If you've been watching season 11 of America's Got Talent, you've seen a variety of incredible performers: from magicians to contortionists to jugglers, clairvoyants, singers, and more. But behind almost all of these talented people is the love and support of family.
Since the show's inception, family has been a persistent theme, with most contestants offering heartfelt stories of how a parent, sibling, or loved one helped them overcome the hurdles they faced on their artistic journey.
In episode 11 of this season, 45-year-old Ukranian juggler Viktor Kee said, "My brother is the reason I juggle. He snuck me out of Kindergarten and brought me to a juggling studio."
A few days after Kee's first audition, his brother suffered a heart attack and passed away. Ready to give up on the show, his mother encouraged him to push forward. "Of course you have to do it," she said. "Just bring your brother with you and perform." What followed was an incredible juggling act involving a glowing ball, representing the spirit of Kee's brother.
Stories like Kee's inspire gratitude for these kinds of strong support systems, especially in a harsh industry like entertainment. But perhaps those most in need of such encouragement are the kids on the show just getting their feet wet.
This season, some of the most popular acts are by young contestants, ages 12 to 16.
To find out what family members can do to help these young contestants pursue their dreams and get through the industry in one piece, we asked an expert — father and AGT judge Howie Mandel.
On the red carpet following Tuesday night’s August 2 live show, A Plus caught up with Mandel to see if he has any advice for parents with kids wanting to get into the arts.
"I don't know how good the entertainment industry is for adults [let alone kids], as far as for your psyche, but as long as they feel they're supported at home, and how well they do on a show like this doesn't affect how much love they feel they're getting from their parents, then it's fine. But if people feel that as a child, they have to do well on here [America's Got Talent] to do well at home, or in their parents' home, then that's not fine."
When asked if there was any advice a parent or family member gave him on pursuing a career in entertainment, Mandel told us he was often simply warned to "get out," "be quiet," or to just "not do that." Despite receiving these less than encouraging words, Mandel says his family has always been very supportive.
Mandel, a father of three grown children, ended with the advice he gave his own kids when they were growing up.
"Look for happiness. Do something you're passionate about. You know, making it is not about notoriety, it's not about fame, it's not about money. It's about finding a path that makes you happy and being excited every morning when you wake up doing something, even if that something is a little hobby, or whatever. Life's too short. Find something you're passionate about, and do it."
This is a sentiment we hope most parents share with their kids when talking about pursuing their passions or goals. Having family support can get you far — something we see embodied weekly in the courageous and gifted performers on America's Got Talent.