HOLLISTER — During Wednesday’s “America’s Got Talent” episode on NBC, Hollister native Brooke Simpson finished fourth in the top five finalists.
Since the beginning of season 16 on June 1, contestants battled it out on stage with performances ranging in comedic acts, singing, dancing, acrobatics and magicians. Final performances were held Tuesday, where viewers could vote for their favorite competitor leading up to revealing the winner on AGT’s episode the following night.
The magician Dustin Tavella was proclaimed the winner, with aerialist Aiden Bryant placing second, stand-up comedian Josh Blue third, Simpson fourth and quick-change artist Lea Kyle placing fifth.
Even though the season ended, that was not without Simpson, a Haliwa-Saponi member, making a statement with her performance of “White Flag” by Bishop Briggs on Tuesday night.
Walking onto the stage, Simpson had a different persona about her. The theme had flames blooming in the background with sparks shooting in the air, expressing the fire and energy Simpson brought in her performance by having the audience clap in unison with her, just before ending it with the forceful drop of the microphone stand and feather drop of the microphone that she is here to stay.
When asked if the preparation for her final performance was difficult, Simpson said it was the hardest week with the quick turnaround time.
“Of course, there are added pressures with it being the finale, but although it was the hardest week, it was my favorite week because it showed me how strong I am even under that kind of pressure,” she said.
Simpson said she chose “White Flag” as it is a song about strength, fighting for oneself and not giving up.
“That was everything I was doing in that finale,” she said. “More importantly, it made me think about the relentless beautiful strength and resilience that Indigenous people have exemplified throughout our entire history and still to this day.”
When asked how much input she had with the theme of her performance and what it reflected, Simpson said the stage direction was another representation of the song’s meaning as well as the power it brought sonically.
“The creative process was always a beautiful collaboration between the ‘America’s Got Talent’ team and I,” she said. “Plus, it was the finale, and ya gotta go big for the finale!”
There was a different side of “Brooke Simpson” that walked out on stage that night, especially with the drop of the microphone stand and microphone.
When asked what she was feeling at that moment, Simpson said, “I just knew it was my last time competing on that stage, so regardless of the outcome, I wanted to give the performance of a lifetime — to give a clear picture to America of who I am as an artist.”
Brook’s parents, Mike and Jimille Mills, both said they were taken away by their daughter’s performances.
Mike said he was not familiar with the song “White Flag” nor the artist, but was amazed when she performed the song again alongside Briggs the following night.
“Just to see how they connected, it wasn’t like a mismatch of talent,” he said. “They performed on the same level. We were amazed with that.”
Jimille said Brooke stepped it up to a whole new level with her recent performance and owned the stage.
“I think she stepped up and was determined that this was her last shot at winning, and she was going to give it her best,” she said. “I’ve never seen her that focused and that demanding of your attention on the stage — she was just fierce.”
Mike said he and Jimille have been in music for 30 years and that his opinion as a professional musician — not as Simpson’s father — was that they were happy she made it to fourth place in the top five but felt she would have won or landed second place.
“I really thought that was going to be the case because she brought 100% every time, and that’s not taking away anything else for the other contestants, but Brooke brought it every time,” he said.
Jimille said they felt she was the winner and still feels she is the winner, but they gracefully accepted the results.
“We would like to note that she was the last woman standing, she was the last singer standing, and she was the only person of color standing — Native American,” she said.
Jimille said they are in the talking stages of trying to put together a welcome home concert for Simpson, but there are no details or place as of yet.
Simpson’s performance could be felt across many social media platforms, with viewers impressed with what she brought to the table that night. However, on her Facebook page, Simpson said it was only the beginning and that she hoped she had made her tribe proud.
Burning a path for her tribe from Hollister and into the world, Simpson said, making her tribe proud means everything to her.
“Me chasing my dreams is so much bigger than me,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to show the next-gen of Indigenous leaders that anything is possible. It’s showing the world that we are not only still here, but we are resilient, powerful and heard. If I’m winning, we’re all winning.”
Simpson wanted to thank everyone who voted for her, and she is excited to share new music and more.
When asked if she felt her journey through AGT changed her, Simpson said, “I’ve grown so much for sure, but who I am is rooted in who I am and won’t ever change.”