For Uniondale’s Shevon Nieto, the title of "America’s Got Talent Champion" will have to wait. The two-time Olympian has a new title that fits her just fine: mom.
Nieto, 37, who now lives in California, gave birth to her first child, Jaysha King Nieto, on Aug. 10.
“This is the best gift ever,” Nieto told Newsday Monday. “I don’t know anything else better than this new experience.”
Nieto, a singer, received a standing ovation from judges Howie Mandel, Sofia Vergara, Eric Stonestreet, and Simon Cowell and moved on to the next round of America’s Got Talent in an episode that aired June 30. Due to the birth of her son and uncertainties surrounding her ability to compete this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nieto has since opted out of the competition, she confirmed to Newsday.
“We just wanted to make sure that we’re the safest at this moment to bring the baby in,” Nieto said.
She would not rule out a potential return to the show next season.
“You never know,” Nieto said. “I can’t really say, but we’ll see what happens on the road ahead.”
That return would, Nieto hopes, be complete with a live audience – something that she did not get to experience when she performed this season in front of judges and an otherwise empty theatre. Gone were the roaring cheers that performers in past seasons have gotten as they hit their final notes.
“The experience, because of COVID, was taken out,” Nieto said. “To me, I would feel kind of robbed if I didn’t get to experience the rounds and the performances at the Dolby [Theatre in Hollywood], where they shoot the Oscars.”
Nieto, born Shevon Stoddart, performed an original song on the show, “Through the Good and the Bad,” written for her husband, Jamie, a fellow two-time Olympian who was paralyzed from the chest down after attempting a backflip while coaching at Azusa Pacific University in California on April 22, 2016.
“You don’t take anything for granted,” Nieto said. “…I poured my heart out on the stage. I’ve gained so many followers and supports and new fans, which I’m so extremely happy for. I definitely think the experience was everything I’ve dreamed of, and having the baby was the icing on the cake. I truly feel like I’ve won.”
Nieto, who moved to Uniondale from Jamaica at age 4, ran track at Uniondale High School and later competed for her birth country in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
After her performance aired, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach awarded her the IOC President’s Trophy, in recognition of her passion and dedication.
“Thank you and Jamie for living the Olympic spirit in everything you do and reminding us that being an Olympian is about so much more than competing for the biggest prize,” Bach wrote in a letter that Nieto shared with Newsday.
On top of her new entry into motherhood, the couple has another reason to be excited about the fall. The Nietos will act on the Netflix sci-fi series ‘Away’ with Oscar winner Hilary Swank. The show is set to debut on Sept. 4.