“America’s Got Talent” Season 14 kicked off Tuesday and new judge Gabrielle Union didn’t waste any time getting down to business, giving her first-ever golden buzzer to 22-year-old blind, autistic contestant Kodi Lee for his rendition of “A Song for You.”
Kodi’s mom, Tina Lee, told the “AGT” panel — comprised of Union, fellow newcomer Julianna Hough, and returning judges Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel — during the competition series’ season premiere that, “through music and performing, he was able to withstanding living in this world, because when you’re autistic it’s really hard to do what everybody else does.”
“It actually has saved his life, playing music,” she said, before helping her son, who walks with a cane, over to the piano so he could play while belting one out for the judges and crowd. And as soon as Kodi opened his mouth, everyone else’s jaw dropped.
After singing several bars of the Leon Russell track, Kodi finished his performance to a standing ovation from the entire house, including the judges.
“Listen, what just happened there was extraordinary,” Cowell told Kodi and his mother. “I mean, really extraordinary. I don’t know what it’s like to live in Kodi’s world, all I can tell is that you obviously have an amazing relationship, the two of you. And your voice is absolutely fantastic.”
Cowell added: “I’m gonna remember this moment for the rest of my life.”
Then Union decided Kodi’s performance deserved even more praise, as she gave him the first golden buzzer of the season — and the first-ever handed out by her — after this speech: “I’m a new judge this season and I’m also a new mom this year… and it’s the toughest job I’ve ever had and the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. You just want to give your kids the moon and stars and rainbows, and tonight I’m gonna give you something special.”
Watch the clip above.
“America’s Got Talent” airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC.