Season 14 of America’s Got Talent has been filled with emotional stories and even more amazing performances. On Tuesday’s episode, a young cancer survivor was honored by one of the show’s judges.
America’s Got Talent judges and fans were introduced to Tyler Butler-Figueroa, 11, from North Carolina. He stood on the stage holding a violin and explaining his life story.
The little boy explained why he’d started playing the instrument saying:
“I started playing the violin when I was 7½. I wanted to start playing the violin because I was being bullied in school. It’s because I had cancer, I almost died.”
Clearly moved by the shocking revelation judges Simon Cowell, Gabrielle Union, Julianne Hough, and Howie Mandel all seemed moved. The young artist explained in a different take:
“The doctors treated me with chemotherapy. When I lost my hair, I was really sad and embarrassed at the same time to go to school. They used to make fun of me and laugh at me because I was different. They would spread rumors to say that my cancer was contagious and they all wanted to stay away from me.”
Butler-Figueroa was diagnosed with Leukemia when he was 4½ years old. The young artist told the judges: "I just didn't want to be the kid with cancer. So now, I'm the kid who plays the violin.”
He asked his mother to enroll him for free violin classes at his school and he never looked back. On America’s Got Talent stage Butler-Figueroa then played his rendition of Kelly Clarkson‘s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” on the violin.
"I would love to say something on your behalf to the bullies"
The expressions on the judge’s faces revealed that they were shocked and amazed by the little boy’s talent. After his performance, Cowell told him: “You are an extraordinary young man.”
The longtime judge and executive producer of the show further encouraged the young artist telling him that people who were bullied were usually targeted “because they’re better than the people who bully them.”
Cowell, who is a father to a little boy himself, added: “I think you have such an amazing talent, such a personality. I would love to say something on your behalf to the bullies…” The judge stood up and reached over to press the Golden Buzzer and everyone erupted in a standing ovation.
Butler-Figueroa could be seen crying as his mother, Kisua, celebrated backstage as golden confetti covered her son. Cowell then went on stage to hug and congratulate the mother-and-son duo.
He explained why he’d pressed the buzzer allowing the young artist to go straight to the live shows in Hollywood: “It’s one of those things you do in the moment, you just do it. He was amazing. The Golden Buzzer was a really great addition.” The amazingly talented boy has been in remission for almost four years.
Kodi Lee, 22, was another contestant on the show who received a Golden Buzzer. The musician who plays the piano and sings also happens to be blind and autistic.
He received his buzzer from Union during the season’s premiere. In an interview soon afterward he expressed his excitement saying: "It was so awesome!"
America’s Got Talent airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.