Reality TV has all but taken over our televisions. With cheap production costs and serious advertising revenue, ‘reality’ programming is a production studio’s dream. Those competition-style shows – the original form of reality TV – continue to garner viewers year on year, despite producing questionable talent. ‘Talent’-seeking shows exploded in popularity in the early 2000s, originating in the UK with ‘Pop Idol’. The format was soon transposed to North America, with ‘American Idol’ becoming an instant hit in 2002. Then came The X-Factor and, most recently, the more diverse ‘America’s Got Talent’. Cruel judges, human interest stories, and an audience empowered by public voting created the perfect storm in which (sometimes talentless) reality TV stars thrived.
America’s Got Talent debuted in June of 2006 as part of the global Britain’s Got Talent franchise – music producer and well-established panel judge Simon Cowell was one of the driving forces behind the show’s creation. Celebrities like David Hasselhoff and Mel Brown have sat on the judging panel, drawing in an even wider audience. The show also features celebrity hosts like Jerry Springer, and, recently, Nick Cannon. Hopeful candidates display their unique talent in front of a studio audience and judging panel; audiences have been known to sway the judges in one direction or another, and so auditionees inevitably attempt to keep the audience on their side as far as possible.
America’s Got Talent has offered up a variety of stars since it began in 2006. There are dancers, ventriloquists, comedians, and more niche speciality acts than you even knew existed. Many consider the show as a springboard for long-term fame while some contestants just want to win the coveted one million dollar prize as well with a headlining show in Las Vegas.
Kenichi Ebina, a dancer, has been named the most recent winner of America’s Got Talent, but only time will tell how much fame and fortune he’ll gain from his time on the famous reality talent competition. The contestants have had varying success – some have become fleeting fads, others have withstood the test of time. And some have translated their time in the spotlight into millions upon millions of dollars. What makes America’s ‘most talented’ people both famous AND rich? Have a look below at the five of the very wealthiest contestants from the show; in true America’s Got Talent spirit, we’ll let you be judge of the worth – and potential longevity – of these five unusual careers.
5. Neal E. Boyd – $1 Million
Neal E. Boyd first wowed audiences on America’s Got Talent as an opera singer who covered pop songs. Boyd, who hails from the state of Missouri and is known as “The Voice of Missouri”, is currently pursuing politics as well. He was the season three winner of the show, after wowing people with the range of his voice. Since his days on the show, Boyd signed on with Decca Records and released his debut album in 2009, “My American Dream”, which reached #195 on the Billboard charts. He has also performed in front of President Barack Obama, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Maybe rubbing shoulders with all those political powerhouses had an effect, because Boyd has recently been focusing on his political career. He’ll be running as a Republican candiadate for the Missouri House of Representatives next year. Boys has also made money from the insurance agency that he co-owns, ‘Cox and Boyd’. No doubt his exposure on America’s Got Talent garnered him some extra business, and votes.
4. Kevin Skinner – $1 Million
Kevin Skinner, hailing from McCracken County, Kentucky, was the season four winner of America’s Got Talent. His father was a musician and Skinner himself first picked up a guitar at 12 years old. From the time he first picked up that musical instrument, Skinner began singing and writing songs. He garnered national attention after performing the Garth Brooks song “If Tomorrow Never Comes” at a live audition for America’s Got Talent. From that moment, the judges and audiences around the country began to pay attention to Skinner. After he received his $1 million prize, he performed his headlining show in Las Vegas and went on tour. On Saint Patrick’s Day of 2010, he released his debut CD, “Long Ride”. Unfortunately, his album didn’t make the Billboard 200. He’s still got a dedicated fan base, but this is one America’s Got Talent star who didn’t quite manage to build on his capital from the show.
3. Jackie Evancho – $2.5 Million
At the young age of ten, Jackie Evancho captured the souls of audiences with her melodic soprano singing voice. With such a rich talent at such a young age, it was no surprise that she blasted through the competition. Prior to her time on America’s Got Talent, Evancho had already caught the attention of famous producer David Foster and sang in his “David Foster and Friends” concert in Newark, New Jersey. But most people will still only recognize Jackie from the fifth season of America’s Got Talent in 2009. She had previously auditioned for the show twice, but had been unsuccessful. It was only after she grabbed first place in America’s Got Talent YouTube competition that she finally earned herself a spot in the competition. Jackie took second place that year, but found huge success after the show. She toured with America’s Got Talent and signed a lucrative deal with Columbia Records and SYCO music. This certainly won’t be the first or last time that we hear from Miss Evancho, and she most certainly has a promising career ahead of her.
2. Michael Grimm – $3 Million
Michael Grimm is a singer-songwriter and the fifth season winner of America’s Got Talent. He originally auditioned in Los Angeles where he received praise from the entire judging panel. Throughout the competition, he had ups and downs mixed with high praise and criticism from the judges, but the audience eventually picked him as the ultimate winner of the season. After the competition, he took his million-dollar prize in a lump sum payment and headlined the America’s Got Talent tour that included a performance at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, NV. Since 2007, Grimm continues to release new albums almost annually and makes television appearances and headlines tours all over the country. Grimm has certainly become one of America’s Got Talents’ most successful contestants with a promising career that looks set to last.
1. Terry Fator – $100 Million
Terry Fator has seen huge success since his victory in season two of America’s Got Talent. Fator became famed and loved by the American public for his talents as a comedian and ventriloquist. Believe it or not, before auditioning for the show Fator had become disillusioned and had considered hanging up his hat – or should we say puppets? He considered himself extremely lucky to get a place on the show, and has said that never in his wildest dreams did he consider the possibility that he could win the show. Win it he did, and Fator was then inundated with bookings for performances in front of celebrities and large audiences. This eventually led him to sign a $1.5 million contract with the Las Vegas Hilton, and then a huge $100 million contract with The Mirage. He continues to book gigs with his puppets and has since crossed over into voiceover work. He recently graced the America’s Got Talent Stage again in 2013 during the Top 12 results show.
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