“I’m going to remember this moment for the rest of my life.”
When Simon Cowell said those words earlier this summer on America’s Got Talent, it caught the attention of millions of viewers across the country. After all, isn’t this the judge who is known for being quite harsh early on in the competition?
But as it turns out, the individual who received such praise was a talented singer named Kodi Lee who just so happens to be autistic and blind.
After receiving Gabrielle Union‘s Golden Buzzer this past May, the 22-year-old returned to the NBC show Tuesday night to perform a brand-new song. Kodi lit up the stage with an inspiring rendition of Simon & Garfunkel‘s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which brought everyone in attendance to their feet.
And as you likely could have guessed, he impressed fans yet again and proved to be a clear front runner for the $1 million grand prize.
As Gabrielle put it tonight, “Kodi, you changed the world and you keep changing the world. Who you are and what you stand for and what you continue to do makes the world so a better. beautiful place. We have to stop putting limits on our children. We have to keep believing in each other.”
In just a matter of months, Kodi’s story has captivated fans across the country and around the world. His audition has earned more than 42 million views.
Oprah Winfrey said she “stood up and cheered in my living room” when watching the performance. Autism Speaks praised Kodi’s “incredible talent” and story. And Holly Robinson Peete—who has a son with autism—honored Kodi with the Hero Award at the HollyRod Foundation’s Design Care 2019 gala.
“I couldn’t believe it. I watched it in real time. I just didn’t know what to expect and then I was just on the ground. I couldn’t believe what I was watching,” she told E! News exclusively from Design Care. “He’s truly magnificent. He has changed the game for the autism and blind community.”
Holly added, “NBC doesn’t want to block his blessings. They understand the impact he has across the nation and around the world.”
After completing his audition, Kodi also received rave reviews from all four judges. Howie Mandel called him a “great inspiration and a great talent.” As for Julianne Hough, she said Kodi’s “voice blew all of us away.”
“They saw the same thing that I’ve been living with my entire life,” Kodi’s mom Tina Lee shared with E! News’ Erin Lim after the audition aired. “The love is just pouring in and friends with other kids with special needs, they’re telling me that their kids are saying, ‘I can do it because of Kodi.'”
While America’s Got Talent has a wide variety of acts including magicians, dancers, impressionists, light projection artists and more, it’s clear Kodi has earned his spot on the stage.
As for whether or not he will make it to the finals, it’s up to America’s vote. For now, Kodi has already accomplished much more than an average contestant. In fact, he may just be getting started.
“I gave #KodiLee my Golden Buzzer but his family fought for the information, resources & opportunities to make his dreams come true,” Gabrielle previously shared on Twitter. “Everyone deserves the chance to shine, let’s work to make that a reality.”
America’s Got Talent airs Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. on NBC.
(E! and NBC are part of the NBCUniversal family)