An "America's Got Talent" contestant who is blind and has autism wowed judges on the show and received a standing ovation from the entire audience. With his mother alongside him, pianist and singer Kodi Lee delivered an inspirational performance for the ages, earning him a trip to the show's final and becoming an overnight sensation.
During the show's broadcast Tuesday night, Lee, 22, emerged on stage with his mom Tina and performed Donny Hathaway's "A Song For You." Some of the judges teared up during his act. Every single person in the audience stood up and clapped for Lee, who left everyone in awe.
Simon Cowell, one the show's judges, considered the performance unforgettable. "What just happened there was really extraordinary. I'm going to remember this moment for the rest of my life."
Before Kodi's star turn, Tina shared her son's origins with music and said he loved it "very early on."
"His eyes just went huge," she said. "He started singing and that's when I was in tears because that's when I realized, 'Oh my gosh, he's an entertainer.'"
She added that music allowed him to excel despite his struggles. "Through music and performing he was able to withstand living in this world because when you're autistic it's really hard to do what everybody else does. It actually has saved his life, playing music."
Gabrielle Union, a new mother herself, praised Tina for doing everything possible for her child.
"I'm a new judge this season and I'm also a new mom this year," Union said. "It's the toughest job I've ever had, it's also the most rewarding job I've ever had. You just want to give your kids, the moon, the stars and the rainbows. Tonight I'm giving you something special."
She then rewarded Kodi Lee with a golden buzzer, her first of the season, which ensures his bid in the show's final round. All four judges, including Howie Mandel and Julianne Hough, hugged Lee.
Union told Kodi, "You just changed the world." She later explained in an "AGT" video Wednesday why she rang for Lee.
"I've been saving my golden buzzer for just this moment," she said. "I wanted an act, I wanted a performer that was going to change the world ... and I believe Kodi was that act."
Kodi's mother said, "Thank you Gabrielle, you just made Kodi's dreams come true."