Sometimes, good things--such as solid gold pipes--come in small packages.
Winning the hearts of viewers and proving Piers Morgan right, 11-year-old singer Bianca Ryan captured the $1 million prize Thursday night on the finale of America's Got Talent.
Morgan, who played the role of a slightly less acerbic Simon Cowell for the duration of the NBC show, said to Ryan Wednesday night after her soulful performance of Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart": "I think you're going to win the competition."
Week after week, the Philadelphia native wowed the judges with her you-can't-believe-she's-only-11 voice, although Morgan did instruct her at one point during the competition to change her hair and clothes. Well, she did, taking the stage last night in a stylish (is that the right word for a preteen?) green dress, loose curly hair and bare feet.
Morgan, a British TV personality and former editor of the Daily Mirror, wasn't the only judge in awe of Ryan, but he was the only one who didn't seem to feel that his career was threatened.
"You make me want to go practice," Brandy, the token nice judge and a hit-maker in her own right, told the aspiring superstar.
Wildcard judge David Hasselhoff told Ryan Wednesday that he thought she was "the best in this competition" and compared her to, um, Liza Minnelli? (Even though the youngster doesn't favor the same style of music, doesn't harbor a similar timbre in her voice and doesn't remotely resemble the diva.)
"She makes you feel things" when she sings, Hasselhoff explained. Well, if you put it that way.
But although the judges had been making the big decisions up until this week, it was the fans who ultimately, by phoning in or text-messaging their votes, chose the winner. The tension built and points were made Thursday as the uniquely talented Blue Man Group (you can't quite pinpoint their appeal, but it's there) and the singing sister duo Aly & AJ performed.
After host Regis Philbin announced that Ryan had beat out, among others, the sentimental favorite Rappin' Granny, the impressively in-sync clogging quintet All That, and the comedic juggling duo who call themselves The Passing Zone, the newly crowned champion couldn't believe what she had heard.
"You all right?" Philbin asked Ryan, who earlier in the week got to meet one of her singing idols, gospel star Yolanda Adams. "Bianca, how do you feel darling? You okay?"
"Oh my god, I don't even know!" the tweenager said, tears flowing, reminding cynical at-home viewers that these reality show competitions qualify as life-changing events for some people.
A whole new crop of people hoping to receive national recognition for whatever it is they do will get a chance to live the dream next year when the second season of America's Got Talent kicks off in January.