Heidi Klum and Mel B became “America’s Got Talent” judges in 2013. And so far, they say it’s been an unpredictable but fun ride. Klum, Mel B and Howard Stern and Howie Mandel are the judges for the show’s eighth season, which concludes on Sept. 18, 2013. Here is what Klum and Mel B said about “America’s Got Talent” during a telephone conference call with journalists.
Can you share a little bit about how you manage to pull off looking good so effortless?
Klum: Thank you very much for the compliment. I always try to change up my look. I have a fantastic stylist. Her name is Maryam Malakpour, and I am definitely someone who plans in my head, who plans ahead. I plan my outfits and I do, long days of fittings where she comes to my house and she brings various different outfits and then we try them on.
She makes them fit perfectly, and once I have the outfit, then I work with my hair and makeup team, and we decide about if the hair is up or if it’s down. So it’s really about having a great team, and they hook me up. They make it all work for me, because I surely do not walk in the door looking like this when I come in the morning.
As a new judge on “America’s Got Talent,” what have you expected and can you describe the first time you came into the group, how you felt?
Klum: It was better than expected. Last year I only watched and judged from my couch at home. But this year being there for the first time, you just really see how grueling it is, in terms of the talent. There are thousands of people that line up outside. But when you see all these people and they’re outside lined up around, and they wait all day. Sometimes at the end of the day we have to tell them, “Sorry, we can see you tomorrow and then they have to come again the next day and wait in line.”
And at the end, there’s only a certain amount of talent that then actually gets viewed by the audience at home, and that’s what I mean by grueling. It is really so hard for these contestants and for these people who want to be on “America’s Got Talent” to actually be seen on TV because so many that we have seen, that I have seen with Howard, and with Mel, and with Howie, that people at home actually never saw.
We saw sometimes up to 40, 45 acts in one day, and most of them will get cut out, or maybe some of them make it in kind of like a compilation reel or something like that, but it’s a lot. It’s so many people, and then in the beginning, I love everybody. I’m like, “That’s kind of great, and that was great too.”
And then later the more you see, you realize and you kind of see who is actually really, really good. And yes, someone who has a talent but who is not really that great. So, for me, it was like that. I kind of got harder, as the weeks went on.
How hard was to decide between a larger group act and the single teen female singer? When they go to a commercial break, do you guys hammer out your thoughts, or do you remain silent and then when camera comes back on, you just vote?
Klum: Yes, it was between American Hit Men and Anna Christine, and that was a tough one. When we go into commercial break, we do talk about it, of course. But they don’t really say, “Oh, I’m going to pick her,” or I say, “Oh, I’m going to pick this person.” This was particular a very tough one, and I would have changed the rules, to be honest with you, in that very moment.
Instead of moving four forward I would have moved five forward, because I actually did love American Hit Men also, and they deserved to be on “America’s Got Talent.” And I feel like we should have seen them one more time and then really know, because they are a great rock band, but then when they say you can only choose one, so it’s between American Hit Men or Anna Christine, I just fell more in love with her, and I think that she is such a soulful singer, for 11 years old.
I just really love her, and I don’t know. I wanted to give my vote to her, but then in the end, America got to vote, and so they also chose Anna Christine. But when those moments happen, yes, of course we talked. We talked. Sometimes we go into a two-minute commercial break and we talk about them for sure.
But Howard and Mel and Howie, they don’t always say then who they will choose in the end. We will kind of discuss how they were on the last performance that they did and how we see the future going. And we talk about, for example that Anna Christine, she did kind of forget her lyrics for her moment and she was a little off. But then that can happen to the best of us, even big performers that happens to, so we just thought, “Give her a shot.”
“America’s Got Talent” always has that special episode where they bring back people for another chance. Are there any particular acts that you’re keeping mental play on and thinking, “Gee, I’d like to see them have another chance or come back that have already been eliminated?”
Klum: Well, I know who are the acts every week, and I do definitely have my favorites. For example, the kids that are dancing that I love. There is a brother and sister couple that I that I love. It’s Ruby and Jonas. I love them a lot, and her brother D’Angelo and the girl Amanda, they are also fighting to move forward. I have my eyes on them. I thought that they were fantastic.
