AGT Crowns a Champion! Magician Dustin Tavella Wins Season 16
Dustin Tavella is the season 16 winner of America's Got Talent!
After weeks of competition, the magician, 35, was named the champion and took home the $1 million prize as well as a headlining show at Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The Virginia native, known for his storytelling abilities, continued to impress the judges and audiences throughout each round with his interactive performances. His audition touched the hearts of many when he spoke about his dedication to being a family man to their adopted sons Xander and Sylas.
"It was crazy," Tavella tells PEOPLE right after his victory.
As for what went through his mind before host Terry Crews announced his name, Tavella says he would've been happy for the winner if it wasn't him. "I think we all agreed beforehand, like none of us mind losing to each other. There's a ton of amazing acts on the stage," he shares.
"The whole time, it's like, 'Man, it's an honor to be here. It's an honor to be here. It's amazing that we made it this far.' I think at the last moment, when there are two of us left, it's this idea of 'I could win or not win, and I'm excited for who does win.' But obviously, you hope that it could be you," the father of two says. "I feel like in that moment, it's every emotion you could possibly feel."
He defeated fellow top 5 finalists including runner-up, aerialist Aidan Bryant, third-place finisher, comedian Josh Blue, singer Brooke Simpson and quick change artist Lea Kyle (judge Heidi Klum's Golden Buzzer winner). The remaining finalists included Jimmie Herrod (judge Sofia Vergara's Golden Buzzer winner), singer Victory Brinker (all-cast Golden Buzzer winner), comedian Gina Brillon, World Taekwondo Demonstration Team (host Terry Crews' Golden Buzzer winner) and Northwell Health Nurse Choir (judge Howie Mandel's Golden Buzzer winner).
After the show, Klum tells PEOPLE that the season 16 win will be "amazing" for Tavella and his family's future as they move from Virginia Beach now that their lease is up. "He adopted two young boys and he has a wife. So for his little family, this is fantastic. I'm super happy for him," the Making the Cut star says.
"I'm very happy, I would have been happy for any of these people that you saw on that stage because they're fantastic. You kind of fall in love with them after we've seen them, and you get to know them more and more. They all deserve that. But, you know, Justin got the most votes, so I'm super happy for him," Klum adds.
"Him winning AGT and getting to do the residency at Luxor Las Vegas is perfect because you're talking about an act, which has magic because magicians do so so well on the strip," host Crews tells PEOPLE. "But also for his family. That was what I think is what Vegas needs: more family. The fact that you can bring your little kids all the way up to your grandparents and come to a Vegas show and have the greatest time ever, with Dustin Tavella. Everyone knows him and they watched him rise through the ranks, you get to be a part of his wonderful story. That's what I love. He is just getting started, and now all these families are going to be able to be a part of it too. It's so beautiful."
During the results show, Herrod and the Northwell Health Nurse Choir sang "Defying Gravity" with special guest, Cinderella star Idina Menzel, who also made a second performance later in the final episode with her original song "Dream Girl."
Then, Bryant performed aerials and the World Taekwondo Demonstration Team showcased their martial arts alongside gymnasts Jordan Chiles and MyKayla Skinner, both of whom won silver medals at the Tokyo Olympics.
In another memorable performance, Simpson was joined by guest star Bishop Briggs to sing Briggs' hit "White Flag," which Simpson chose for her finals song the night before.
Next, comic Brillon held a set with George Lopez, whom she calls "the reason why I started standup comedy," and even cut his hair on stage.
Magician Tavella teamed up with AGT's season 9 winner Mat Franco and Modern Family alum Rico Rodriguez, who had a surprise reunion with Vergara, for a one-of-a-kind show involving teddy bears. (Franco was the first magician to win AGT.)
In pre-taped videos, Kyle helped Klum pick a finale dress with her quick change skills while comic Blue got advice from Mandel as well as AGT alums Taylor Williamson, Kenichi Ebina, Preacher Lawson, Tom Cotter and Piff the Magic Dragon.
Lastly, Brinker performed Andrea Bocelli's "The Prayer" with Pentatonix.
Explaining his excitement about returning to judge a variety of acts after being out last season due to a back injury, judge and executive producer Simon Cowell told PEOPLE that he's continually in awe of the "incredible stories" about pushing through adversity.
"I was expecting a lot of people to be very down for obvious reasons. But it was the opposite," Cowell said, referencing the ongoing COVID pandemic. "It was like, 'No, we've come through the pandemic and this is really given us something to look forward to.' As always, on these shows, you've had these incredible stories."