Anyone who’s seen an episode of America’s Got Talent knows that the competition can reveal the best (and sometimes the strangest) the country has to offer. It’s not just about contestants’ ambitions and dreams, but also their stories and those of the people around them.
Northeast Ohio connects to the stories of two contestants this season. Summer Rios, a 19-year-old singer from Brunswick, and 25-year-old Zion Clark from Canton both received an emphatic yes from each of the judges and might be moving on to the next round of competition.
After receiving a “yes” vote from the judges, both Rios and Clark will move into the judge’s deliberation round, when judges Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Sofia Vergara decide on 55 acts that move forward into AGT’s live shows. The show’s top 55 contestants will be revealed on Aug. 15, and the first live shows will take place on Aug. 22.
Cleveland Magazine caught up with them ahead of the next episode of the show to get a peek into their lives and experiences on the show. Hear from Rios, a budding musician:
Cleveland Magazine: Summer, you’re 19, live in Brunswick, and manage a Pizza Hut. You told the judges about your open-to-close work ethic. What gives you such a driven mindset?
Summer Rios: I am trying to do the best for my future, so if that means working 50 hours a week then I’m gonna do it to get the bills paid and save up for the future. I grew up not in the best situation, we didn’t have a lot of money, and I didn’t always get the things that I wanted, so I want to build myself a future that's stable enough that I could give my future kids the life that they want. If that means being a manager at Pizza Hut, working every single day, then it’s gonna get done.
CM: Have you always single-mindedly pursued this dream, or have there been others?
SR: Singing has always been the one thing that I aimed for, but growing up I didn’t do singing as much as I am now. I did talent shows and competitions every now and then, but my mind was set on going to college and becoming a surgeon or something else in the medical field. As I got older I realized that music is something I actually have a talent in and I can take forward to make a career out of it. I kinda threw college out the door which was very risky of me, but music is something I love and want to have in my future and carry for the rest of my life, so it’s worth the risk.
CM: You told the AGT judges you’ve been singing since you were four but haven’t performed much. What’s the motivation for pursuing your singing career now on America’s Got Talent? Did you need a big push?
SR: I ended up taking a break from music about a year and a half ago to focus on my mental health, and I think taking that time away from music and not having it in my everyday life made me realize it’s something I need to have in my everyday life. So that motivated me to get back on music, to constantly be posting, doing covers, originals and to be collaborating with people. So it pushed me to realize, as sad as it sounds, how boring my life is without music. I don’t want to have a boring life, I want to have a life that’s as full as it can get and I know music is the way to get there.
CM: It’s probably difficult to imagine anything after all the stress and excitement of the present moment, but what do you hope the future holds for you after AGT?
SR: I would love to come out with multiple albums of my own, y’know? Stop doing the whole covers thing and become an original artist. After that, my goal is to go on tours out of state, in-state, out of the country and all around the world. I hope one day to sell out massive arenas. I want as many people there as possible so that the energy is as big as it can get.
I have Instagram and Tiktok and I mostly just post covers on there and have had a couple of videos on there that have blown up, they’ve had a couple million views. From that, I’ve gained a good amount of followers. I started [posting] in seventh grade kind of as a joke because my friends always told me that I should put my singing out there and do something more than singing in the school choir or musicals and stuff like that. So it started off as just something fun to do but then a video blew up and I completely made it my job and something I’m gonna work for every single day. It’s just gone up from there.
CM: I guess that goes to show it’s worth taking those risks, right?
SR: Yeah, for sure! The love that I get from all my pages and the comments, messages, and support has just been so overwhelming and amazing. I didn't expect that one small idea could turn into this. Especially because I’m just a small-town girl, I just work at Pizza Hut like any normal human, so the fact that someone as small as me can get as big as where I am right now makes me believe that anyone can do that.
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