‘America’s Got Talent’: Howie Mandel Praises Maddie Baez Amid Her Dad’s Absence

by Chris Piner

Over the last 16 years, the numerous judges of America’s Got Talent have seen hundreds of acts grace their stage. With each new season, there is a new list of memorable acts and those contestants who just leave viewers wondering what they just watched. With season 17 underway, on Tuesday, the judges watched as Maddie Baez wowed the crowd with her own rendition of the famous Higher Love from Whitney Houston and Kygo. While every talent show involves singers from all genres of music, what makes Baez so interesting is the fact she is only 11 years old. 

Dominating the performance, Maddie Baez spoke with PEOPLE about her choice of song. She said, “I love challenges and it was also a song that really connected to me. It’s a song that worships God and brings a lot of love to everybody, and I think that’s what everybody needs in the world.” Just her latest number of America’s Got Talent, Baez first stunned the judges by singing Amazing Grace. The act captivated judge Howie Mandel so much that he awarded her his Golden Buzzer. 

Maddie Baez Praised By Judges For Talent And Professionalism

As for what made Maddie Baez decide to be a singer, she recalled using it to cope after her father received a diagnosis of stage IV colon cancer. Although attending the auditions with her, he wasn’t able to make her first live performance. Still, the singer dedicated the song to her dad. “Just to be able to sing it to him… I put a lot of that power back into the song and I think that’s what helped me tonight.”

Baffled by both her voice and age, Howie Mandel showered Maddie Baez with praise, stating, “I don’t know how anybody, let alone an 11-year-old girl, is able to keep composed under the pressure of a live show and the competition that is surrounding them. [Her dad] isn’t here tonight, and he’s been her cheerleader, so I would imagine there’s something not great going on. My heart and my prayers go out to her and her family, but to be 11 years old and still deliver at that level is amazing and unbelievable.”

Not the only judge to applaud Maddie Baez, Heidi Klum congratulated the singer. “I thought she did really well. And you know, it’s just a beautiful, lovely story too with her. She started singing because of her dad who was ill in the hospital, so I feel like it’s beautiful that she was there to help her dad get through this … they must be super proud of her.”

Thrilled about the support she received from fans and judges, Maddie Baez admitted, “Just being in front of the America’s Got Talent audience, having all of them chanting your name, on their feet, and knowing that you touched millions of people, can bring you to tears and I think that’s what happened tonight.”