Watch ‘AGT’ Standout and Prison Nurse Dee Dee Simon’s Winning Performance at the Apollo

Not many voices can start a prison riot and bring the notoriously scathing Simon Cowell to tears. America’s Got Talent star Dee Dee Simon can claim both distinctions. A nurse at San Quentin State Prison for the last 20 years, Simon is already making waves on season 19 of AGT. Her performance of the Dreamgirls hit “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” blew the judges away. And it wasn’t the Oakland, California’s first time to perform the song onstage. However, the first time was just as magical as her AGT performance.

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Dee Simon Won This Competition Before ‘AGT’

Amateur Night at The Apollo is America’s longest-running talent show. Every Wednesday, audiences fill the legendary Apollo Theater in New York’s storied Harlem neighborhood and judge the talents of novice performers.

In November 2023, Simon performed the same song there that would eventually earn her a standing ovation from all four AGT judges. Jennifer Holliday, who starred in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls, released “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” as a single in 1982. Jennifer Hudson’s performance of the song in the 2006 film adaptation led to another surge in popularity.

Just as she did in AGT, Simon commands the entire stage. By the time she belts the final note, the audience is nearly beside themselves.

Simon earned $20,000 and the highly-coveted Amateur Night Grand Prize. With her victory, she joined the ranks of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, H.E.R., Machine Gun Kelly and the Jackson 5.

“The first time I hit the Apollo stage, I walked through the hallways, saw all the greats and I was like, ‘I’m really going to be on this stage,” Simon said. “This is history and I felt like I was supposed to be here. This is the most amazing feeling in the world.”

Simon Cowell Does ‘Whatever the Heck He Wants,’ Changes the Golden Buzzer Rules

Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Sofia Vergara all serve as judges on season 19 of AGT. However, Klum recently told Parade that Cowell is really the one in charge. The English record executive has already changed the rules this season to allow for two Golden Buzzers, declaring, “There is no rulebook, I make the rules.”

[RELATED: Is There a New Episode of ‘America’s Got Talent’ Tonight, June 11, 2024? How to Watch]

Klum is fine with it, however. “To only have that one time where you can hit the Golden Buzzer is just ugh,” the supermodel said. “To have it twice is so much more amazing because there are people over and over again that woo me over where I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh, they are incredible.’ And then I’m like, ‘I wish I had another Golden Buzzer!’”

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