Jayna Brown went from fangirl to having a famous fan herself during her audition for America’s Got Talent, which aired Wednesday. The 14-year-old blew away judges and audience alike with her rendition of Andra Day’s “Rise Up” and received the coveted Golden Buzzer from One Direction‘s Louis Tomlinson, who was serving as a guest judge.
“I’ve been a One Direction fan ever since 2010 when my mom showed me them performing on The X Factor,” the Baltimore teen recalls, noting that their song “Clouds” has been on repeat for her lately. “It was a really amazing experience having Louis press the Golden Buzzer. After the confetti was raining down and the whole stage was glowing gold, I ran down and he said, ‘Well done, well done.’ I was freaking out. It was high praise coming from someone like him, especially since he had been on a competition like this before.”
Though she didn’t get to speak with Tomlinson much before or after her time onstage, Brown is thankful for the quick post-performance interaction they had. “If I had any more time with him, I probably would have passed out,” she says with a laugh.
Brown’s current foray was not her first stab at AGT. She originally auditioned at age nine but didn’t make the cut. This time, the show reached out to her to return, having seen her YouTube channel where she has been posting covers of songs like Adele’s “Hello” and Shawn Mendes’ “Stitches” for the past five years. “At that time, I was already committed to another project,” she says before noting that she had been launching a gig as a Kidz Bop Kid prior to the show. “They kept calling me and finally I just decided to do it.”
Brown’s audition was filmed back in May and the rising star recalls how kind fellow participants were backstage as they prepared for their auditions. She had been debating between two songs for her debut: the Cure’s “Lovesong” and Day’s anthemic hit, which she went with in the end for personal reasons. “I felt like I could really convey it more since I had a personal connection with it,” she says. “[My mom and I] don’t have our own home and we’ve been staying with family and friends. Now we’re staying with my grandmother and things are looking up for us. I’m actually really happy.”
Luckily for Brown, through whatever hardships she has faced with her mother, she has held onto her dreams of becoming a musician. She began honing her talent around age four and began taking it seriously at age nine, starting to post videos online. By the time she was 11, she had her first big live performance when she sang an original song called “I’ll Do Me” with Snarky Puppy.
Currently, Brown is in the heart of Hollywood and preparing for the AGT live shows that begin on Tuesday at the Dolby Theater. “I’m nervous and excited because so many incredible artists and celebrities have passed through that stage,” she says of the location where the Oscars are filmed.
She’s planning to take the competition week-by-week, but may have something big in store for her “Brownies,” as she recently deemed her “fanily” on Twitter following the outpouring of excitement over her audition. “I would love to do one of my original songs,” she teases. “Actually, if I make it to next round, I’m hoping to sing one of my originals. No promises, though.”