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simon cowell

She was born for this.

Musical theater isn’t exactly for the hobbyist singer in general, but certain showtunes require so much skill that even the greats would shy away from them. “Defying Gravity,” from lyricist Stephen Schwartz and librettist Winnie Holzman’s “Wicked,” certainly falls into that category.

The iconic song, made famous by Idina Menzel, is a rollercoaster of key changes, dynamic shifts in tempo and volume, agile riffs and of course, that thrilling high belt at the end…all while being suspended in the air, mind you. It’s something that even the best of the best have to train for years to be able to do.

And yet, an 11-year-old made it look effortless.


Back in May of 2023, Olivia Lynes stepped onto the stage for “Britain’s Got Talent,” sporting a little pink dress with ruby red shoes.

As she tells the judges “hellooooo” in the most adorable accent ever, you’d never get the sense that this sweet, polite young girl was mere seconds away from blowing the roof off the place.

But then she opens her mouth to sing, leaving everybody floored from the very first note.

Watch:

Holy moly, was that incredible, or was that incredible?

Olivia would go on to channel Menzel a few more times, singing “Let It Go”and “Into The Unknown” from Disney’s “Frozen” and “Frozen 2,” rightfully getting dubbed “the new, undisputed Disney princess” by judge Bruno Tonioli.

As if Olivia weren’t enough living proof, science does tell us that it is entirely possible to be born a gifted singer. After all, our anatomy plays a huge role in our singing abilities—facial structure, vocal folds, nasal cavities, etc. And our genetics influence our anatomy. So it makes sense that some people come into this world with inherent advantages.

However, just like with any athletic endeavor (which singing most certainly is) our skill level can improve with practice and training. Still, we can marvel at those natural born Olympians who seem fated for greatness.

Pop Culture

Simon Cowell 'broke the rules' for tear-jerking 'Unity' dance on Britain's Got Talent

The judges had reached their Golden Buzzer limit, but Cowell decided the "astonishing" act deserved a special honor.

The Unity dance troupe wowed the BGT audience and judges with their moving performance.

Simon Cowell may have made his U.S. debut as a hard-nosed grump on "American Idol," but anyone familiar with him knows he's a big ol' softie inside. When a performance moves him, he's not ashamed to say so, and when an act deserves accolades, he's not afraid to go above and beyond to make sure they get their kudos.

Such was the case with the dance troupe Unity and their emotional performance to the Wrabel song, "The Village," on "Britain's Got Talent." The group of 16 to 25-year-olds, wearing all black, began by standing together on stage as one of them explained who they were.

"We're all friends in college, so we decided to put this group together to perform a piece called 'I Will,' which is about being told that you can't or you're not enough, and how as a group that we come together and power through that," said the group's spokesperson.

As the music cued up, a screen behind the dancers read, "In nature, a flock will attach any bird that is more colourful than the others because being different is seen as a threat…" Then Emma, a girl with Down Syndrome, began to speak about how people say she "can't," while the troupe spoke in sign language along with her.

Following Emma came Declan, who stretches gender boundaries. Then came Steph and Libby, who are in love, a boy who was bullied growing up for his love of dance and a young woman who has been underestimated due to her body shape. As each person shared their personal story, the lyrics of "The Village" highlighted their struggles to be accepted.

At the same time, the group's dancing showed the support a group can give someone who feels excluded or ostracized. Ultimately, it was an incredibly moving performance with a beautiful message of inclusion: "It is not our differences that divide us, it is our inability to recognize, accept, embrace and celebrate those differences.”

The judges were unanimously impressed, and the audience chanted for them to give the group the Golden Buzzer, which would send them straight to the finals. However, the judges have a limited number of Golden Buzzers per season, and they had already used them all up.

Simon Cowell felt inspired enough by the performance to "break the rules," however, and gave them a delightful surprise ending.

Watch what moved him, the other judges and the audience so much:

Empowering, inspiring and impactful. Congratulations, Unity, on making a memorable impression on us all.

Pop Culture

13-year-old autistic magician wows judges on 'Britain's Got Talent'

Simon Cowell remarked that “there's something really, really incredible” about the Irish teen.

Cillian O'Connor wows judges on "Britain's Got Talent."

Cillian O'Connor, a 13-year-old from County Meath, Ireland, wowed judges on “Britain’s Got Talent” on April 15 by making cards appear out of nowhere, making milk disappear and conjuring up a huge jar of jelly beans for Simon Cowell.

The appearance would have been incredible for any magician, let alone a teenager, but O’Connor’s was even more remarkable because he has autism spectrum disorder and dyspraxia.

Social anxiety is prevalent in people with autism, with reports showing it could be as high as 50%. Further, dyspraxia is a neurodevelopmental condition that makes it difficult for people to perform motor skills. Every magician needs two things: being comfortable in front of an audience and above-average fine motor skills. O’Connor believes that magic has helped him to develop both.

Before studying the art of magic, O’Connor says he didn’t want to be within “50 feet” of people. But all that changed after picking up his new skill.

“I have learned that having autism is not a disability, it’s an ability. When I was younger, I was unable to interact with people,” O’Connor said during his performance. “I felt a bit empty, incomplete. I felt invisible. After discovering magic, my life changed. It was like a light switch coming on inside my head."

“I found a way to interact with people through my magic,” he added.

During his routine, O'Connor took the audience on a journey. He discussed the transformative power of magic while transporting milk across the stage, helping Simon Cowell guess the exact number of jelly beans in a jar and pulling a 7 of diamonds out of nowhere.

And he did it all with amazing dexterity and confidence on stage.

After his performance, he received a standing ovation from the audience, and all four judges gave him “yesses” to move on to the next round.

