Zion Clark wowed the America’s Got Talent judges with a showcase of his strength and athleticism earlier this month.
The Canton-based competitor was born without legs due to caudal regression syndrome and has broken Guinness world records, including being named the fastest man on two hands. (He was also named one of Cleveland Magazine's Most Interesting People in 2017.)
Next, they 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.
We caught up with both Clark after his impressive audition to hear more about his experiences and talents.
Cleveland Magazine: Zion, you said in an interview for the show that you learned how to fight and fail and that’s what helped you overcome a childhood of struggling through the abuse you experienced in the foster care system. You also mentioned your adoptive family not letting you quit. Can you tell us more about where your mindset of determination comes from?
Zion Clark: It’s just the fact that you gotta love what you do. A lot of us are stuck in a systematic way of living where we think that there’s only one way to do things. And for me, I had a regular 9 to 5 job for a while, then after that I was like, "I love to fight!" I’m a martial artist, I like to fight, and I grew up fighting every day just to survive. So why not do something that makes me happy and make it work for me?
CM: Does it give you something to inspire others?
ZC: With fighting, the goal was never really to inspire people. It’s always been my personal dream to be a pro fighter since I was a kid. When I was young I wasn’t like, "Yeah I want to inspire people!" It was more like "Yeah I wanna beat somebody up and make The World Stage!" (laughs). That’s how it’s always been and it’s the same today. I’m trying to make it to The World Stage for that.
But I’ve also always inspired people with my journey. I think that I have the ability to inspire people on a global scale, but when it comes to me as an athlete, I’m doing this for nobody but myself. As an athlete, too, people used to tell me that things were impossible and for me, it wasn’t like “I’m gonna prove you wrong,” it was more of “I’m gonna prove myself right.”
CM: You have quite a few accomplishments under your belt, and as you said on the show, quite a few losses. What kind of support from your community makes you want to continue?
ZC: Just my teammates and my family have shown me and explained by example. I’ve had my ups and downs, I’m not perfect, but what’s pushed me to keep going and get to this pro-level where I’m at is just what I see when I look inside myself.
CM: Your performance on AGT inherently sets you apart from more traditional types of performances on the show because it’s more than talent; it's commitment. Tell me more about your purpose with performance and what you’re hoping to do beyond AGT?
ZC: The performance was just an entry, you know? Outside of the performance, I’m going to continue to be an athlete. With America’s Got Talent, I’ve opened up a new network of people and opportunities for businesses to reach people on a more global scale. My thing is “Do what you want.” Most people think they have to pick just one thing and do it for the rest of their lives. I think that if I can be up there doing what I want to do without caring what anybody thinks, then what’s the difference between me and you?
CM: Are there any issues or causes you hope to bring visibility to?
ZC: I definitely want to bring more awareness to the foster care system because there are just so many kids that need help. I’m probably that 1% that actually got the opportunity to do something with their lives after being through the system. There’s so many of us that end up dead or in jail or on the streets homeless, and I’m trying to change that for the better. Part of my mission is to catch people’s attention with what I’m doing and then hit them with the curveball of like, “If you want to continue following my journey, here’s what you can do to help.”
Just be on the lookout for the things that I do or the events that I go to because I’m plugged in with a lot of great companies that are doing great humanitarian work that helps these kids and people in general. Sometimes it’s just about people showing up somewhere or showing support somewhere. Sometimes with these kids, all they need is for someone to show up and be like “Yeah, you’re gonna be good, everything’s straight.”
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