America's Got Talent's Grace VanderWaal Shares "Mental Repercussions" of Growing Up in Spotlight

In an exclusive interview with E! News, America’s Got Talent winner Grace VanderWaal looked back on her unforgettable Golden Buzzer performance and more.

By Mike Vulpo, Meriam Bouarrouj Jul 27, 2022 5:23 PMTags

Grace VanderWaal knows how to take advantage of a golden opportunity.

At just 12 years old, the singer graced the stage of America's Got Talent where she performed an original song with her ukulele. Within minutes, Simon Cowell called her the next Taylor Swift while fellow judge Howie Mandel pressed the Golden Buzzer, advancing her to the live shows.

Now, more than six years after winning NBC's summer competition show, Grace is living her acting and singing dreams. But that's not to say it's always been an easy road. 

"Looking back, I have definitely faced the mental repercussions of that growing up," the 18-year-old exclusively shared with E! News. "I feel like I'm still struggling…I feel like I keep learning about how to take care of myself better and my biggest thing recently is just acknowledging your triggers. Staying in your pajamas all day—that's gonna make me depressed. Let's get up, get dressed."

Shopping With the Stars

Living your dream out loud also comes with critics. 

Michael Simon

"I'm human and obviously things hurt sometimes," she said of harsh social media comments. "I feel like I've been doing this for so long that you get desensitized to hate online. I went through a ton of hate online when I was really young. I'm happy it happened though because it prepared me for this life."

Ultimately, it's a life—and career—worth celebrating. Earlier this month, Simon called Grace's audition one of his top Golden Buzzer moments of all time. And while some contestants break away from the spotlight after their time on the show, Grace is still releasing new music, including her latest single "Lion's Den."

"I was just a little girl and I fully didn't know what I was doing," Grace shared when looking back on her audition. "It's so surreal the way that has just transformed my life. And now I'm sitting here years later still in the business. I never would have thought I'd be doing that."

Michael Simon

She's also teaming up with PacSun to commemorate its Back-to-School #MyDenimStory campaign. While attending the VIP launch party in New York City on July 26, Grace wore a Pacsun sport tank top with high-waisted flare jeans for her special performance, proving she's come a long way from her bright yellow pants and black sweater combo from 2016. 

"Back then, I used to be really into preppy style and now I just love experimenting," she said. "Style affects my life personally. I'm very much the type of person where I have to get up and get ready. My outfit needs to be a perfect reflection of my mood and who I am."

America's Got Talent airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. on NBC.

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