All of my life I’ve been asked about who my role model was, who I looked up to, and who I aspired to be like. It’s the perfect question to ask to get to know someone because it says a lot about the kind of person someone is, what their values are, and what they find important. For the longest time, my parents were the default answer - but that wasn’t the answer most people looked for. They wanted a celebrity or a historical figure; a name they recognized. I didn’t have that kind of role model. I always thought a role model had to be a person wisened by experience in their field, older than me, with a bunch of accolades. It never occurred to me that when I did find someone I looked up to, she’d be six years younger than me and just a girl with a dream.
I remember the exact moment I found out about Grace Vanderwaal. It was late at night and I was in my computer room, procrastinating. As per usual, I was on YouTube and I stumbled onto the ‘Got Talent’ section. Eventually, I clicked on an America’s Got Talent video and saw from the time stamp that it had been published recently. That meant a new season of America’s Got Talent was running. It would be the first season that I would watch all the way to the end.
Grace VanderWaal: 12-Year-Old Ukulele Player Gets Golden Buzzer read the Youtube video title. I clicked on the video to see this sweet little girl walk onto the stage. Clad in yellow pants and a black and white sweater top, hair a simple bob with bangs, she walks center stage clutching her ukulele. Even before she starts singing, her answer to the question “Do you believe that you can win?” stirs the entire audience. “I mean miracles can happen,” she says in response, “so possibly.”
Then, in the moment of truth, she begins singing.
It was unlike anything I had heard before, and it was made more profound by the fact that she was only 12 years old and singing a song she had written about herself. The lyrics, even, are quite simplistically brilliant, as I’ve come to learn is something that encompasses all of her tracks.
I sat there literally stunned. How could a young girl sing such a monumental song that outlined the hardships that many people face. “I don’t know my name,” she sang, “I don’t play by the rules of the game, so you say.” She goes on to sing about the hardships of “trying to find herself in an ocean of people” and ends with the declaration that in her journey, she’s found her identity, her name, and is, after all, just trying to find her way in life.
Simple, but brilliant.
Her Golden buzzer moment was undoubtedly deserved, and I admit, it brought me to tears.
A few months later, Grace is championed America’s Got Talent’s Winner and she begins writing her own songs! Of course, I follow along and listen to everything she puts out. I can honestly admit that there is not one song of Grace’s that I don’t like. Everything she has written has a layer of maturity about it - some songs are carefree and fun, and others are serious and seem to parallel certain harsh realities of life. But every single one is lyrically beautiful and, from the comments section on YouTube, they reverberate deeply with her listeners.
Book and movies inspire her songs. She gathers facts and emotions from what she reads and perfectly weaves them into lyrics. I connect with this because, as a writer, I get my inspiration from both books and the world. To date, she has released an EP called Perfectly Imperfect and an album titled Just the Beginning.
I guess the message here is to believe in yourself, believe in miracles, and not hold yourself back from fear of anything. Anything is possible if you try. As a young female artist with a wide platform, she makes a great role model for young kids and should be celebrated this International Women’s Day.