When I caught up with America’s Got Talent contestant Darci Lynne two months ago at the Vent Haven Ventriloquism Convention, she was still reeling from her AGT golden buzzer moment, clueless that she’d be showered with confetti again and walking away the 2017 winner with the $1 million prize on September 20, 2017. But the talented 12-year-old quickly captured the hearts of millions around the world with her voice(s) and those crazy puppets.
So how did a bubbly, middle schooler ventriloquist snag the votes and walk away a winner? Her huge talent certainly laid the groundwork for the successful outcome— that big, ever-changing singing voice, flawless venting (that’s ventriloquist lingo in case you were wondering), comedic timing and dramatic flair. But in a world where great talent often goes unnoticed, the public responded to Darci Lynne with overwhelming enthusiasm.
It didn’t hurt that she really is pretty much that 12-year-old kid next door that just happens to have a boatload of talent and the discipline to work hard at her craft. In an earlier interview, veteran ventriloquist and coach Gary Owen stressed the fact that Darci Lynne has an incredible ability to focus and study, but at the end of the day, she’s still your typical pre-teen. “What’s really unique is when she’s on stage she’s a professional; when she comes off the stage she’s a kid. So what you see on television is really who she is. She’s a wonderful child.”
Lifted off her feet after the win by her proud oldest brother, Darci Lynne is the only sister in a family where, as of my last conversation with her mom, all children are required to help with the chores. Hmm, maybe that’s why she vowed to buy a new dishwasher if she won AGT. But it’s that family thread and sensitivity that has laced her competitive spirit with genuine thoughtfulness and affection for others including her competitors. AGT seems to have landed more than a few finalists who showcased this. And it’s a good thing. Nice guys should never have to finish last. Maybe America took notice of that.
In the end, I like to believe that Darci Lynne’s popularity is a reflection of the fact that she brought to the table what America and the world needed at this time—positive cross-generational family entertainment and a reminder of the power of imagination, humor and a dose of silliness.
Anyone who you grew up with The Muppets or watched their own children or grandchildren mesmerized by the colorful sassy characters understands the magical power of play. Is there anything more heartwarming than witnessing children’s imaginations soar? Why wouldn’t we want to fall into a beautiful imaginary world for a moment?
I’d love to have a conversation with some fluffy rabbit who could sing like a diva instead of a cantankerous person in the parking lot, wouldn’t you? And while we’re at it, who wouldn’t want to put words in someone else’s mouth? I’m no dummy. This is exactly why I’m following Darci Lynne into the magical world of ventriloquism.
Nancy Berk, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author, comic and entertainment analyst. The host of the showbiz podcast Whine At 9, Nancy digs a little deeper as she chats with fascinating celebrities and industry insiders. Her book College Bound and Gagged: How to Help Your Kid Get into a Great College Without Losing Your Savings, Your Relationship, or Your Mind can be seen in the feature film Admission starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd.