From winning America's Got Talent in 2016 to starring in her first film for Disney+, here's everything to know about Grace VanderWaal

By Alexia Fernandez
March 24, 2020 10:20 PM
Julien Hekimian/Getty Images

Disney+’s latest star Grace VanderWaal is making her acting debut in the streamer’s new film Stargirl.

VanderWaal, who gained widespread fame at the age of 12 when she won the 11th season of America’s Got Talent, plays Stargirl Caraway, a free-spirited new student who captures the attention of a lonely boy (Graham Verchere).

The film is based on the young adult novel of the same name written by Jerry Spinelli. It’s VanderWaal’s first foray into acting, although she’s had time to familiarize herself with fame and Hollywood circles for years as a singer.

Here’s everything to know about the up-and-coming actress.

1. She Rose to Fame on America’s Got Talent

VanderWaal began her musical career by posting videos of her original songs on YouTube. She would also share videos of herself singing covers and perform at open mic nights near her home in Suffern, New York.

In 2016, she won the 11th season of America’s Got Talent when she was just 12 years old, singing her original songs and growing her fanbase.

A few months later, she released her first EP, Perfectly Imperfect, and a full-length album the following year titled Just the Beginning.

While on AGT, VanderWaal met Stevie Nicks. During the finale, VanderWaal introduced Nicks, who performed “Landslide.”

When asked by host Nick Cannon if Nicks had any advice for the young protegé, the Fleetwood Mac singer said, “I have to say, she reminds me a lot of me, and in a lot of ways we sing very similar.”

Nicks added, “She’s got it, she’s got that. Whatever happens, Grace is going to the top.”

RELATED: Grace VanderWaal Says She Has to ‘Fight for a Later Curfew’ Like Any Other Teen Her Age

2. VanderWaal Has Been on Tour with Some of the World’s Biggest Bands

The young singer’s career quickly took off after her AGT win. VanderWaal toured with Imagine Dragons in 2018 in their Evolve World Tour.

In 2019, she joined Florence and the Machine on tour as their opener. She won the Radio Disney Music Award for Best New Artist in 2017 and became the youngest person to be named on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Music List in 2018.

3. VanderWaal Was Considered for the Role of Stargirl Early on

The singer opened up about her role of Stargirl to PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly while at Disney’s D23 Expo in August 2019, where she revealed she had been considered for the role years ago.

Grace Vanderwaal in Disney+’s Stargirl
Disney+

“I read Stargirl when I was 12 on America’s Got Talent,” she said. “Someone sent it to me and thought I’d be good for the role because they knew that a movie was being made. I was not ready for the role yet and I don’t even think they were ready for casting.”

“Years later, it got back to me again and I just sent in a video, I talked to Julia Hart the director and then I met Graham [Verchere, her costar who plays Leo Borlock] and we made the movie,” she said.

She continued, “I think I started to fall in love with the story as we were making the film. What surprised me the most about being on a set and making a movie was how fun it was. I was expecting it to be hard work, and it definitely was, but the cast was so incredible, I made so many friends and had so much fun.”

VanderWaal added her favorite scene to film included a particular rain scene.

“I was so, so happy about that and it fulfilled my childhood dream,” she said. “I grew up with High School Musical and so when Gabriella and Troy ran through the sprinklers in the summer version of it, that just stuck in my brain. I felt like I was living that out.”

4. The Star Beat Out 700 Other Girls for the Part

VanderWaal had plenty of competition when it came to the leading role for the Disney+ film. She beat out 700 actresses.

“I knew she was Stargirl almost immediately,” Hart told Deadline in June 2018. “The world knows what a talented performer she is, and I cannot wait for everyone to see just how many sides there are to this special and magical young woman.”

At the time the news broke, VanderWaal was on tour with Imagine Dragons.

Stargirl is now streaming on Disney+.

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