Vanderwaal revealed on Thursday that she first fell in love with the unique instrument when a family friend from Brazil visited.
“She played the ukulele and so I wanted one because she played one and I really liked it,” the preteen explained on Access Hollywood Live . “Her hand looked so cool when she played it. And so I asked one for my 11th birthday and I remember my mom did not buy me one because she thought I would never play it!”
Instead, Vanderwaal saved up all of her birthday money to purchase her own. And the new instrument only furthered Vanderwaal’s songwriting.
“In the beginning, it’s really hard to find,” she said of crafting a tune. “Usually it starts with a completely different meaning, and then by the end it’s totally different. It was in you and you didn’t even know it, but it was there. And so when you start doing a few words then it starts to just kind of spill out.”
And Vanderwaal’s talent for original music hasn’t gone unnoticed by those outside of the AGT world.
“I want to meet Katy Perry so much,” said Vanderwaal.
Vanderwaal took home the $1 million prize on Wednesday night, besting the Clairvoyants to win a special headlining show in Vegas, set for Oct. 27–29.
Until then, Vanderwaal said she’ll return to just being a regular tween.
“My true friends, it’s great because they don’t really care – it’s just kind of after the episode,” she said. “It’s like: ‘You did great’ and then it’s back to: ‘You want to go get some fries?’ “