Then who else did I love? I love Alexander Magala. He’s the guy that had the sword down his throat and he did this dance where he falls down on the pole and he had that knife in his throat. Like, I have high hopes for him. I think that he’s fantastic. There’s another girl. She’s going to sing tonight. Ciana [Pelekai] is her name. She’s from Hawaii I believe, beautiful voice, forte.
[Mel B then arrives on the conference call.]
Are there some contestants you’d like to bring back? Like there was the one kid who worked on that insanely great dance routine all by himself in front of his mirror. People were surprised and shocked that he got eliminated.
Klum: I loved him. I know, but I was the only one. I don’t know. Do you remember that, Mel?
Mel B: Yes, I do remember him. Yes, it’s really hard to kind of choose, so you just have to go with a majority. And when three of the judges say no and one says yes, unfortunately they get cut, which always sucks. It just does.
Are there other acts that have already been eliminated that you might bring back?
Mel B: You know what? I think because we’ve only just started with the live shows, so we’ve only been reminded of the 12 people that we’ve put through out of 60, but I think as each week goes by, I think that America will be able to decide for themselves who they want to bring back more so than us. We’ve already kind of done our bit by getting it down to 60. You know what I mean?
What do you think about Robin Thicke as a guest performer on “America’s Got Talent”?
Klum: I think he’s great. He actually just did my finale in Germany, for “Germany’s Next Top Model,” so he was so awesome. He is such a humble guy.
Do you find him sexy?
Klum: Yes, I find him sexy. He’s a sexy guy with a beautiful voice. He knows how to dance, and he’s very kind of sure of himself, which I like in a guy. He’s not shy. I think he’s great. He’s sexy, yes. I would say he’s sexy.
Mel B: I like his music. He’s not my type, though.
Klum: Hey, it’s not that I want him, but he is not bad to look at.
Mel B: Yes, you do, Heidi. Come on.
Klum: Topless, let’s see. Let’s see if he can be topless.
Heidi, how have your experiences as a supermodel and judging talent on “Project Runway” helped you become a great judge for “America’s Got Talent”? And then for you, Mel, obviously having a successful music career and being a Spice Girl, how do you think you have been prepared to judge?
Klum: For me, I feel like that life prepares me to judge from just traveling around the world for the last 20 years, being in the entertainment business and seeing amazing stars perform. And you see who is kind of the real deal and who is not, and some who, just do things that blow you away, and others that don’t.
For me, it’s not so much that I’ve learned from “Project Runway” or from “Germany’s Next Top Model,” because it’s very different. This is more about singing and circus acts and juggling and danger acts, so more in the sense that these are acts that I’ve seen along my travels, going to, theater performance and whatnot all over the world.
Mel B: I don’t think I could have answered that better myself. I definitely think traveling helps a lot because whenever I travel I always get to go to a show, whether it be on Broadway — I think any kind of theater show — and having lived in Vegas and done my own show there... I definitely have been part of the entertainment world, which just helps you be able to judge and justifies why your opinion’s valid.
Klum: When Mel and I, when we were in Vegas, we went and watched a show. We went to the theater when we were there.
Mel B: And it was a very sexy show.
Klum: Research. We call that research, Mel.
Mel B: I love that.
There are so many big and varied acts in the running this year for “America’s Got Talent,” and then there are five comedians left in the running. What do you think it’ll take for one of these five comedy acts to kind of stand out from all the big, flashy acts and actually win the whole thing?
Klum: They just have to make us laugh. They stand out if they make us laugh … but there’s always an audience for someone. Like sometimes, you sit there at Radio City Music Hall and the people are just laughing and they think it’s hysterical. And I try, and I just can’t laugh. So what is funny to you is not necessarily funny to me, and you just have to be true to what you think is funny and then you judge.
Mel B: Exactly.
Right, but someone just standing up and joking doesn’t have the kind of the same flash that daredevils have, don’t you think?
