Entertainment TV From Magicians and Singers to a Pole Dancer! Meet the Season 17 Finalists of 'America's Got Talent' Ahead of the two-night finale for season 17 of America's Got Talent, PEOPLE has an exclusive look of the photo shoot featuring all 11 finalists By Joelle Goldstein Joelle Goldstein Instagram Twitter Joelle Goldstein is the Staff Editor of TV for PEOPLE Digital. She has been with the brand for five years, beginning her time as a digital news writer, where she covered everything from entertainment news to crime stories and royal tours. Since then, she has worked as a writer-reporter on the Human Interest team and an associate editor on the TV team. In her current role, Joelle helps oversee all things TV, and enjoys being able to say she has to watch The Kardashians, America's Got Talent, Love Is Blind and Dancing with the Stars for her "work" responsibilities. Prior to joining PEOPLE, Joelle was employed at The Hollywood Reporter, where she was co-nominated at the 2019 GLAAD Media Awards for Outstanding Magazine Article for feature cover story. She graduated from Ithaca College with a Bachelor's degree in Television-Radio (and an appearance in the NCAA Women's Volleyball Final Four!) People Editorial Guidelines Published on September 13, 2022 11:00AM EDT Share Tweet Pin Email Trending Videos The Mayyas. Photo: Joe Schmelzer 01 of 11 The Mayyas The Mayyas. Joe Schmelzer The Lebanese female dance troupe first caught America's attention during their show-stopping audition, which prompted judge Sofía Vergara to press her Golden Buzzer. During the live shows, the group delivered another hypnotizing dance routine that fellow judge and executive producer Simon Cowell predicted would "change the world." Of the positive reception thus far, the group's founder, Nadim Cherfan, told PEOPLE: "[It's] absolutely unbelievable. We need to swallow. We couldn't swallow these feelings, yet hearing these comments from these judges gave us a really huge boost of confidence." 02 of 11 Nicolas Ribs Nicolas Ribs. Joe Schmelzer Magician Nicolas Ribs has mesmerized the judges and audiences since his very first audition. In his debut performance, Ribs delivered an unbelievable digital magic act, in which two-dimensional objects became three-dimensional through the use of a screen. The following round, the French magician stunned audiences with more digital magic — this time using a screen and a deck of cards, one of which was signed by host Terry Crews. "He did magic in a way we've never seen before," judge Howie Mandel told PEOPLE. "The use of animation, projection, shadows, music and sleight of hand, all put into one to create an imagery like we've never seen before and kind of tell a story in just making cards appear, was just beautiful." Added Ribs, "I'm so happy, so excited to share my magic with everyone. It's amazing." 03 of 11 Sara James Sara James. Joe Schmelzer As Simon Cowell's Golden Buzzer-winning act, 14-year-old singer Sara James wowed the crowd during her audition with a rendition of Billie Eilish's "Lovely." James, who is from Poland, then took things to the next level during her live show performance, singing a moody, slower version of the beloved Elton John classic "Rocket Man." All the way, Cowell has championed the teen singer, declaring her live show performance as "the best closure of the show we've had all season." For James, the positive feedback has been surreal. "It's crazy, it's mad," she told PEOPLE. "I'm just a teenager from Poland, I don't even know what I'm doing here, do you know what I mean? Thank you so much to all the judges. I'm so grateful." 04 of 11 Metaphysic Metaphysic. Joe Schmelzer The artificial intelligence (AI) group brought immense joy to the crowd on their audition when they used their AI technology to transform former AGT contestant Daniel Emmet into judge Simon Cowell as he sang "You're the Inspiration." For their live show performance, not only was Cowell featured on the screen — so were fellow judge Howie Mandel and host Terry Crews as the "trio" sang the opera classic "Nessun Dorma." The praise has been high for the group, including Cowell himself, who called them "the best act of the series so far." 05 of 11 Avery Dixon Avery Dixon. Joe Schmelzer As the first Golden Buzzer of the season, Avery Dixon wowed the judges and audience with his upbeat saxophone performance. After Terry Crews pressed his Golden Buzzer for the 21-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, Dixon headed into the live shows with a new confidence, performing a rousing rendition of the Stevie Wonder classic "Higher Ground." The act led Simon Cowell to declare the "same thing he said to Carrie Underwood" when she won the fourth season of American Idol in 2005: "You're going to be a superstar." "To hear those words from Simon, it's unreal," Dixon told PEOPLE afterward. "It's like, did he really just say that to me? ... I'm still just really floating on air right now." Added Crews, "I sat right there on the side, giving him all the props, but he didn't need it. He won the whole crowd over. To watch this man gain the confidence that he has, he's a completely different performer." 