There wasn’t a dry eye in the room during the latest Golden Buzzer moment on “America’s Got Talent.”
Brandon Leake, 27, a community college counselor in Stockton, California, wowed the judges with an emotional performance of a poem that paid tribute to his late sister, who died as a baby. He also made history as the first spoken word artist to appear on the show.
Before Leake began, Simon Cowell admitted he was skeptical, saying, “I don’t really understand poetry, I'm going to be honest with you.”
“She left Earth to go back home amongst the stars right next to God, but I was left here to manufacture wings out of tears and broken dreams,” Leake said in his poem, at times fighting back tears. “If this pain and these memories are all that I got left of you, I won’t never regret these scars from just trying to hold onto you.”
The poem hit especially close to home for Vergara.
"My brother passed away the same year that your sister passed away," she told Leake. "I can feel your pain, I know what this is, I know what it is to have somebody taken from you without you knowing."
Cowell was also moved, calling the poem “an amazing tribute” to his sister.
"There's something very, very special about you,” he said. “This is a very difficult thing for me to judge. I shouldn't be judging it. I just want to compliment you on what you just did, because it was extraordinary."
Mandel also had nothing but praise for Leake’s powerful poem.
"It's amazing to me that on season 15, it's the first time that we're hearing somebody of spoken word," he said. "There was something more raw ... It's like singing and talking and just being a human, a capella. No music, no nothing, just a raw heart beating in front of us.
“We feel your pain, we feel your love, and you moved me … to do this,” he said, and used his Golden Buzzer to put Leake straight through to the live shows in Hollywood.
Leake was overwhelmed with emotion as the judges and host Terry Crews joined him on stage to congratulate him with elbow and fist bumps. He shared what this opportunity could mean to him and his daughter, who was just 14 days old at the time of filming.
“My daughter was just born and the only thing that I’ve been thinking about is, man, I don’t want time to slip by being at this nine-to-five while she’s at home growing,” Leake said. “This is my shot.”