Mel B: You cannot beat Lester)at all. So I don’t think you can say one is better than the other. You have to really compare a magician act to a comedy act say from the fact that that comedy act is the best one, eh? If it’s funny, it’ll be everyone’s.
Klum: The comedian was the runner-up [ in 2012]
Mel B: Well, he got his own show in Vegas.
Did any of the four “America’s Got Talent” judges know each other before doing this show, or did any of you meet for the first time on “America’s Got Talent”?
Mel B: Before a little bit, yes. I’d never met Howie.
Klum: Yes, I hosted the Emmys with Howie Mandel before, and I’ve done Howard Stern’s show once a hundred years ago.
Mel, Howard Stern has kind of taken some digs at you and the Spice Girls. How are you going to get him back?
Mel B: It’s not a case of getting anyone back. I’m just going to make sure that my judging is on point and I’m sitting pretty. That’s my revenge tactic.
Klum: Plus, he’s not serious in any case. You know what I mean? If it was serious, then maybe, but he’s not serious. He’s just goofing around.
What do you think of contestant Brendan James from Chicago?
Klum: I love Brendan. I think he has a lot of potential. I think that America fell in love with him as much as we did.
Mel B: I agree with her.
Klum: Another contestant who I fell in love with too, I don’t know if you remember him, his name is Jonathan Allen. He also is a very, very good singer, too.
He also has a very sad story that he was telling us about not being welcome over to his parents’ home anymore, and he didn’t have a job, and it was all because he is gay. And they couldn’t deal with it, the parents, and they basically kicked him out.
And I remember when I met him for the first time and he opened his mouth and he sang, I was so happy for him that he has this talent, and hopefully a new career might start for him here on “America’s Got Talent.”
If either of you could have a different talent from what you already have, would you try out for “America’s Next Got Talent”?
Mel B: I have a very secret talent that I cannot share with you — very X-rated.
Klum: Can I come into your room later and you show me what that is now?
Mel B: I’ll personally show it to just you, Heidi, later.
Klum: Yippee! Mine would be cooking, because I love cooking, but I don’t think anyone cares about cooking. Well, then again, a lot of people do.
Mel B: Yes, they have amazing cooking shows. Look at Rachael Ray. Look at Martha Stewart. Yes. I actually don’t have another talent. That’s why I’m a singer.
Klum: That’s not true. You’re a very good dancer.
Mel B: Yes, a little bit.
Mel, I know that you’ve done talent shows in Australia. Heidi, obviously you’ve done talent shows in Germany. What kind of differences do you see in doing judging over in America, as opposed to Germany and Australia?
Klum: It’s hard to say because the show here, it’s a variety show, so it’s not like specifically on just singing or just dancing or just like a circus act. What is so different about this show is that it is variety. When I do “Top Model,” it’s about models and about photo shoots and how they walk on the runway, so you can’t compare.
Mel B: I think that is the biggest thing, is that you don’t even know what to expect from the stage. You don’t know if it’s going to be a danger act, a magician, a singer, somebody who runs a little trike or bike. I mean, it literally is across the board, varied talents.
At this point, because it is so varied, is it hard to be critical for an act you’re not familiar with or something like that?
Mel B: Entertainment is entertainment, no matter what it is, so it’s really kind of easy to judge for me because I’m an entertainer, and I like to be entertained, so it doesn’t matter what the act is, as long as it keeps my attention. It can be as diverse as watching a ballet dancer, or watching somebody with a bunch of TVs on stage making mad, crazy patterns. It all really depends. Is it entertaining? That I my No. 1 thing.
Klum: For me, it gets hard when they’re all equally good, when you get rid of the people, yes, who have a talent, but who are not a 10 out of 10. Once they’re gone and only the best is left, then to say this person is better than that person, that for me is the hardest to judge, because when they all deserve to be there and when they all deserve that shot, in Las Vegas to get their own show and get the $1 million, then for me it is the hardest.
