Although already a star on the internet and in her country of origin, Sara walked onto the stage as a complete stranger to the US audience of “America’s Got Talent” in 2022. Six minutes later, her name was carved into the annals of show business, by none other than the all-time harshest judge on the planet. Just like that, a 13-year old girl from Poland with a non-perfect performance became an absolute sensation.
Simon Cowell began the introductions by asking her name and place of origin, adding that he also has family in Poland, and Howie Mandel said the same. ‘So, we could be related,’ said Simon, and asked her why she applied to participate in the show. Sara responded with ‘You know, when I was little, I was always watching the videos of the show on YouTube, and I was always so amazed by that. And they said that in America everything comes true. The dreams come true, so I check if that’s true.’
The crowd stood up in excitement, and got loud as the message resonated with everyone, while the judges smiled at her. Simon then asked the most shocking question of her audition, ‘I love that. How old are you Sarah?’ Once she said ‘I’m 13,’ Heidi Klum exclaimed ’13?!’ Sofia Vergara couldn’t contain her ‘Oh my god,’ and the audience was just as surprised.
James’ posture, behavior and appearance made her look significantly older. Her hair was a mixture of dreads and very thin braids, with a baggy shirt and pants, as well as a lot of jewelry on her hands. The fact that she had style and knew how to dress, coupled with appropriate and mature demeanor, as well as a deeper-than-average female voice, made everyone think she wasn’t just two years into her teens.
Simon said ‘What?! Okay. I’m guessing you’re a singer, yeah?’ Sara nodded and laughed nervously as Cowell was asking her to explain which song she chose to perform and why. The contestants normally have at least some sort of story connected to the song they bring to the show, and with it usually being emotional, it provides a contribution to the viewing experience, and increases one’s favorability to the judging panel.
Sara, however, didn’t have any such novel to divulge, saying simply ‘I’m gonna sing a Billie Eilish song – “Lovely.” I feel it’s really emotional, and the lyrics are really, you know, full. I hope you’re gonna like it, that everyone’s gonna like it.’ To which Simon said ‘Okay, well, listen, I’ve got a good feeling about you for some reason. Alright Sara. Good luck.’ As she waited for the music to start playing, the judges continued talking about her, with comments such as ’She’s nervous,’ ’13 years old,’ and ‘she’s a baby.’
About 30 seconds into the performance, as soon as she raised her voice, the crowd erupted from their seats, and began clapping and screaming. Everyone was able to tell that the child had talent, and Simon in particular had a satisfied look on his face, though not yet an impressed one. By the time she finished, every judge except Simon was on their feet as well, while Cowell simply stared at the floor and uttered a ‘Wow.’
‘Sara, Sara, Sara, we’ve heard a lot of singers over the years, but wow. There are those moments where, I mean, this wasn’t perfect, however, you have a real star glow about you,’ continued Cowell, asking ‘Is this your first time to America?’ After she said ‘Yeah, that’s true,’ he asserted that ‘It must be such an unbelievable feeling doing this in front of an American audience ‘cause I’m guessing this is probably where you dreamt of performing.’
With another affirmative answer from Sara, Simon explained how he remembers coming to the US more than 20 years ago, saying ‘That was a moment I’ll never forget. And I wanna make this a moment for you to remember forever.’ The audience immediately figured out what he was going to do and began cheering, but Sara herself just kept smiling insecurely not knowing what to expect.
Simon then quietly just stood up and slapped the golden buzzer, sending the entire hall into an ecstatic cheer. Sara covered her face in disbelief, while her mother and Terry Crews were overjoyed on the side. All of the judges stood up, and both she and her parent started crying, hugging each other while Simon joined them on stage for a group embrace. All she could say was ‘Thank you so, so, so much.’ Later, in the immediate backstage interview, she told Terry ‘I’m so grateful and I literally don’t have words. Thank you so much.’
James entered the next stage of the contest with significantly more confidence, as could be felt during her pre-performance interview. She said ‘I live with my mom in a small town in Poland. My dad, he’s from Nigeria, and my mom is Polish, that’s why I’m mixed.’ She additionally stated that it was always her dream to sing in the US, for which “America’s Got Talent” is a very obvious choice.
Such a voice is a real gem! 🤩
Young 🇵🇱 singer Sara James has gained popularity in Poland and now she's conquering the US on the @AGT show!
Good luck in the semi-finals, Sara! ✨pic.twitter.com/d71OoKi6uL
— Poland.pl (@Poland) June 17, 2022
Living in a foreign country, it takes effort and resources to move to another continent just to have your shot on the world’s biggest stage, but fortunately, as Sara explains, her mother is ‘so supportive. She’s always been my number one. I love my mom. At my audition, I was so nervous.’ James briefly recapped the golden buzzer moment, saying ‘It was the best moment of my life. After my audition, the whole of Poland was talking about it.’
She explained how people kept calling and messaging her, adding that even Billie Eilish retweeted the post from the official page of “America’s Got Talent,” which stated ‘Can’t stop thinking about @simoncowell’s LOVELY #GoldenBuzzer moment. You’ve got the star glow, Sara James! #AGT,’ with a link to the video of her golden buzzer performance attached.
