Billboard Women in Music honored 13-year-old singer-songwriter Grace VanderWaal with the 2017 Rising Star Award on Nov. 30. “America’s Got Talent” judge Heidi Klum presented the award to VanderWaal, whose music career launched following her 2016 AGT win. The “I Don’t Know My Name” songstress became visibly emotional, eventually breaking into tears, as she delivered a very moving acceptance speech, in which she dedicated the award to “everyone who built bridges for me …” while also noting last year was an “unexplainably life-changing year.”
Prior to receiving her award, VanderWaal performed “Moonlight,” the lead single from her critically-acclaimed debut album Just the Beginning. The album was released via Syco Music and Columbia Records last June. A USA Today review drew Florence Welch and Miley Cyrus comparisons in her vocal delivery of “A Better Life.”
As she continued her speech VanderWaal humbly said, “I don’t deserve this at all. But, I know people who do. This award is for my parents. It’s my parents’ award. It’s my fans’ award. It’s everyone at Syco and Columbia Records award and everyone who has worked their butts off for my dream.”
A pan to the audience reveals the young singer’s mother and pop superstar and Billboard Powerhouse Award recipient Kelly Clarkson, both wiping away tears as she spoke. VanderWaal wrapped up her speech saying, “I have no idea this path that I’m on, where it’s gonna take me. All I know is that I’m standing up here, holding this in my hand and this isn’t mine. This is all of theirs.”
“America’s Got Talent” fans won’t soon forget Grace VanderWaal’s stunning original audition. She was then just 11-years-old and she hit the stage with her wide, sweet smile, holding her signature ukulele. She sang a profound original song about struggling to fit in and instantly captured millions of hearts across the country.
Her post-AGT life has been a whirlwind experience filled with radio and TV interviews, singing at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games beside one of her music idols, Jason Mraz, and launching her first live tour. She’s also been busy keeping up with her fans via her social media sites and her enthusiastic posts are infectious.
VanderWaal graciously acknowledged her fellow Billboard Women in Music honorees during her speech, calling them inspiring. Selena Gomez led this year’s amazing group of Billboard Women in Music, as Billboard’s Woman of the Year. Camilla Cabello received the Breakthrough Artist Award and R&B legend Mary J. Blige notably received the Icon Award.
You can watch Grace VanderWaal's emotional acceptance speech above and her stunning "Moonlight" performance below. Stay tuned to AXS for Grace VanderWaal tickets, updates and more.