and the support and kind words and encouragement that we’ve received from the community, people across the country, other countries, family, friends — it’s really been overwhelming,” Christine Brinker says. “I cried during the show and sometimes I read the messages and I cry again.”
“I cried too,” her daughter says.
But while the rest of the world is hearing Brinker’s voice for the first time, many in Pittsburgh — and even around the country — were already well aware of her talent.
Brinker, an early talker, began memorizing entire CDs by ages 2 and 3 and performing shows for her family by ages 4 and 5. At 6, when she asked to see a video of a person who could sing the highest note, her passion for opera ignited. Then Brinker asked her mother, a choir director and worship leader, to teach her an opera song.
“I had been teaching her other songs, so I said ‘okay.’ I felt like ‘Ave Maria’ was doable and not too out of the realm of her to learn and she learned it right away,” Brinker says. “Within two days, it was right where it needed to be, and she said, ‘Now I want to be on a talent show like “America’s Got Talent.” Find me a talent show.’”
Brinker was unsure if her daughter could handle a talent show but decided to sign her up for one when she was persistent.
“She was bobbing up and down backstage — she couldn’t wait for her turn. She was so excited,” Brinker says. “I still wasn’t sure what she would do when she got in front of the judges and the lights would be on her, but she went out there and sang her little heart out and won the talent show.”
One talent show turned into 13 that year. Which then led to singing the national anthem at the Pirates home opener. And then the NBA playoffs. After that came an appearance on NBC’s “Little Big Shots,” followed by a duet with Phantom of the Opera’s Ali Ewoldt.
Now, finally, Brinker has made it to the place she’s wanted to go since the start of her journey over three years ago: “AGT.” But behind her incredible feat is a simple motivation.
“I just want to sing for all the people so I can make them happy,” Brinker says.
Though, some people who hear her voice are moved to tears with emotion.
“I like when they happy cry … not sad cry, or ugly-cry, or mad cry,” Brinker says.
Her mom describes the journey, which has involved the whole family tagging along for out-of-state trips, as a blessing.
“With all of our children, there is nothing that just fills my heart more than watching my children find something that they love to do, something that really kind of motivates them, whether it be gymnastics or basketball or reading,” Brinker says. “With Victory, the whole family gets to enjoy it.”
In addition to singing opera, Brinker also speaks seven languages, though her mother says there is more to her world than just those two things.
“She just likes to do all the typical things, not just singing and working at language — and that’s not work for her,” Brinker says. “She has days where she’s just like, ‘I just want to swim all day.’”
Brinker also enjoys typical kid favorites such as playing with slime as well as eating pizza and spaghetti — which she likes to say with an Italian accent.
When asked on the show what she would do if she won the grand prize of 1 million dollars, Brinker responded simply with, “Buy Simon [Cowell] a rainbow shirt that has glitter on it,” a reference to the judge’s wardrobe that lacks color. After her audition, though, she added a few more things to her list.
“I would give some to the homeless, and give some to a food bank, and give some to help people adopt, and buy some slime for me,” Brinker says.
In the meantime, though, Brinker has been busy preparing for her next performance and doing plenty of interviews. And, of course, still finding time to be a 9-year-old.
“She went to Chuck E. Cheese last night and had fun with her brothers and sisters, so we’re having fun too with it,” her mother says.