Hit reality TV show America’s Got Talent is no stranger, unfortunately, to tragedy and sadness. Participants have passed away unexpectedly, stunts have gone wrong and many contestants have spoken about how great losses in their lives inspired them to pursue their dreams. But in 2017 a particularly awful event involving a 13-year-old America’s Got Talent star and her family touched the hearts of everyone who heard about it.
That teenager was Evie Clair, who has been a keen singer and pianist from a very young age. The Florence, Arizona, native first started playing the piano aged just two, in fact, and within just a few years she was performing in theater productions. Then, as she grew older she sang the American national anthem at a Diamondbacks game, won several awards for her voice and officially released a few songs. Her parents, meanwhile, supported her all the way.
In 2017, moreover, Evie auditioned for America’s Got Talent. She made her first appearance on screen in episode four of series 12, with her cover version of Christina Perri’s “Arms” deeply impressing the judges. The audience gave her a standing ovation, too, which was witnessed by her understandably proud parents.
And, as it turned out, all four of the judges – Simon Cowell, Mel B, Howie Mandel and Heidi Klum – voted to send Evie through to the next stage. But it was the story she also told, as much as her singing, that touched them. “About a year ago my dad was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer,” she explained to the judges. “They gave him a five percent chance to live, and he’s still continued working and supporting our family.”
Evie’s father Amos had been a constant reliable presence in her life. He was a big part of many other people’s lives, too: Amos was a teacher for disabled pupils at a high school, for instance, as well as a wrestling coach, a counselor at the Florence prison and a bishop of his church. And along with Evie, he had four other children: Porter, Kirra, Ruth and Blakely.
In fact, Evie’s whole family watched with pride as she advanced through America’s Got Talent. Her next song was “I Try” by Macy Gray, and the skill with which she performed it saw her move on to the quarter-finals. Mel B even cried at the end of the performance. “You just sing with such heart and soul… It makes me think of my dad, he’s not here with me anymore,” she told Evie.
Then for the quarter-finals, Evie sang Birdy’s “Wings” and played an accompaniment on the piano. Her father, however, was missing from the crowds: he had been sent to hospital and watched the whole event from his bed. Indeed, as Evie progressed through the contest, Amos’ condition was slowly getting worse.
Even without her dad cheering her on in person, though, she came out a winner – with another standing ovation, no less – and was put through to the semi-finals. Then, at the next stage, Evie sang the emotional Ella Henderson song “Yours” and was again met with praise from the judges. “Your voice was beautiful… Your tone, your pitch was stunning,” Simon Cowell told her. “And let me tell you, your dad is going to be so proud of you.”
In fact, Evie was subsequently put through to the finals after receiving more online votes than her rivals. But by this point, her mind was on more serious things than the competition. After her semi-finals performance, her mother had approached her backstage and found somewhere private for the two of them to sit. And Evie’s mom had some bad news: Amos’ organs were starting to fail, and he was now on life support.
And, tragically, Amos passed away with his family by his side on September 7, 2017. His loved ones had decided to take him off life support and let him die peacefully. “We gave [the children] each time alone with dad before turning off life-sustaining machines,” Evie’s mother Hillary subsequently wrote on her blog. “The children burst into tears but are now at home laughing at old home movies of daddy and remembering our great love for the most wonderful man any of us have ever known.”
Hillary also mentioned on her blog how helpful and kind the America’s Got Talent team had been. They had all sent flowers for Amos’ funeral, for one, and Simon Cowell had also offered to let Evie leave the show to recover from her loss and return the following year. However, Evie decided that she would continue to perform on the show in honor of her dad.
And for her performance in the finals, Evie sang “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong – her father’s all-time favorite. It was a touching tribute that clearly moved the team of judges. “I know your dad’s up there, looking down on you, and he must be so, so proud,” Mel B said. “Because what you just did was beautiful. It was so pure and so raw.”
Mel B felt a particular connection to Evie, as her own father had died of cancer in March 2017. “When you lose somebody, you don’t really expect to be in the same situation as somebody else when you’re on live TV, and they’re going through the same thing,” she told Entertainment Tonight, a few weeks before Amos passed away.
Then, for the America’s Got Talent season 12 finale and results show, Evie sang a song that she had co-written. It was called “Okay Day,” and the other contributors were her sister, her brother, and British singer James Arthur. “James Arthur’s willingness to sing her song, and the kind way he did it and his genuine concern for her over the loss of her father were astounding,” Hillary wrote on her blog.
In the end, Evie lost the competition to Darci Lynne. But she didn’t really mind that, as she figured that she had already more than done her father proud. Her mother thought so, too. “The America’s Got Talent final show is over and we want to congratulate Darci on her win,” Hillary said on the blog. “The pressure of being the front-runner was enormous for her. I’m glad it wasn’t something Evelyn had to carry right now.”
And Evie didn’t remotely fade from the spotlight once the show was done. On September 25, for instance, she did an interview with 12 News and told them that she’d already done a singing gig once the program wrapped. “It was the day after the show, we got on a plane to New York. So that was really fun,” she said. She also detailed her decision to stay on the show.
At first, Evie explained, her father’s death had affected her so badly that she wasn’t even sure she wanted to return for a second year, let alone continue on the first. However, she then added, “I thought about it a little bit more and we all prayed about it and I just felt like it was the right thing to do.” Evie continued, “My dad always taught me that he didn’t raise a quitter, so I knew I couldn’t quit this and I had to keep going.”
Meanwhile, according to her Instagram, Evie is now taking it easy and spending time with her family. She’s even been to Disneyland with them for a vacation which, by all accounts, she enjoyed very much. But she’s also still happily performing on stage. In October 2017, for example, she appeared alongside Arizona improv group JesterZ and made up songs on the spot based on suggestions from the audience.
She’s also remained good friends with Darci Lynne, the 12-year-old ventriloquist who won America’s Got Talent. “Happy Birthday to the greatest!!! I loved spending time with you and getting to know you. You are such a sweet person and made long days on set 10xs more fun!” she wrote on Instagram for Darci’s birthday.
And while Evie’s mother would end her blog on October 1, her writings about Evie’s time on America’s Got Talent remain heart-rending. It was clear from her messages, moreover, that the show’s staff had been fantastic throughout Evie’s run, with the show’s director even handing over a zip drive that turned out to be a “message to Evelyn from her dad.” And mom Hillary was clearly thankful for their kindness. “It has been a bridge over troubled waters for us,” she wrote, “and I will always be grateful and marvel the magnitude of these blessings.” Her daughter would probably agree.