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Kidsday interviews Grace VanderWaal, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner

"America's Got Talent" winner Grace VanderWaal and her dog Frankie, center, with Kidsday reporters from left, Kai Chin, Sophia Kryoneris, Kate Petrucelly and Cassidy Esposito at NBC studios in Manhattan. Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

We met 2016 “American’s Got Talent” winner Grace VanderWaal when she visited the NBC offices in Rockefeller Center recently. She has released her new EP, “Perfectly Imperfect.”

Tell us about your new album. Are you excited about it?

Yes. I am super excited about it. A lot of people worked hard on it, and I am so excited for everyone to hear it. It is titled “Perfectly Imperfect.”

Who are your influences?

Tom Odell and Katy Perry.

How long have you been playing the ukulele, and how many minutes a day do you play it?

Sometimes I don’t play it at all. I try not to think of it as practicing because I know if I think of it as work, I won’t want to do it. Now that this has happened, I just do performances every day for like two hours.

What is your favorite song to play on the ukulele?

Probably “Riptide,” by Vance Joy. I love that song.

What other instruments do you play?

I play the saxophone, and I used to play the piano.

Do you like it when other people are doing your hair and makeup?

Yes, sometimes. Sometimes I have to say that I love it, and then I go into the bathroom and I fix it.

Who was the first person to tell you that you were a good singer?

Probably my sister was the only one to tell me that I was good singer until “America’s Got Talent.”

What did your friends say when you were going to be on “America’s Got Talent”? And did any of them tell you that you were wasting your time?

I told my friends every single day: “I am auditioning.” And then it was, “I auditioned.” And then it was, “I got on!” They all thought that I was joking, and then I invited them all over to watch the show.

What is your favorite animal?

Probably dogs or llamas.

Do you still go to regular school, or are you tutored?

I am tutored now. I do school online. My favorite thing to do with school is to finish things and then watch it go away, especially when I am working on a laptop.

What are you going to spend your money on?

Well, I bought a dog. The rest of it is savings and then a small bit of spending money.

What do you like to do before you go onstage?

Drink water and hyperventilate.

Are your friends jealous of all your success?

I don’t think so. I am sure it can cause problems, especially at my age because it is the age you want to be yourself and branch out free and just be with your friends. I try not to to talk about it in front of my friends, and my friends don’t talk about it with me. It’s just kind of normal.

How did you feel when Howie [Mandel] hit the golden buzzer. Did you think another judge was going to hit the golden buzzer?

I actually thought that Howie was going to hit the golden buzzer. It didn’t show up on TV — they cut a lot of things out for TV — but everyone was saying “Hit the gold!”

Between singing and playing the ukulele, which do you like better?

Probably singing.

When did you first start writing songs?

About a year and a half ago. I started writing once I got the ukulele.

Do you like being called the new Taylor Swift?

Yes, it is a beautiful amazing compliment, but I am trying to branch off and be myself.

What is your favorite song that you sang on “America’s Got Talent”?

“Light the Sky.”

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