America's Got Talent Season 14 ended with singer Kodi Lee earning the big $1 million prize after winning over the country's hearts with his skills and powerful performances week after week. The 22-year-old singer, who was given the Golden Buzzer by Gabrielle Union during the first episode of the season, also moved fans with his backstory as a blind vocalist with autism.
The singer is a native of Lake Elsinore, California. He was born with optic nerve hypoplasia and diagnosed with autism at the age of 4. Aside from the competition, Lee was also known to perform in venues close to his hometown, which the series let him continue doing early on in the season. Lee's mother, Tina, has been vocal about how music presented a way for Lee to communicate from a young age.
"I realized he's an entertainer. Through music and performing, he was able to withstand living in this world because when you're autistic, it's really hard to do what everybody else does. It actually has saved his life playing music," Tina told the judges at the time.
Kodi shocked audiences and viewers, and left both Union and Julianne Hough in tears, with his cover of Donny Hathaway's "A Song For You."
"What just happened there was extraordinary, I mean really extraordinary. I don't know what it's like to live in Kodi's world. All I can tell is you obviously have an amazing relationship the two of you and your voice is absolutely fantastic," Simon Cowell added at the time. "You have a really beautiful tone. Thank you so much for trusting us on this show. I'm going to remember this moment for the rest of my life."
Ahead of the finale, Tina opened up about how the competition has changed Lee.
"America's Got Talent is amazing. They've given Kodi more opportunities than just performing," Tina told PEOPLE. "They've given him opportunities to grow in his speech and grow in his socialization skills. I am very grateful for them."
"I'm extremely proud," she added. "This is what helps anyone with issues with communication, it helps to be a part of something like this. When they have a skill like he does and to be accepted into this, it helps him grow."0comments
Kodi also told the outlet at the time that if he won, "I will buy lots of grand pianos in every color."
"I think he's just gonna fly after, he's gonna fly with his talents," Tina added about Lee's life after the show. "I know in my heart how talented he is, but still he's my baby. Of course, I think he's the best."
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