There was also doubt gnawing at the young contestant as she reflected upon the show’s recent events, and gave a particular comment on Madison Taylor Baez’s failure to progress through the competition, saying ‘Last week I cannot believe that Maddie went home. She’s also a golden buzzer. I just have to do my best to win, but also, in Poland, we have this saying ‘Nie zapeszać’ – it means don’t say loudly your dreams, because they’re not gonna come true.’
Beginning to face the reality of her situation in a confession of anxiety and hope, Sara said ‘There are only two spots that go into the final. That’s crazy, that’s insane. I just really have to make this performance fire.’ While the finals would have more than two people, Sara was talking about week three of the semifinals, from each one of which only two contestants pass further.
This time, she got onto the stage with her hair tied, with a silver fishnet layer covering her whole body, and a silver shirt and pants with a black belt. The decorations around her fit this style, with white smoke emanating from the floor around her stage spot, which eventually turned into white flame visuals that followed the actual fire burning in a line behind her. Her song of choice this time was “Rocket Man” by Elton John – she passed the round with flying colors.
Not a win, but a victory nonetheless
Sara decided to do something really special for her last performance in the show, after becoming one of the lucky 11 to get that far. She decided on a James-only rendition of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” which came with a smoking stage and a single strip with two bright lines in the middle. The minimalistic setting was accentuated with red and blue lights alternating through the rhythm.
The song was specifically used to showcase the maximum potential of James’ vocal abilities, as it had some very loud moments, particularly near the end, which is quite unlike the original. As she sang her soul out, the lights became increasingly brighter, and the audience louder. As somewhat of a trademark by that point, Sara had her customary load of jewelry all across her fingers and ears. The judges and the audience gave a lengthy standing ovation after Sara finished, switching in mere moments from a serious singing face to the nervous smile of an anxious girl.
In spite of a breathtaking performance that left everyone stunned, Sara failed to qualify for the first four places in the finale. Regardless, her career was only just beginning. While her greatest compliment up to that point came from Simon Cowell, when he called her choice of “Rocket Man” in the semifinals ‘absolutely genius,’ Heidi Klum one-upped him by naming Sara one of the greatest discoveries of “America’s Got Talent.”
So even though she didn’t win the ultimate prize, James ensured that she would be remembered by the world for years to come. With a voice range and performing quality as impressive as hers, it’s logical to assume many great studios would want to work with her in the future, hence Heidi’s comment.
The beginnings of a true superstar
The child star came into the world on 10 June 2008, in Słubice, Poland. She is one of four mixed race children of her Polish mother Arleta Dancewicz and Nigerian father John James. Her siblings are Jakub Dancewicz, John James Junior, and Michelle James.
The talent she showcased in “America’s Got Talent” is apparently inherent, seeing as her father also sang on television – in Poland’s “Bitwa na głosy” (“Clash of the Choirs”). He was at the time a member of the choir named Mezo, but later left it to form the duet called Loui & John, which performed on television in the “Dzień Dobry TVN” (“Good Morning TVN”) show.
She started singing with her family as early as age six, ending up in a Christmas carol festival in Szczecinek, taking home first prize.
At 12-years-old she entered and earned third place in the Polish “World Talent Show,” later that year also winning the Silver Microphone award in the final spectacle of the Lubuski Song Festival Pro Arte.
With her popularity and stage confidence already at a significant level, she was ready for the fourth season of “The Voice Kids” in 2021, a Polish reality and talent TV series focused on underage artists. She blewaway both the competition and the viewers, coming in first place through the votes of the audience.
Her biggest breakthrough prior to “America’s Got Talent” happened in the 28th edition of “Szansa na Sukces” (“Chance of Success”) Polish music talent show, whose winner goes on to represent the entire country at the annual Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Having swept through the competition again, she ended up performing an original single called “Somebody” at the Junior Eurovision on 19 December 2021. Thanks to Sara, her country ranked second in the entire competition with 218 points, just behind Armenia’s winner Maléna with the song “Qami Qami on 224 points.”
Lastly, right before finally going for “America’s Got Talent,” James gave a VIP performance on 19 February 2022, in “Tu bije serce Europy! Wybieramy hit na Eurowizję“ (“Here beats the heart of Europe! We choose the hit for Eurovision”), in which the next representative of the country is chosen for the Eurovision Song Contest from two of that year’s best performers. She added to the show by performing “Somebody,” as well as “Toy” by Netta, who represented Israel on the world stage.
Still steamrolling in the spotlight
Sara moved on with her career stronger than ever right after “America’s Got Talent” ended. Her Instagram featured a post about Spotify giving her a special place on their website. Her single “My Wave” and rendition of “Lovely” are available as Spotify Singles, and there’s more to come. She also enjoys sponsorships by major brands with almost 400,000 followers, having already made a deal with Samsung.
Sara has nine singles out in late 2022, seven of which are in Polish, with the other two being “My Wave” and “Somebody.” She also has an EP entitled “Jak co roku” (“Like Every Year”) from 2021. With her most recent graduation from a first degree music school, where she learned to play the piano, and with nearly a dozen songs already out and about, James is on the way to an illustrious career.