Grace VanderWaal took the world by storm when she won America’s Got Talent in 2016. At only 12 years old, VanderWaal took home the prize. She won a million dollars and a record label deal from Simon Cowell.
She has used her time wisely to pursue a musical career, but she dropped off of most people’s pop culture radar shortly after her victory. Now, she has resurfaced on Instagram and TikTok with a shaved head that some fans think makes her completely unrecognizable.
But what’s behind the new ‘do, and what does it mean for the young star and her future career? We’ve got the full details of Grace VanderWaal’s amazing transformation.
VanderWaal becomes a star
Grace VanderWaal’s rise to fame began with the 11th season of the popular NBC show America’s Got Talent. And she earned immense praise from the show’s hosts all throughout the season.
For example, Simon Cowell dubbed the teenage singer “the next Taylor Swift.” She eventually won, effectively making America’s Got Talent history. At the time of her victory, she was only the second woman to win. And she was also only the second child to take home the victory.
Her prizes (including a cool million dollars and a coveted recording contract from Simon Cowell) were intended to help her launch her career as America’s hottest new musician.
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What did VanderWaal do after winning the big prize? Honestly, a little bit of everything!
In addition to media appearances with figures like Jimmy Fallon and Ellen DeGeneres, she performed in four soldout concerts at the Las Vegas Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino with other AGT alumni.
She also signed a deal with Columbia Records and released her first EP, Perfectly Imperfect, on December 2, 2016. It ended up being the best-selling EP of that year. And she released her first full-length album, Just the Beginning, on November 3, 2017. It sold well (number 22 on the Billboard 200 charts), and her Just the Beginning tour ended up selling out.
VanderWaal released another hit EP, Letters Vol. 1, toward the end of 2019. But all of this fame and success began taking a toll on the young musician’s life and even her mental health!
Shaving her head
VanderWaal started experimenting with her hair, including a flattering pixie cut. But in December 2020, she revealed a shaved head on Instagram. And in a now-deleted video, we got a bit of insight into what drove this dramatic change to her hair.
As Talent Recap reports, VanderWaal posted a video of herself singing with her new bald head. She captioned the video, “I’m sitting in a shower… but I’ve felt a release lately. I feel like I’m finally coping with years of resentment and mental battles.”
She went on, “I feel like I’m ready to better myself and actually help myself. I’m ready to not be angry anymore. And somethings [sic] I’m not ready to forgive and heal. Some things I want to still hurt and be angry at and that’s okay. Something light put it’s [sic] hand on me recently.”
She also wrote, “I can’t explain it but I’ve been filled with hope and motivation to get better and heal my past. I’m so excited for the future for all of us. Every day is a gift of potential progression and new beginnings.”
In another video, she revealed the act of having her head shaved itself, using an electric razor meant for dogs. The video drew inevitable comparisons to Britney Spears, whose spontaneous act of shaving her head in 2007 became a symbol of fame taking its toll on her mind.
And while VanderWaal’s video reveals that she is in a much healthier mental place, it also highlights how a sudden influx of wealth and fame can negatively transform a young person’s life.
If VanderWaal had any doubts about her sudden hairstyle change, these doubts were removed when she made her debut on TikTok. There, she releases short videos set to catchy music (including “This Baby Don’t Cry” by K. Flay) and receives feedback from her fans.
Of course, some thought the shaved head completely changed her iconic look. But the feedback has mostly been positive, with fans praising how well the new look suits her and about how badly they’d like to steal her look.
TikTok has also given VanderWaal a license to get more playful with her hair. For example, before shaving her head, she debuted a bubblegum-pink shade of hair that balances her fierce new look with something fun and flavorful.
Transition to acting
One thing some young stars struggle with is achieving too much success at an early age. For some child stars, it can be difficult to ever return to the initial buzz of those early successes.
That shouldn’t be an issue for VanderWaal, though. After conquering the world of music and the world of social media, she’s set her sights a little higher: on the world of acting!
In March 2020, VanderWaal made her acting debut in Stargirl, which streamed on Disney+. She was already a big fan of the Jerry Spinelli novel, but she wasn’t quite ready to be cast in the movie adaptation!
As Entertainment Weekly reports, the initial script reading was scary. “It’s a very scary movie to me, it’s like a horror movie to me and no one else. It’s probably the scariest movie I’ll ever do in my life.” What made it so scary, though? “It’s more vulnerable than anything I’ve really ever done.”
She ultimately found her courage because she agrees with the message of the movie. As VanderWaal says, “With the growth of social media, there’s the strongest force to conform more than ever, more than ever, ever, ever. All young people feel that.”
Because of that, the movie’s themes resonated with her. “We’re different for a reason and I don’t know why we would change that because that’s such a cool blessing.”
And given her recent shaved look, it doesn’t look like Grace VanderWaal will be conforming anytime soon!