PHOTOS: America's Got Talent Winner Grace VanderWaal on Her Childhood – and Plans for the Future
A STAR IS BORN
Last week, 12-year-old Grace VanderWaal became the second female act to win America's Got Talent in 11 seasons. "It feels amazing," she tells PEOPLE. "It has been really crazy and really hectic [since then], but it's all been super-duper positive. I get recognized a lot and it feels amazing every single time!"
TAKING THE STAGE
VanderWaal (with judge Howie Mandel, one of her champions, after her big win) says singing in front of the celebrity judges was "nerve-wracking" – but not quite scary enough to stop her. "The adrenaline rush from being on stage and singing is just really amazing," she says.
NO PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT?
Though she's never worked with a vocal coach, VanderWaal (at age 7) says she "always sang, all my life.” That being said, don't expect her to follow a strict practice schedule: "I try to never think of music as homework – I don't want to force songs out," she says.
"I always made up silly songs when I was little," says VanderWaal (at age 3), who also plays the piano, saxophone and taught herself the ukulele just last year. "So it's always been there – I just never did anything with it. But when I got the ukulele, I tried writing a little tune, and my songs kept getting better!"
"Sometimes it's something I've been thinking about for a really long time and I just wanted to get on paper," says VanderWaal (at age 4) of the inspiration behind her lyrics. "Sometimes it's something I didn't even know I was stressing about. And a lot of my songs are based on movies – their characters have such interesting lives that we all want."
CONQUERING HER FEARS
Despite her unmistakable talent, VanderWaal (bottom right, at age 2 with family) wasn't always as confident. "My parents always wanted me to try out for the solos in the school concerts, but the few times I actually did I never got it," she admits. "I had a lot of times where I was like: 'Am I really a good singer? Or am I that one girl who thinks she's good and she's not?' "
But at the end of the day, sudden stardom doesn't mean VanderWaal (at age 2 with family) can't enjoy the same things she did back home in Suffern, New York. "I like to read. I like to hang out with my sister. I like to ride my bike a lot," she says of her life off the stage. "That's really about it!"
Now VanderWaal, who just signed a record contract with Sony Music's Columbia Records, is considering homeschooling with parents David and Tina to pursue her singing career. "We're still deciding," she says. "If this does go somewhere I know I'm going to travel a lot and I couldn't balance a real school with that – but we're still thinking about it."