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America's Got Talent judges are wowed by British schoolgirl

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A star is born! British schoolgirl, 13, wows the judges with her performance of Otis Redding’s Hard to Handle on America’s Got Talent and gets sent straight to the finals with the ‘golden buzzer’

  • Courtney Hadwin, 13, from County Durham, auditioned for America’s Got Talent
  • The schoolgirl performed a stunning version of Otis Redding’s Hard to Handle
  • Judge Howie Mandel hit the ‘golden buzzer’ – fast-tracking her to the live shows 
  • Courtney narrowly missed out on the top prize in UK talent show The Voice Kids 

Stephanie Linning For Mailonline

A British schoolgirl has won a place in the quarterfinals of America’s Got Talent after wowing judges with her stunning audition. 

Courtney Hadwin, 13, from Hesleden, in County Durham, received a standing ovation from all four judges for her stirring rendition of Otis Redding’s Hard to Handle on Tuesday night’s programme.

Judge Howie Mandel was so impressed he hit the ‘golden buzzer’, fast-tracking Courtney to the live shows and ensuring she remains in the running for the $1million prize.

The teenager is no stranger to talent competitions, having narrowly missed out on the top prize on The Voice Kids UK just months ago.

But unlike many budding stars Courntey is not a show-off when she is away from the spotlight. Indeed her own grandfather describes her as ‘painfully shy’.

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Courtney Hadwin, 13, from Hesleden, near Peterlee, in County Durham, won herself a place in the America’s Got Talent live shows after impressing judges with her audition

The schoolgirl appeared nervous on stage but broke out into a confident performance

Judges Heidi Klum and Mel B were left in awe of Courtney's commanding performance 

Judges Heidi Klum and Mel B were left in awe of Courtney's commanding performance 

Judges Heidi Klum and Mel B were left in awe of Courtney’s commanding performance 

Razzle dazzle ’em like Heidi in an embellished dress by Alex Perry

Heidi Klum and Mel B pull out all the stops when on the panel of America’s Got Talent, but here Heidi really stole the show in her silver sparkling number.

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Judge Howie Mandel was so impressed he hit the 'golden buzzer', meaning Courtney will be fast-tracked to a place in the live shows

Judge Howie Mandel was so impressed he hit the 'golden buzzer', meaning Courtney will be fast-tracked to a place in the live shows

Judge Howie Mandel was so impressed he hit the ‘golden buzzer’, meaning Courtney will be fast-tracked to a place in the live shows

The schoolgirl, pictured in uniform at The Academy at Shotton Hall, in Peterlee

The schoolgirl, pictured in uniform at The Academy at Shotton Hall, in Peterlee

The schoolgirl, pictured in uniform at The Academy at Shotton Hall, in Peterlee

Courtney Hadwin sings her heart out on stage at a local festival in Hartlepool last year

Courtney Hadwin sings her heart out on stage at a local festival in Hartlepool last year

Courtney Hadwin sings her heart out on stage at a local festival in Hartlepool last year

Her quiet nature was apparent when Courtney, a student at The Academy at Shotton Hall, in Peterlee, stepped on stage for her audition in the packed auditorium.

What is the golden buzzer?  

The Golden Buzzer gives each of the four judges and the host the opportunity to send an act straight to the quarterfinals.

This allows the act to skip a judge vote and more rounds of competition.

Each judge can only use the golden buzzer once during the auditions stage of the competition.    

Mandel became the third to use the golden buzzer this season, following Tyra Banks, who used it for acrobatic group Zurcaroh and Cowell who used it for singer Michael Ketterer.

She was reassured by judge and former Spice Girl Mel B, who said: ‘I know this is a big stage with lots of people here but you’re here for a reason so go for it and good luck.’

As the music started, Courtney’s nerves disappeared and she launched into a confident performance of Redding’s 1968 hit, complete with enthusiastic dance moves befitting of a fully-fledged rocker.

The transformation stunned judge Simon Cowell, who said: ‘Bloody hell Courtney. 