Up to this point, you kind of see the differences. You’re like, “They have it. They make my hair stand up. They give me chills. They’re that amazing. They keep me on the edge of my seat. I want to see more.”
Then it’s easy to say, “Yes, you’re it.” And when someone comes, and the performance is not that great, it’s hard to blow someone’s bubble and say, sorry, you’re not going on, but it is easier in the sense that you see the difference between A and B, who really has it and who doesn’t.
Which acts do you think has shown the most growth so far?
Klum: I think it’s Collins Key. He started with like smaller magic tricks where he made a dollar bill disappear, and then all of a sudden it was in a closed snack-chips bag that I had in my hand and clearly he did not open it, while I was holding onto it, and all of a sudden the dollar bill that we had before and we checked the number was then in my bag. So you went from a smaller trick to a bigger trick, and now he did this crazy trick where we gave everyone a name. I had a name, like a celebrity. What did you have again, Mel?
Mel B: I know that Howie was prancing. Oh, mine was a city and I chose New York.
Klum: Yes, you had a city, and then Howard had a body part. I mean, we said it right then and there, how could he then have it on this piece of paper? I mean, it was beyond crazy, so he, to me, is someone that just grew from act to act, and just, he’s just running for it.
Mel B: One of my favorites was Television, but they didn’t make it through. I thought they really stepped up their game from the very first audition to then the Vegas audition and then to New York. I thought that they were brilliant, but not everybody agreed with me, and that’s just what happens. They didn’t make it through.
Klum: Yes, they were not my favorite. Do you remember when we saw them for the first time? It reminded me a little bit of Blue Man Group.
Mel B: Yes, yes. I do like Blue Man Group.
Klum: I love Blue Man Group too.
Heidi, you made an interesting observation at the beginning of the call about the large numbers of people that auditioned for this show. There’s been some debate recently about the actual value that contestants on these shows get. What, in your mind, do you think this show gives these acts that they wouldn’t have without it?
Mel B: Oh, my God, they get exposure to 15 million people each week, and they get to experience performing in front of 6,000 people right there live, people watching at home. They get complete exposure, and they get an experience of what it actually takes to perform live and deliver.
Klum: I think also it’s good to see how many talented people are out there in the world that we never see and know about, you know? There’s someone, maybe in your office, that all of a sudden have these hidden talents. And all of a sudden they’re standing in line for “America’s Got Talent” And then you’re like, “What? I never knew that you could juggle with 15 balls.” Or something like that.
I think that there are so many people out there and it’s a platform for them to show how good they are, and you just never know. Maybe one of them will win that million dollars and go to Vegas, and you just have to be in it to win it.
And yes, there is every year all these dreamers and people that think that they’re really good, and at the end of the day, everyone gets to be put in their place in terms of how good their talent is, next to someone who is maybe better, and the next one who is even better. So I think it’s good. I think it’s great for everyone to have that opportunity to be seen by millions of people. And ultimately, America will vote who they think is the best out of all these people.
It seems like with “America’s Got Talent,” more of the alumni find good jobs in the industry. It seems like that’s the same with your other shows that you host. How do you sort of balance what’s best for the television show with what’s best for the contestants and for their future careers?
Klum: At the end of the day, it’s always up to you to continue or not. For example, when I do “Top Model,” I tell the girls all the time: “Pack your bags and go to either Paris, go to New York, and really be in a place where you have to be in order to be a model. You can’t win ‘Germany’s Next Top Model’ and go back to your small town, sit by the phone, and think something’s going to happen.
Once you win, you have to keep working. It’s the same as “Project Runway.” The people who have won “Project Runway” or even have not won “Project Runway,” the people who work and send you clothes and put their face out there and attend events and just hustle. Someone like Christian Siriano for example, who sends me always clothes, so I wear them. They get seen.
You invite all these designers, and who comes? He does. So I think that it’s up to you at the end of the day that even if you win or you’re second runner-up or whatever, you are making your destiny. I think that we can only push someone forward and out there, but ultimately it’s up to them to keep it going and put yourself out there and be professional and do it.
For more info: "America's Got Talent" website
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