With just a few hours to go until tonight’s “America’s Got Talent” semifinal eliminations, Andrew De Leon is pretty calm.
“I’m not nervous about the judge’s decision about whether I’m going to stay or go,” says the Austin, Texas native. “I’m usually more nervous when it’s my turn to go up and sing. At this point, I did my best and whatever happens, happens.”
On Tuesday’s episode of the hit singing competition, De Leon started the show with an impressive performance of “Ave Maria.” The classic hymn may not be a pop single, but De Leon says the piece felt right – an apt reflection of his taste and passion for operatic music.
“It’s really an iconic piece and that’s why I selected it,” explains the teen, who will celebrate his 20th birthday this Friday. “In my first live show, I performed a Spanish song that was beautiful, but operatically didn’t do what I wanted it to. This time, I wanted to go back to what I love with classical and I thought it was a perfect song selection.”
With a total of 24 acts competing this week’s semifinals, De Leon feels good about the criticism he received on last night’s show. After ecstatic applause from the audience, Howie Mandel brought up De Leon’s lack of formal training, while judge Sharon Osbourne said the gothic operatic singer needs to lose his look in order to be taken seriously.
“All in all, I thought it was good, constructive criticism even though none of the criticism was directed towards the song,” says De Leon.
As for Osbourne’s dig about his unique appearance, De Leon says “It didn’t strike a nerve and I don’t think she meant to bash me. But you know, this is who I am and I can’t change – I’ve been this way for a long time.”
De Leon – who says he’s worn his unique, iris-altering contact lenses since high school – says he feels comfortable in his skin and doesn’t intend to change his goth look any time soon. Being the middle sibling (he has an older brother and younger sister), he says, gave him the freedom to act differently and play against type.
“And my parents have always been supported of anything I wanted to do,” says De Leon. “They always knew I was a bit different, bizarre, that weird kid. But that was always ok.”
De Leon hopes that he can inspire other kids that are “different,” explaining that the secret to his self-confidence is fairly simple.
“Kids need realize bullies were probably bullied themselves. They’re really insecure, looking for attention and a reaction,” De Leon reasons. “We shouldn’t fear bullies – we should pity them and feel bad for them.”
And that open-minded mentality extends to his choice of music, says De Leon.
“Within classical music, there are genres that sound more happy, music that sounds tragic and other music that sounds angry – there’s all type of expression with classical music,” says De Leon. “Classical music isn’t for everybody, so if you like it great, and if not, I’m not going to give you my time.”
As for his hopes beyond season of 7 of “America’s Got Talent,” De Leon is ambitious. He wants to receive classical music training and perhaps take his favorite type of music in a different direction.
“I love this type of music,” says De Leon. “Maybe I’ll be hated for it, but it is what it is.” Even so, De Leon knows that fans across America are cheering him on in their living rooms.
“I’m still in awe as to how many people enjoy my singing. I’m thankful they’re tuning in and supporting me.”