"It was the best experience of my life," Courtney Hadwin told PEOPLE about her season 13 performances on America's Got Talent

By Karen Mizoguchi
November 29, 2018 10:26 PM
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Courtney Hadwin is the latest fan favorite contestant to return to the America’s Got Talent stage!

Though she failed to land in the top 5 of the NBC reality competition during season 13, the 14-year-old singer from Durham, England, was announced as one of the 50 familiar acts competing in the spin-off show America’s Got Talent: The Champions, according to TV Insider.

News of Hadwin’s casting follows her performances in Las Vegas as part of season 13 winner, magician Shin Lim‘s headlining Vegas series at the Paris Theater at Paris Las Vegas earlier this month. (Lim will also be among those on Champions.)

“It was the best experience of my life,” Hadwin told PEOPLE about her time on the show, in which she won Howie Mandel‘s Golden Buzzer. “I didn’t see myself as a fan favorite at all. I just felt so lucky to be there in the final and to be in the top 10 doesn’t really feel like losing to me. … I was able to be myself all the way through.”

The teen added, “It was never about winning for me. I just love to perform, and that’s it really.”

Courtney Hadwin
Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

During her run, Hadwin, who previously made the top 10 on The Voice U.K., belted out Tina Turner’s 1988 classic “River Deep – Mountain High,” Steppenwolf’s 1969 hit “Born to Be Wild,” James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” and Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle.”

Joining Hadwin and Lim for Champions are season 11 finalist, singer Sal Valentinetti and season 12 finalist, comedian Preacher Lawson as well as sword swallowing act Alex Magala and opera rock singer Christina Ramos, both of whom were named Spain’s Got Talent 2016 winner.

PEOPLE exclusively announced the first slate of Champions contestants, including Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts as well as contortionist Sofie Dossi, who will once again go head-to-head with fellow season 11 competitors and knife throwers, the Deadly Games.

Sal Valentinetti
Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty
Preacher Lawson
Justin Lubin/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty
Alex Magala
Virginia Sherwood/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

The new spin-off will feature the star-studded judges’ panel of Mandel, Simon Cowell, Mel B, Heidi Klum along with Terry Crews as host.

“This is the Olympics of talent,” Cowell said in a promo for the show.

America’s Got Talent: The Champions premieres Jan. 7 on NBC.

Season 14 auditions for America’s Got Talent are currently underway, and interested acts can register at www.AGTAuditions.com.