Christian Guardino, a Long Island teen who has overcome a tremendous amount of adversity, saw his dreams come true on America’s Got Talent this week after his powerful performance wowed the judges. The 16-year-old’s soulful rendition of the Jackson 5 hit “Who’s Lovin’ You” brought the audience to its feet and prompted judge Howie Mandel to use the show’s coveted “Golden Buzzer,” guaranteeing the teen a spot in the upcoming live shows.
The powerhouse vocalist spent the first 12 years of his life blind due to a rare retinal disease known as Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA). When he was born, doctors told his parents the little sight he had would likely deteriorate over time, forcing him to walk with a cane. As predicted, Guardino did lose all sight and need assistance to walk, but as National Geographic reported in a September 2016 profile, groundbreaking research into gene therapy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Scheie Eye Institute ultimately corrected the condition. Guardino was cured of blindness and is now able to see well enough to read enlarged notes on sheet music.
Despite the fact that he has “been singing for as long as I can remember,” Guardino admitted to judge Simon Cowell that he was extremely nervous about the audition as he took his place on the America’s Got Talent stage. Nonetheless, Cowell told the teen he had “a good feeling” about him, and the hunch was proven correct as soon as Guardino opened his mouth.
The audience erupted in cheers and tears as Guardino worked his way though the song, and he received a standing ovation from all four judges.
“I actually don’t know what to say right now,” Cowell admitted at the end of the performance.
“I mean, what just happened,” former Spice Girl Mel B added. “You’re like a bright light that just showed us all!”
Mandel was equally impressed with Guardino’s incredible story and talent and asked the teen to name his biggest wish.
“Probably the golden buzzer,” he responded, which prompted Mandell to declare his “wish just came true.” Confetti filled the stage as an emotional Guardino was reunited with his mother and host Tyra Banks.
— Howie Mandel (@howiemandel) June 14, 2017
“You were like a little mouse that turned into a lion. You are one of my favorite contestants I’ve seen this year. Not only in terms of your voice. I just like you,” Cowell concluded. “There’s something about you, and it’s just the best possible feeling when we meet someone like you.”