Young ‘America’s Got Talent: The Champions’ finalist on her continuous ascent in the music industry
“OH, my gosh, it’s all just so exciting!”
In a recent interview, 11-year-old Angelica Hale repeats variations of this sentence and it is the hallmark of who she is as a young singer/songwriter and inspirational viral sensation.
In case you stayed off the internet for the last year and a half, the young Filipina-American singer rose to prominence on the 12th season of the wildly popular “America’s Got Talent,” where she wowed the judges and millions of viewers with a rendition of “Rise Up” by Andra Day that showed off the young girl’s impressive vocal range and stamina.
She made it through to the 12th season finale and came in second place, but that didn’t stymie any chances of success for the young, energetic Atlanta native.
After roughly two years of performing for charity events, professional sports games, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and other important events post-AGT season 12, she became a contestant on “America’s Got Talent: The Champions,” where she became the first-ever contestant to be awarded two golden buzzers, a judge or host-awarded honor that allows the recipient to bypass the possibility of elimination and takes them immediately to the finale.
“Oh, my goodness, my mind just went blank in that moment!” Hale told the Asian Journal in a phone interview on Thursday, Feb. 14. “I just looked up to see all the golden confetti falling around me and it was absolutely mind-blowing!”
She added, “I was just focused on my performance and I wasn’t thinking about the golden buzzer at all, and I told myself that even if I just made it to the finale, that would be crazy awesome. But I didn’t even think about getting the golden buzzer, so it was just so mind-blowing.”
Though the market for jaw-dropping child singers who go viral is booming right now, Hale is a child prodigy of her own class.
She isn’t just a young girl who can sing really well. She’s a warrior and a beacon of inspiration at a time when many of us are hanging onto optimism by a thin, thin thread.
At the age of four, Hale suffered from septic shock caused by a severe case of double pneumonia. This caused organ failure, including in her kidneys and respiratory system, and placed her in a medically-induced coma and, eventually, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) life-support for 12 days.
“It was extremely, extremely hard for me but once it was all over with, it made me stronger than I ever was before, and it made me a real fighter because when I was in the hospital I never knew if I was going to make it or not,” Hale shared. “The chances [of surviving] were extremely low in the beginning, and I was so, so scared and I didn’t know if I was going to survive and pursue my dreams of being a singer.”
She then spent 80 days in the hospital and a year and a half on dialysis before receiving a life-saving kidney transplant at the age of 6 from her Filipina mother, Eva Hale.
Shortly after, Angelica Hale and her family wasted no time in making the young girl’s dreams a reality, signing her up for singing lessons and performing in kids competitions as well as charity functions for children’s hospitals in the Atlanta area.
“I overcame that challenge and I’m here today pursuing my dream,” Hale said. “I think that’s what made me a real fighter, and I keep telling myself whenever I feel down, ‘Well, you’ve gone through so many things in the past and this compared to that is nothing so you can do it. You can overcome anything.’ Being in the hospital changed me in a lot of ways, good and bad.”
In 2016, she auditioned for AGT, but didn’t make it through but was invited to audition a second time for the 12th season in 2017. That was when her performance of “Rise Up” in the auditions rounds broke the Internet and established Angelica Hale as a rising star.
“When I first auditioned for AGT, I was extremely, extremely, extremely nervous!” Hale recalled with a laugh. “But I was extremely excited at the same time. I remember my heart was racing and as I was listening to the buzzers, I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ I was so afraid of getting one of those x’s from the judges. But I remember very clearly telling myself, ‘OK, it’s now or never!’”
But once she got on the stage and began singing she grew more and more comfortable. As she reaches the chorus of the song, the cheers from the audience grew and in the end, all four judges gave a standing ovation, which brought the then-9-year-old to tears.
“When you’re on a show like that, you have these really low expectations because it’s sort of like, you never know what’s going to happen. But it’s exciting and thrilling, and as I got through the rounds, I actually got less and less nervous,” she said.
But through all the success and the stardom and a growing fanbase, Hale maintains a humility about herself and understands the concept there isn’t a finite amount of improvement you can achieve.
“But I realized then and through all the amazing things I’ve gotten to do, that singing is my passion and I shouldn’t be afraid of it, and if it’s what I love, I’ll sing my heart out and I shouldn’t be afraid of showing the world my light,” she explained.
Because of her incredibly vast vocal range, Hale reaches for songs which allow her to express her passion widely with dazzling skill and projection. Her No. 1 inspiration is, unsurprisingly, Whitney Houston and her favorite song to sing is still “Rise Up” which she says “still touches me to this day.”
The “AGT: Champions” finale airs on NBC on Monday, Feb. 18, and no matter what the outcome is, Hale is likely to remain a mainstay in music. She still lends her talents by performing at different venues, but she’s also establishing a recording career: in December, she released a Christmas album called “Christmas Wonder” and later this year, she has a debut album which comprises of covers as well as original songs written by Hale herself.
To anyone with ears, it’s clear that Hale is an outstanding, skillful performer, but that’s only half of what makes her a star.
“One day I want to get up on so many more stages and inspire so many more people, and that’s really what drives me because people like Whitney Houston have inspired me so greatly,” she said. “I want to encourage people to never ever give up because once you give up, you can’t really go back. You have to keep pursuing and fighting, and that’s what I did in the hospital and yet I’m here today, so I know that anything is possible.”
On social media as well as this interview, she radiates a deep positivity that’s less cliché personality curation and more a deep reflection of the real Angelica Hale.
“When I was first on the show, I said that I wanted to be the next Whitney Houston. But now, today, I just want to be the first Angelica Hale!” Hale confidently declared.