‘You were this shy little thing when you came out. Then you sing and you’re like a lion. I mean, genuinely incredible.’ 

But it was comedian and actor Mandel who sealed her fate. 

The judge compared the 13-year-old to Janis Joplin, who won a record deal as a youngster at a festival. 

The emotional schoolgirl hugged her father on stage amid the thunderous applause 

The emotional schoolgirl hugged her father on stage amid the thunderous applause 

The emotional schoolgirl hugged her father on stage amid the thunderous applause 

Judge Howie, who compared Courtney to a young Janis Joplin, also walked up on stage to congratulate the young singer as presenter Tyra Banks, right, looked on

Judge Howie, who compared Courtney to a young Janis Joplin, also walked up on stage to congratulate the young singer as presenter Tyra Banks, right, looked on

Judge Howie, who compared Courtney to a young Janis Joplin, also walked up on stage to congratulate the young singer as presenter Tyra Banks, right, looked on

Though he couldn’t offer a record deal, he said the best he could do for Courtney was to press the Golden Buzzer, parachuting her straight to the live show. 

‘You are not from this era. You’re from a whole different era,’ he said. 

Each judge can only use the Golden Buzzer for one act during the audition stages, so the Canadian was clearly overwhelmed by the teenager’s talent.

Courtney, a student at The Academy at Shotton Hall, in Peterlee, appeared nervous as she walked on stage for her audition in a packed auditorium

Courtney, a student at The Academy at Shotton Hall, in Peterlee, appeared nervous as she walked on stage for her audition in a packed auditorium

Courtney, a student at The Academy at Shotton Hall, in Peterlee, appeared nervous as she walked on stage for her audition in a packed auditorium

The pupil is known for her expressive dance moves, giving judges an all-round performance

The pupil is known for her expressive dance moves, giving judges an all-round performance

The pupil is known for her expressive dance moves, giving judges an all-round performance

Host Tyra, who was watching backstage with Courtney's father, was shocked by her confidence

Host Tyra, who was watching backstage with Courtney's father, was shocked by her confidence

Host Tyra, who was watching backstage with Courtney’s father, was shocked by her confidence

The transformation stunned judge Simon Cowell, who said: 'You were this shy little thing when you came out. Then you sing and you're like a lion. I mean, genuinely incredible'

The transformation stunned judge Simon Cowell, who said: 'You were this shy little thing when you came out. Then you sing and you're like a lion. I mean, genuinely incredible'

The transformation stunned judge Simon Cowell, who said: ‘You were this shy little thing when you came out. Then you sing and you’re like a lion. I mean, genuinely incredible’

Canadian comedian and actor Howie Mandel used his single 'golden buzzer' of the season on Courtney

Canadian comedian and actor Howie Mandel used his single 'golden buzzer' of the season on Courtney

Canadian comedian and actor Howie Mandel used his single ‘golden buzzer’ of the season on Courtney

Courtney's father and presenter Tyra Banks looked on in disbelief as Howie hit the buzzer

Courtney's father and presenter Tyra Banks looked on in disbelief as Howie hit the buzzer

Courtney’s father and presenter Tyra Banks looked on in disbelief as Howie hit the buzzer

Courtney was joined on stage by her father, who hugged her as she wiped back tears. Mandel and presenter Tyra Banks later joined the singer on stage.  

Courtney later posted on Twitter: ‘I didn’t know what to expect when I auditioned for @AGT but the golden buzzer was more than I ever could have dreamed of. Thank you so much @howiemandel I am so happy and can’t thank you enough xx’ 

The 13-year-old will now appear before the judges on the live shows, where audiences will play a role in competing for a $1million prize.  

