"Backstory or no backstory, this person is absolutely incredible," Heidi Klum tells PEOPLE about her season 15 Golden Buzzer winner

By Karen Mizoguchi
June 09, 2020 10:00 PM
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Credit: Trae Patton/NBC (2)

Heidi Klum is back to push a Golden Buzzer for a deserving act on America's Got Talent.

During Tuesday's episode, the model, 47, gave her season 15 honor to Christina Rae, a single mom from Nashville. Rae works as a body sculptor by day and hopes to win the $1 million prize to provide for her young son Jeremiah.

Rae, who once sang backup for country star Trace Adkins, began her audition by performing a cover of Phil Collins' hit "In the Air Tonight." However, despite getting a standing ovation from the crowd, judge Simon Cowell asked her to sing again, this time with her secondary song choice.

And with another chance, Rae blew everyone away with a soulful rendition of "Gimme Shelter" by The Rolling Stones, which landed her the golden confetti.

Klum tells PEOPLE that not only did Rae's vocal talents earn her the Golden Buzzer, but her life story tugged at the mother of four's heartstrings. "She told us a story about her living in this car, literally living in this car with her little boy. All she wants is a home for her boy. When she told us this story, already I'm like, I can't even believe this," she says.

Before belting out her two songs, Rae told judges Klum, Cowell, Sofia Vergara and Howie Mandel about her past struggles. "As you can see, I'm a single mom. I was living in my vehicle while pregnant ... before I gave birth to my son," she said. "This will change my life by putting us in a home -- my own home. Not just in family situations, and I want him to have his own room. I want us to live in our own home, not a house."

Rae also told host Terry Crews, "It's gonna change my life and my son's life. He's the reason I'm here," later telling the judges, "I need this to change my life."

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Recalling Rae's golden audition, Klum tells PEOPLE, "There are some people with stories of their lives, and all you wish for at that moment is, 'Okay, she's a singer. Once she opens her mouth, please let it be good.' That's all you hope then."

"And then this woman started. After she told us her story, she is opening her mouth and she's singing and I'm like, 'Wow.' Backstory or no backstory, this person is absolutely incredible," the Making the Cut co-host shares.

"It makes you feel good that I can help her bypass the middle round, that I can help her go straight to the live shows to be seen by America and then hopefully voted for by everyone in America," Klum says. "I feel like I've done my part in pushing a person forward to hopefully get that million dollars."

Rae does move straight to the live shows, but production for the forthcoming semi-final stage of the reality competition remains in limbo due to the coronavirus pandemic shutting down filming in March.

"Our producers, they're working right now to determine what the best route is and what the next route is, especially for the live shows. We're all just waiting to see what they are asking us to do. I guess they have to also follow protocol. There are new laws and different things coming out every day," says Klum, who fell ill on the Pasadena, California, set of AGT in early spring and later tested negative for the coronavirus.

On June 5, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that music, film and television productions can possibly resume "no sooner than June 12," according to the California Department of Public Health.

"The ideas that they have right now will most likely change a few more times until we start the live shows. So, they're on top of it," Klum says of the show's producers. "They want to make it as exciting as they possibly can for people at home watching this, of course, but at the same time they have to do what is the right thing to do and for everyone to stay safe. So, in whatever that will be, I'm sure they're working hard on achieving that."

The live shows, which are typically taped at The Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, were originally scheduled to be broadcast in late summer.

"At the end of the day, we're all entertainers. We want to entertain people and we want to put smiles on people's faces, but now we're just waiting to see how we can do that. We all want to do that," Klum says. "We know that it's an important time right now for people to laugh and drift off from being in their walls at home right now. And especially in some places like in [L.A.], we can't really, we're not allowed to do a lot of things yet. So yeah, you want to participate in making people laugh at home."

Rae joins fellow season 15 contestants Voices of Our City Choir (Crews' choice) and 10-year-old singer Roberta Battaglia (Vergara's choice) in the Golden Buzzer club.

America's Got Talent airs Tuesdays (at 8 p.m. ET) on NBC.