Derek Hughes traveled a long road to stand alone on the stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City during the America’s Got Talent semifinals. Standing in front of millions of viewers in his pajamas, Hughes read aloud a storybook bedtime poem while magically destroying and reassembling the beautiful book he was reading. It was a quiet, confident performance, designed to show his “range” (as Hughes described it) and the variety Hughes could present to an audience in a longer show. It won the judges’ praises.
But there was one moment that told so much about Hughes’s character — and the story it told was very good. Performers often fall understandably into the me-first trap, working so hard to get ahead they focus on themselves and their act to the exclusion of others. But when Howie Mandel asked Hughes after his performance (which Mandel called beautiful) whether he’d drawn the illustrations himself, Hughes didn’t hestitate to share his giant moment. Hughes responded that no, he hadn’t drawn them — they were drawn by “my good friend Nathan Christopher, who worked on them for over a year.” Great job, Nathan Christopher. And wonderful generosity of spirit, Derek Hughes. You had just two minutes alone in front of a national audience, playing for all the marbles, and you shouted out to your friend and his hard work. (Note: Hughes did mention that he’d written the poem himself!)