The incredible reception from the audience and judges left Courtney in tears on stage

The incredible reception from the audience and judges left Courtney in tears on stage

The incredible reception from the audience and judges left Courtney in tears on stage

The emotional schoolgirl was overwhelmed as she received a standing ovation

The emotional schoolgirl was overwhelmed as she received a standing ovation

The emotional schoolgirl was overwhelmed as she received a standing ovation

Judges Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell were amazed by Courtney's powerful singing voice

Judges Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell were amazed by Courtney's powerful singing voice

Judges Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell were amazed by Courtney’s powerful singing voice

The singer took to Twitter to say the reaction was 'more than she ever could have dreamed of'

The singer took to Twitter to say the reaction was 'more than she ever could have dreamed of'

The singer took to Twitter to say the reaction was ‘more than she ever could have dreamed of’

The Voice Kids 

Courtney was just 12 years old when she appeared on ITV children’s talent show The Voice Kids earlier this year.

However the aspiring singer was initially less successful than she was on America’s Got Talent, with just one of the three judges turning around at her audition.

She stuck to her rock and soul roots, performing Ike & Tina Turner’s Nutbush City Limits and Martha and the Vandellas’ hit Dancing in the Streets in the first two rounds of the competition.

Courtney was just 12 years old when she appeared on ITV children's talent show The Voice Kids earlier this year

Courtney was just 12 years old when she appeared on ITV children's talent show The Voice Kids earlier this year

Courtney was just 12 years old when she appeared on ITV children’s talent show The Voice Kids earlier this year

She stuck to her rock and soul roots, performing Ike & Tina Turner's Nutbush City Limits and Martha and the Vandellas' hit Dancing in the Streets

She stuck to her rock and soul roots, performing Ike & Tina Turner's Nutbush City Limits and Martha and the Vandellas' hit Dancing in the Streets

She stuck to her rock and soul roots, performing Ike & Tina Turner’s Nutbush City Limits and Martha and the Vandellas’ hit Dancing in the Streets

Judge Pixie Lott was left in awe of the young singer's energetic performance on stage

Judge Pixie Lott was left in awe of the young singer's energetic performance on stage

Judge Pixie Lott was left in awe of the young singer’s energetic performance on stage

She followed it up with a third classic, James Brown’s I Feel Good.

Courtney showed off her dance moves throughout the talent show, giving judges and viewers a powerful all-round performance. 

It was enough to earn Courtney a place in the live finals of the show, under the guidance of mentor and McFly star Danny Jones. 

Social media star

Like many aspiring chart-toppers, Courtney has already built a devoted fan base online. 

The teenager regularly posts on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, where she keeps fans updated with upcoming performances and new releases. 

A recent Instagram post shows Courtney sitting at a computer holding a sheet of hand-written song lyrics. 

The teenager regularly posts on Twitter , YouTube , Instagram and Facebook , where she keeps fans updated with upcoming performances and new releases

The teenager regularly posts on Twitter , YouTube , Instagram and Facebook , where she keeps fans updated with upcoming performances and new releases

The teenager regularly posts on Twitter , YouTube , Instagram and Facebook , where she keeps fans updated with upcoming performances and new releases

Courtney at the carnival talent competition at the Headland Social Club in Hartlepool in 2015

Courtney at the carnival talent competition at the Headland Social Club in Hartlepool in 2015

Courtney at the carnival talent competition at the Headland Social Club in Hartlepool in 2015

Another social media clip captures the schoolgirl rehearsing a new track at her keyboard at home.  

The posts are often met with excited comments from fans, who praise her as ‘great’ and ‘amazing’.

Courtney’s family are also supportive of all she has achieved. Speaking ahead of The Voice UK semi-finals, the schoolgirl’s grandfather, Tom Storey, told the Inverness Courier he was ‘over the moon’ at her success. 

He also revealed she was ‘painfully shy’. He said: ‘If you ever met her you would hardly believe she was the same girl singing and dancing on that stage. 

‘But as soon as she gets a microphone in her hand, well, it’s like two different people.’

Grandfather Tom Storey said his singing granddaughter, pictured, is actually 'painfully shy' 

Grandfather Tom Storey said his singing granddaughter, pictured, is actually 'painfully shy' 

Grandfather Tom Storey said his singing granddaughter, pictured, is actually ‘painfully shy’ 

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