06 of 11 Chapel Hart Joe Schmelzer Chapel Hart — a.k.a. sisters Danica and Devynn Hart and their cousin Trea Swindle — took the world by storm when they performed original song "You Can Have Him Jolene" at their audition, and later earned the judges' group Golden Buzzer. The song, which is a modern take on Dolly Parton's chart-topping 1974 classic "Jolene," quickly went viral — catching the attention of country music legends like Loretta Lynn, Darius Rucker and even Parton herself. "We've been fighting to be seen for so long," Danica told PEOPLE. "To have the queen of country music, the pinnacle of country music, say, 'I see you, I love what you're doing, I love the song,' that was more than enough." At the live shows, Chapel Hart performed "The Girls Are Back in Town," another original tune that was equally as memorable and well-received. "The fact that we stepped out from the first time and sang songs that came from our hearts, things that we actually put to paper and to see being received that way, it's like, 'Maybe we're not crazy,'" Trea said. "It's the ultimate validation and those words that we have been waiting years to hear. And we didn't hear it from just the judges, we didn't hear it from just the audience, we heard it from the entire world." 07 of 11 Kristy Sellars Kristy Sellars. Joe Schmelzer As the only pole dancer to compete on season 17, Kristy Sellars has quickly made a name for herself on AGT. In both of her show-stopping performances, which featured Sellars pole dancing to a vivid animation show behind her, the Australian performer has received standing ovations from both the judges and crowd. "I couldn't have asked for a better reaction," Sellars, 36, told PEOPLE of the back-to-back positive responses. "My family and I have talked about [moving to the U.S.] so I really would love to create something for Vegas and ... make that happen," she adds. "It's a pretty incredible opportunity, so fingers crossed." 08 of 11 Yu Hojin Yu Hojin. Joe Schmelzer Hojin, a 29-year-old magician from South Korea, has stunned crowds with his illusionist talents since the first day he took the AGT stage. Though Simon Cowell initially gave him a no for his feather illusion audition, Hojin made it through to the live rounds, when he used Cowell's rejection as inspiration to deliver an even more mesmerizing act. Following the impressive magic act, Cowell apologized for his initial response and declared himself "an idiot." "I was very happy and it actually helped me because first audition when he said no, actually it hurt me a lot because I thought everybody would love my act," Hojin told PEOPLE. "But only Simon didn't like it, and I was thinking, 'Why?' And I decided, 'Okay, next round, I'm gonna make Simon happy with my magic.'" He added, "I love magic, and I want to people know my story with my magic." 09 of 11 Mike E. Winfield Mike Winfield. Joe Schmelzer Since his first audition, the Baltimore comedian has been making audiences roar with laughter, particularly for his jokes about his "step-man." But it was his live show performance that really stood out, leading judge Howie Mandel to invite the season 17 semifinalist to open for him at an upcoming comedy show. "I was [like], 'That really just happened?'" Winfield recalled to PEOPLE. "That would be amazing!" Added Mandel, "I think he's unique. I think he's a star in himself. I love everything he's talking about. I like the way he dresses and his glasses and the way he looks. I liked everything about him. I think the kid is a star. I thought that was the best performance of the night." 10 of 11 Drake Milligan Drake Milligan. Joe Schmelzer The country singer became an instant hit after performing his original song, "Sounds Like Something I'd Do" at his AGT audition. The song later hit No. 1 on the iTunes Country chart — but that didn't stop Milligan, 24, from returning to the series in pursue of the AGT title, which Simon Cowell said earned him his "absolute respect." For his live show performance, Milligan performed another original, titled "Kiss Goodbye All Night" and later spoke to PEOPLE about the "life-changing" support from fans and viewers. "It's everything I've dreamed of as a songwriter and as a singer, to have people listening to my songs and coming to shows and singing along my songs," he said. "And AGT has done that for me. They really, really changed my life forever." 11 of 11 Celia Muñoz Joe Schmelzer Celia Muñoz impressed the judges and audiences from the get-go with her singing ventriloquist act, but she was sadly eliminated from the competition after her Aug. 23 live show performance. However, that wasn't the end of Muñoz, 36, as she was later chosen by judge Sofía Vergara, and America, to return to the competition via the AGT Save on Sept. 7. "I was flattered, I [was] amazed like, Really, is this happening?" the Spanish-born ventriloquist previously told PEOPLE. "But [I'm] very happy and very, very thankful." Following news of her return, Muñoz wrote on Instagram: "I can't wait to perform again!! Thanks @agt !!! Thank you everybody for this second chance."