Simon Cowell was particularly impressed—no easy feat.

“Wow, you are unbelievably talented. Seriously,” Cowell said, noting that the jelly bean trick freaked him out. “There is something really, really incredible about you, and I do believe in magic, and you are such an amazing performer. Brilliant, brilliant.”

Judge Bruno Tonioli held back tears when giving his appraisal.

“I was totally, totally captivated by what you were doing,” he exclaimed. “For somebody so young, it’s an incredible quality. You have a fantastic future in front of you.”

After the judges passed O’Connor, his mother rushed to the stage and hugged him.

“Six years ago our quiet, shy, anti-social, little boy saw a little girl, Issy Simpson, perform Magic on Britain's Got Talent. Cillian became obsessed with Magic, and he always dreamed of someday being just like that #youngmagician,” she wrote on Facebook.

“When I grow up, I want to be a magician,” O’Connor said before his routine. “What I like about magic is just trying to make people smile." Well, Cillian. There’s no need for you to wait to grow up to be a magician. After that performance, you have all the right in the world to start calling yourself one now.

"You can’t just say, 'I want to be a dentist,'” judge Simon Cowell told the duo.

Back in 2014, cello-playing brothers Emil and Dariel wowed "America’s Got Talent" audiences with their cello rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s "Purple Haze," even becoming finalists for the season.

After getting invited back to participate in "America’s Got Talent: All Stars," the duo once again rocked the house with an epic cover of "Take On Me." This classic A-ha tune has been covered a lot, so the fact that these two gave it fresh new life is no easy feat.

However, judge Simon Cowell remained unimpressed.


While he admitted that "the track is great," he ultimately dubbed the performers as "boring." And when the two cellists shared that they were actually pursuing a career in dentistry, not stardom, Cowell became visibly flustered, even going so far as to mime stabbing himself in the chest with a pen.

"This is not enough. There must be a dream. Something that’s inspired you. You can’t just say, 'I want to be a dentist,'" the judge lamented.

"Wow… We are so humbled by the heartfelt outpouring of support you have shown us since the airing of our performance on AGT All Stars," the duo wrote. "[It] warms our hearts and reminds us why we set out to perform in the first place."

While they explained how their story was "sadly cut in the edit"—leaving out an anecdote about learning to play cello and pursue the American Dream from their immigrant grandfather, as well as their intention to "light a spark of inspiration in the hearts of the kids that are labeled as 'outcasts' or 'uncool'" through their music—the main purpose of their statement was to address Cowell’s "derogatory comments towards our lifelong dream of becoming dentists."

It’s lengthy, but worth a read. They held nothing back.

"Dear Simon,

Hopefully, this message finds you well. The purpose of this letter is not to direct any negativity towards you, rather we hope this will serve as an eye-opener to the impact of your words. On Monday, January 23rd, the episode in which you called us out and went out of your way to belittle us for pursuing a career in dentistry debuted. On behalf of the outpouring of current and aspiring health care professionals from around the world who have reached out in response to your comments making a mockery of our choice to pursue a career in dentistry, we demand you take responsibility for your actions and issue a formal apology to the more than 700,000 dentists around the world who are committed to serving their communities.

Since we were little kids, aside from being classically trained cellists, we had the dream of following in our dad’s footsteps to become dentists. Coming from a family of three generations of dental professionals beginning in Kiev, Ukraine, this profession runs in our blood. This profession means more to us than a line of work; it’s our family lineage and calling. We are proud of our decision to pursue a craft that will allow us to positively impact people’s lives. The dental profession is hard at work every day with the mission of helping people attain the health and confidence they desire.

In response to why we decided to be a part of your show, we are well-attuned to the fact that you’re not searching for America’s Next Top Dentist. But you/your producers invited us, as finalists from Season 9, to perform among the 'best of the best' to share what we have been up to since the last time the world saw us. What an honor to be considered ‘All Stars,’ we thought. We presupposed this is far different from a typical AGT audition. After much deliberation, we ultimately decided to carve time out of our busy school schedules and perform due to the show’s wide reach with the hopes that someone watching us will think they too could feel cool playing an instrument that was never traditionally considered as such.

We love playing music together, especially rock n’ roll. Always have and always will. But we have no intention of making a career out of music. This may be atypical for someone in your line of work, but there are those individuals in the world who find a noble purpose outside of pursuing ‘stardom,’ not that there is anything wrong with that.

Please know this: Your words do not offend us, as they have no bearing on our life’s trajectory. They do, however, have weight and consequences on the decisions of young, aspiring health care professionals listening to you that may think twice about pursuing a noble career in caring for others. We are proud to be dental professionals and will not pretend otherwise, no matter how many times your producers attempt to rewrite our story. Above all, we are proud to dedicate our lives to building people up instead of putting them down. We were expecting that your disparaging remarks would make air, after experiencing the beatdown in person. But we did not expect the footage to be so heavily manipulated from what actually happened. Thankfully, most viewers saw right through that, but there are still those that place value behind what a man of your privileged stature says, which is why you, Simon, should consider thinking twice before you speak. Thank you for your valuable time.

Best wishes,

Emil & Dariel"

Perhaps they have a point. While it might not make for good television (which is entirely debatable), there is nothing wrong with having an artistic passion and focusing on what could be labeled as a more "humble" profession. Not everyone wants to make their art into a career. That doesn’t make the art any less important. And, as the statement pointed out, there is nothing undignified about wanting to help people. What’s really inspiring here isn’t Emil and Dariel’s musical talents, or even seeing them stand up for their beliefs. It’s that they have decided, no matter what they do in life, to be a force for good in the world. That’s an act that never gets boring.