‘AGT’s Heidi Klum on Why She’s Glad that Simon Cowell Does Whatever He Wants

When Simon Cowell decided he wanted to hit the Golden Buzzer for an act that he loved on Season 19 of America’s Got Talent, even though it was against the rules because it would have been the second time, he told his fellow judges, “New season, new rules,” and they weren’t really that surprised. Simon had been hinting at more Golden Buzzers last season, and besides, he’s the boss.

“He just does whatever the heck he wants,” Heidi Klum tells Parade in this exclusive interview. “He all of a sudden pushes for a second act for the Golden Buzzer, and we were first like, ‘What the heck are you doing? You can’t do this. That’s not in the rulebook.’ And he’s like, ‘There is no rulebook, I make the rules.’ He’s typical Simon, you know? He is the boss and he thought of how this show should be and so he can do whatever the heck he wants.”

And Heidi is down for it, because there are so many amazing acts over the audition process that it’s nice to be able to put more than one of them straight through to the Live Shows and not have to worry about what her fellow judges think.x

“To only have that one time where you can hit the Golden Buzzer is just ugh,” she says. “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!’ So, having two this season is really amazing. It’s like a safe ticket that America gets to vote on that act.”

The double Golden Buzzer doesn’t change the number of acts that make it into the Live Shows. That will remain the same. What it does mean is that the judges can make certain that the acts they really love don’t have to face scrutiny when it comes time for the Judges Picks, which is when they go through all the acts that got at least three yeses and whittle it down.

“Sometimes in the past where I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m sure a person will go through,’ and then [my fellow judges] didn’t vote for that person and they got eliminated,” she explains. "And I was like, 'What!?' So, if you really love someone then the Golden Buzzer is a great moment for you to make sure that they get seen."

Related: Don't Miss the AGT Golden Buzzer Winner 20 Years in the Making

So far, Heidi has only used one of her Golden Buzzers this season when she awarded it to Richard Goodall, a 55-year-old janitor from Terra Haute, Ind., who knocked the socks off of everyone with his performance of “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey.

“I fell in love with him immediately,” Heidi says. “Already his story, he had never been on an airplane before, and I don’t know, everything about him I loved. He’s this amazing guy who works in a school. He’s just such a humble guy, how can you not love this guy? So, immediately I loved this guy, and then he has these pipes that are unbelievable.”

Terry Crews, Richard Goodall, Heidi Klum<p>Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC</p>
Terry Crews, Richard Goodall, Heidi Klum

Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC

By giving Richard a Golden Buzzer, Heidi assured him a spot in the Live Shows for America to vote on, and she’s hoping he might do a Rod Stewart song for his second performance.

“This voice, I don’t know, I had goosebumps the entire time. I had so much fun, and I just loved also watching him get out of his shell. He’s so humble and he appears to be more on the shy side. And then when he was singing, it was just beautiful to watch him roar through that song. You have those moments where people woo you over, and that was a moment like that with him, you know? I hope that people will love him as much as I do. I think he deserves it.”

Also, during our Zoom chat, Heidi talked about how much she enjoys being on AGT and watching the performances, the difference between AGT and AGT: Fantasy League, bringing her kids to tapings, and more.

Related: See the Mind-Blowing AGT Golden Buzzer Act That Made Simon Cowell Break the Rules

I was watching the four of you judges when you went outside for Sky Elements. I think they had the cameras on you a little more than usual and you guys really were into it. You were really enjoying it. Is that what the whole show is like for you? Is it something that brings you joy just to do it, so it’s not really like a job?

I pinch myself that I get to sit there, that I actually get paid for having the best time of my life with amazing people around me, which is also not always a guarantee that you actually click with people, love them, respect them and have fun with them really. So, it’s like your best time in school if you want to compare it to something, you know? And then you get to see the most amazing things.

We get to see people do the most amazing things. We always say it every year, the most amazing people from around the world come, but they really are. They really are and you don’t get to see it anywhere but here, the mixed bag of talent in many different directions, and it’s the best time. So yeah, I love it.

Heidi Klum<p>Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC</p>
Heidi Klum

Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC

It’s easy to say yes to somebody and give them a Golden Buzzer or four yeses, but what is it like to say no and have to give criticism? Some of the acts it’s so obvious it’s a no, but some of them are borderline and those people might think they have hope. What’s that like for you?

You don’t want to sit there and crush someone’s dream or even hurt someone’s feelings, none of us want that, so it’s hard sometimes. But some people really think that [what they’re doing] is really amazing, and the whole audience is booing. You see many, many question marks around their head and they don’t understand why people are not loving what they just did. And it’s not easy then to also say something, but at some point, you have to also be honest and be able to voice what you just saw, you know? I try to wrap it in the nicest possible way.

For AGT: Fantasy League, you got to work with the contestants. Is it hard to go back to just regular AGT where you just judge?

No, I love it all. Sometimes it’s hard, too, when you get really invested in the acts. Ultimately, it’s not up to us, that’s why it’s called America’s Got Talent, America is the ultimate judge on who should win. And so you know, you’re more invested, obviously, if you work on the act and you figure out their looks and what they should and shouldn’t do, so you’re definitely more invested. I like both of it.

Related: See the Golden Buzzer Act that Simon Cowell Says Is 'One of the Funniest People' Ever

Simon brings his son Eric to the show occasionally. Are any of your kids interested in coming with you to watch?

Oh, they have come many times. Actually, now on Saturday, we fly to Germany and I have the big finale on my show in Germany [Germany's Next Top Model], and they’re going to come and watch that finale. But here, they’ve been many, many times. They’ve come to tapings of when we do auditions, they also love that moment when there are all these different people and they’re like, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe people stood in line to show that.”

It’s different when you talk about it at the dinner table, but it’s more fun when they actually get to see it, too, and then we talk about what we experienced there together. My kids have always, obviously, been there for, what is it now, 11 years. So, they’ve come as younger and just now Lou [who’s 14] was there, here when we were doing these auditions, she was there.

Leni’s following in your footsteps, but what about the boys? Do they have any interest in going into show business?

I don’t know, they haven’t really voiced it. But I was surprised with my first, with Leni, I was surprised when she voiced it all of a sudden, so you never know. Right now, college for Henry is on the horizon, so I’ve been touring with him for quite some time, and he made a choice, and that is now kind of the No. 1 thing we talk about.

They don’t look at modeling, they’re more into sports.

Heidi Klum<p>Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC</p>
Heidi Klum

Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC

Sometimes you put your fingers like glasses around your eyes. Is that to block the light? How does that help you see better?

Yes, it helps me to block the light. People probably think I’m crazy or delusional that when I do that my vision is getting better or sharper, it’s not. Literally, when you sit there, the audience doesn’t feel it maybe as much because they’re not lit, their faces are not intended to be lit, so you see more of an ocean of many, many people.

But we are so lit, we have super spotlights that are from all the way at the top literally on our face, which I love by the way. That’s what makes us look good. But sometimes when there is an act doing some aerial stuff, they get even closer to the light, so when I shut the light out by doing my binocular moves, then you create shadow around your eye and you can see it.

I was curious about that. I thought it might be lighting because I know it didn’t improve your vision.

I know. Some people think I’m that blonde.

What’s the status on Making the Cut?

We did not get picked up.

America’s Got Talent airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Streams next day on Peacock.

Next, Here's the Bottom Line on Season 19 of America's Got Talent