By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Supermodel/judge Heidi Klum returns for the ninth season of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” premiering Tuesday, May 27 at 8 p.m. Joined by fellow judges Howard Stern, Howie Mandel and Mel B, Klum promises there will be tons of exciting new talent and surprises this season. For example, the talent show will feature the first same-sex ballroom dance team competing for the top prize of $1 million.
The blonde German-born beauty, who still looks amazing at 40, spoke by phone about the upcoming season, and how she manages to juggle a demanding job with raising four children as a divorced mom.
Q: What can we expect new this year?
Klum: We have a new category, which I didn’t know even existed, which is same-gender professional dance, ballroom dance. We have two male dancers, because normally in ballroom dancing you have a male and a female. I have never seen (same sex ballroom dancing) before. I didn’t know that that existed, and I am so loving that. It’s great for America to see that, too, that there are actually same-gender performers that do this amazing dance. We fell in love with these two guys. It was incredible how well they danced together and how talented they are. So that was something new for me that I hadn’t seen before and I’m sure that a lot of people in this country, too, will be like, “Wow, that’s cool. That’s new.” We kind of show people things that they hadn’t seen before in the same way that I was new to that. I loved it. I embrace that.
Q: Since you’re going into your second season, what have you learned about yourself in terms of being a judge? Was it difficult for you in the beginning to be critical while you were doing it? Do you ever think about when you were starting out and going to auditions as a model or as an actress, that kind of the nervousness and anxiety that you would go through and think about that when you’re dealing with these people that are auditioning for you?
Klum: Yes. I sit there and I try to be always open-minded and give everyone a fair chance. People don’t always do that in the business. When I started out, I would go to casting sessions. I have memories where people sometimes would go through your book that you’ve been working on for a whole year—your picture book—and people just rush through it and sometimes they don’t even look up to you to see you, and they hand the book back to you and go, “Okay, next.” Sometimes people don’t really give you a fair chance and you’re always disappointed and disappointed and disappointed when people treat you in a certain way. So I always try to remember that when people come on to the stage: to give everyone a fair shot. I know that these people are nervous. They’ve been waiting in line for hours. So I don’t take that lightly. I don’t just buzz in the first two seconds. I always want to see why are they here. They’ve been waiting for a long time. Let’s give them a fair shot.
Q: Do you feel more comfortable as a judge this season?
Klum: I was definitely a little bit more nervous in the first season because it’s different when you’re there as a judge than when you’re watching at home from your couch, which I had been doing many years. So it’s different when you sit there and it’s definitely hard too because we are doing this live in front of 5,000 people (in the audience). It’s hard when you criticize someone or you say certain things that you didn’t like about this act and then you have 5,000 fans in the background booing you. It’s something that I’d never experienced before. Yes, I’ve been in the entertainment business for 20 years, but whenever someone doesn’t like my picture or they don’t like a commercial that I’ve done, or they don’t like if I do “Project Runway” or another show, I don’t get that feedback. But when you sit there and you say something and people are booing you because they don’t like what you just said, that was definitely something new for me. This season, I’m a little bit more used to it. But I have to criticize people and I have to tell them what I don’t like, the same way I tell people how amazing they were and I give them a standing ovation when I tell them how incredible their act is. That’s what I’m hired to do. I’m a judge, so I have to tell them the good news and the bad news, and I have to tell them why.
Q: What are your least favorite acts?
Klum: What I don’t love is when people just want to come and they don’t really have an act, but they just want to be on TV. Like we had this one girl for example, she was a beautiful girl, and she was really fit and she wanted to show us how you pose to do a selfie. That didn’t take me long to hit my buzzer. Maybe that’s fun if someone comes to a party and does that, but this is not for “America’s Got Talent.”
Q: How do you handle it when you’re away from the family for so long?
Klum: When we start the live shows, it’s easier for me because I’m moving my entire family to New York instead of me flying back and forth every week. I just set up our base there, so my family is there and they don’t have to move. It works out perfectly for my schedule in terms of my kids going to school. They love being in New York because we shoot only two days a week—the live shows are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I have all the other days off where I can run around with my family and enjoy New York City. We go see all the Broadway shows. We’re kind of like tourists. We take the double-decker bus and ride around and look at everything. Every year, as my kids get older, they kind of suck in New York in a different way and they totally enjoy it. When we do the auditions, it’s not that bad either. It’s always like four or five days when we do the auditions and then I turn right back around and I go home so it works out pretty well. It would be hard if I was doing a movie and I would have to be on a movie set for three months. I think that would be really tough, but with this kind of schedule, it works out pretty well I think for all of us.
Q: This is a variety show or the fact that it’s a family-oriented show that the whole family can watch together? Does that appeal to you as a mom?
Klum: I do watch the show with my children and I have for many years watched the show with my children. There is not a lot on television that can keep their attention for a very long time. If it’s just about music or it’s just about dance, they’re like, “Okay, can we watch something else now?” They get bored. What this show does that keeps all of our attention is that every few minutes someone else comes out with something so unexpected. You always have a surprise and they just want to sit there and just know who comes out next.
Q: Would let your children audition for “America’s Got Talent” if asked you?
Klum: I would have to say no. I think it’s hard for children to get rejected, and I don’t know if I want to put my kids through that. The good thing with my children is that they don’t have the ambition to do that right now. My kids are kids. They want to be kids. They go to school and they have their hobbies, but they are not kids that are training to do anything like that right now. So I’m not pushing them. I’m happy about that. They have their play dates and they have their soccer and gymnastics classes and things like that that they love and that they’re passionate about.
Q: The show is starting its ninth season. Do you ever worry that you’re going to run out of talent?
Klum: No, because there was so much talent this year where I thought we turned over every stone since last year we went to many different cities. This year we only went to Los Angeles and New York and, boy, people came out of the woodwork. There were so many amazing people. It was really hard for us because we had over 180 acts come through, and it was difficult because now last week when we were in New York when we did judgment week, we had to narrow it down to 47 acts. With these 47 acts, we’re going to start the live shows.