AGT's Season 16 Winner Dustin Tavella Reveals What He Will Do with His $1 Million Prize
Dustin Tavella's life will never be the same after winning season 16 of America's Got Talent, but the magician from Virginia wants to stay grounded and continue helping others after winning the $1 million prize, a headlining show in Las Vegas and a new car.
Audiences watched Tavella, 35, share personal memories from his life experiences through his storytelling abilities and magic talents, including adopting two sons, his parents' relationship and his passion for giving back.
While he's still processing his AGT victory, Tavella tells PEOPLE that the new money he's acquired will be used to help others. (AGT explains in its disclaimer that "$1,000,000 is payable in a financial annuity over 40 years, or the contestant may choose to receive the present cash value of such annuity" before taxes.)
"It's weird — it is the part I've been the least excited about, just because the idea of having a platform to share our stories and connect with people is just amazing," he says of the cash prize.
"The reason I am really excited about the money is because [my wife] Kari and I, we've gone through some really hard times financially," he continues. "We used to run a homeless ministry. We've just always poured all of our resources and everything that we've had out to people. And because of that, we've had people pouring into us. There were literally months that we were like, 'How are we going to pay rent?' and there would be people that would just show up and say, 'Hey, we want to bless you guys with this. We love what you guys are doing. We want you guys to keep going, we don't want you guys to have to stop doing what you're doing. What you're doing matters.' So we've had people who have seen us and seen our dreams and passions and invested in that."
The father of two adds, "What we are excited about with this money is now we get to be that for other people. People in our lives that we want to support. We want to help them pay rent and we want to help them continue to develop the things that they're passionate about. I'm just excited now to be on the other side of that and to be able to know that we're the ones that are going to be able to now help do for people what other people have done for us."
Of course, Tavella also will treat his two boys, Xander and Sylas, with the prize.
"Definitely we're going to get the kids four-wheelers and fun things like that. I'm probably going to get in trouble for getting them stuff that maybe they're too young for at the moment. But we have money! Let's just get on dirt bikes," he says.
"It's really cute because through all this, every time I've come back from shooting or rehearsing, they're like, 'Daddy work?' I'm like, 'Yep, Daddy working.' And then they're like, 'Daddy win!'" he continues. "They've been my greatest cheerleaders through all of this. Their favorite thing to chant is 'Daddy win, Daddy win!' It's funny, because as much as I loved winning America's Got Talent, every time they do that, I don't think anything really feels better than that."
Tavella became known as the selfless magician throughout season 16 with his hopes of inspiring others to give back and help those in need. That message will remain front and center in his Las Vegas show, and any other future projects.
"We just want to be able to keep performing and doing the things that we love. In the beginning, it's just going to be amazing," he says. "We just want to be performing as much as we can. But you know, eventually, I think [the focus will be on] spreading stuff out and investing in other people's dreams."
"When I was young, I actually was pursuing a music career first. I would love to find other young people with great hearts and mentor them," he continues. "I don't know, maybe that looks like building some magic studio, recording studio or something where people can kind of just be creative, and also get mentored at the same time."
Tavella reiterates how blessed he feels after others have helped him get to where he is today.
"The only reason we are where we're at, the only reason we get to do what we do is because we've had other people who have invested into us, and have continued to inspire and empower us to continue to do the things that we love," he says. "This is what I want to do for other people in whatever way I can, just to remind people that they have the ability to make a difference."
"For a long time in my life, I think I just made excuses. Like, I will wait until I have enough followers or enough success or enough money. But I think ... we can impact lives even with nothing. We can give ourselves to people and that's really what makes the biggest difference in the world."
As for what to expect in his first-ever headlining Vegas show, the magician hopes to tell more personal stories.
"The whole point of the show is not, 'Look how cool I am,'" he explains. "I don't want people to feel like they're coming into something and it just becomes so preachy that people are like, 'Alright, if I wanted to go to church, I would have done that on Sunday.' I want people to feel like they're being entertained. They're at a magic show, but they leave feeling empowered to actually do something. Maybe to be inspired in a way that they haven't been inspired before, in a creative way where they're able to hear stories and see illustrations."
He adds, "David Copperfield is one of my greatest role models in magic simply because he is such a storyteller, and he makes things really personal. The way he does his magic is incredible. I'm definitely going to be wanting to take pieces of learning from him and seeing what he does. I'm excited to figure out what this looks like. But definitely, definitely want to keep on telling stories and hopefully, people can leave feeling entertained and feel really good about themselves."
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