America's Got Talent has crowned 15 winners during its time on the air, and, by now, every fan of the show knows that all of those winners are promised a $1 million prize and the chance to headline their own splashy show on the Las Vegas Strip. Season 15 winner, spoken word artist Brandon Leake, is now among all of the dog acts, dancers, ventriloquists and singers (really, soooo many singers), who've won the big money, but have any of them actually been able to take home several buckets of large denomination bills and roll around in the full million?
Even with all of Brandon Leake's stirring performances, he's under the same rules as everyone else who wins the show, and Forbes took a look at the fine print to see exactly what Leake and his fellow champions actually walk away with. The short answer? Not nearly as much cash as you'd expect, seeing as how the payout actually comes as a 40 year annuity. No, not a 4-year-long annuity. And, not 40 months. Look at the sentence again...There you go! Forty. Whole. Years. This translates to an annual payment of - hold on to your golden buzzers - $25,000. This is, obviously, before any taxes are taken out. Wait! Don't throw your buzzer in dumpster just yet!
There is another, more immediately cash rich, option for big time America's Got Talent winners like Leake, though, should they not be willing to wait 40 years for their full(ish) prize money. Everyone is also offered the option of a one-time lump sum payment, but this is also way smaller than you're likely imagining, as that generally comes it at around $300,000. And, that is, once more - with feeling - before the government gets it taxes. OK, now you can trash your golden buzzer if you like, but, it's not all that bad if you think about it.
Brandon Leake made a big impact on AGT from his very first performance in the audition round, and quickly made history on the show by becoming the first spoken word poet to compete, and of course the first performer of his kind to win. He got Howie Mandel's golden buzzer and went on to give audiences stirring performances which focused on the death of his little sister, Black Lives Matter, his broken relationship with his father, and a somewhat nerve-racking finale performance about his love for his young daughter.
As is the case with everyone who hits the AGT stage, most of America wouldn't know who Leake is without the show. I'm sure the hope with every winner (not to mention anyone who makes it onto the show, especially if they get to one of the final rounds) is that the increased exposure from being on one of our most popular talent shows will help them sell CDs, tickets to shows and give them other opportunities to make their entertainment careers work long-term.
In short, no one who's really serious about their talent and goes onto AGT is trying to retire after they win the show. Smart performers want the boost in recognition and are more than happy to have an extra 25 grand a year to help tide them over if things get lean. For instance, singer / songwriter Kodi Lee, who was Season 14's winner, was planning to tour this year but had to settle those plans in the trash alongside your buzzer when our health crisis hit. Don't you think he's happy to have an extra $25,000 to rest on right now?
Brandon Leake now has a shot at making a real career for himself as a spoken word poet, where that would have likely been a very tall order before winning America's Got Talent, and I'm sure he's grateful for the new opportunities that will come his way because of the long-running hit. AGT will probably be back on NBC next year, but there's no official renewal or return date set right now, so stay tuned for the latest. In the meantime, be sure to check out our fall premiere schedule to see what you can watch in the coming weeks!