Brody Ray, a Nashville trans man, shines on 'America's Got Talent'

When Brody Ray walked onto the stage of America’s Got Talent, he had no idea what he was in for. The 30-year-old Nebraska native—and now Nashville resident—was trying to overcome the nerves caused from being in front of a live audience and the four people meant to “make or break” him.

Brody Ray: Transgender Singer Performs Original Song, "Wake Your Dreams" - America's Got Talent

Brody stood in front of judges—Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Mel B, and Simon Cowell and was asked what song he would be performing. Brody replied, “Stand in the Light,” a song originally sang by Jordan Smith.When asked by Mandel why he chose that song, he explained that “Stand in the Light” applied to his life and the “struggles and battles” he has worked to overcome.

Mandel pushed him further, “What is the struggle you’ve overcome?” That’s when Brody admitted to the audience and to the world that he is transgender.

Less than five minutes later, Brody would finish singing the powerful song, the audience and judges would all be on their feet, and he would receive the four yeses needed to move on in the competition.

I spoke to Brody about the experience and what it means to be able to share his story.

Brody Ray: Grew Up As Natalie But This Transformed Singer's GOT TALENT! | America's Got Talent

You walk on stage. You’re in front of hundreds of people and four judges. Were you nervous? What was going through your mind?

I was nervous. It’s taken me awhile to get to this point where I can put the nerves behind me. These people are just like us. Sure they can make or break me, but I felt comfortable and confident. I was able to put those nerves aside and just focus on the music.

There are so many great songs out there. What made you choose the song “Standing in the Light”?

I heard the song years ago, and it almost had me in tears. It made me feel so connected with the song. People are going to talk about you, but we need to stand in the light and be proud of who we are. I thought what a perfect lyric for this moment. I went back and forth 3-4 weeks on a song, but when it came down to it, that was the one.

You got a standing ovation from the audience and the judges. Talk to me about what was going through your head when you saw everyone on their feet.

During my performance I was focusing on the crowd and working to connect with them. I knew I might screw up if I focused on the judges. I didn’t get to see Mel B share a tear with me or how into it Heidi was. Someone told me Simon was tapping his foot. But i didn’t even know they were on their feet. Everything just came full circle with my transition and with my vocals.

I lost my voice for a year and so it was a challenge. Everything came full circle. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It was just perfect.

The judges gave you some great feedback. What stuck out the most?

Howie’s feedback really stuck out. He told me ‘You are standing in the light.’

The people that are inspired by it, that is the feedback that matters. We don’t have to live in a bubble. We can live happy, successful lives. I want people to know I’m not just a trans guy, I’m singer.

Looking back on the audition, was there anything you would have changed or were you pleased with it?

I am very happy with it. I was cringing listening to me sing. It seemed too fast. My voice was shaky. But I know I have to stand back and for once let it be and let it happen. I told myself you did a good job, Brody.

Photos: Trae Patton/NBC

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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