Over the years, Oprah has shared the stage with a 7-year-old surgeon, a 3-year-old drummer and countless young prodigies. Now, for The Oprah Show's talented kids finale, Oprah is introducing a few fresh faces, including her co-host, Willow Smith!
Willow's not just the spunky, 10-year-old daughter of a Hollywood power couple—Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith—she's also a chart-topping performer! Her debut single Whip My Hair has already gone platinum and has more than 42 million hits on YouTube.
Willow's first single induces hair whipping all around the world, but she says this is not just another catchy pop song...it's an anthem about being yourself and not caring what other people think about you. "[I'm saying,] 'I don't know what you're doing, but I'm me,'" Willow says. "Just do what you feel is right."
Unlike most young performers, Willow's rise to the top was lightning-fast. She first showcased her vocals by singing a song for her dad on Father's Day. Then, while recording songs on a computer program, Willow discovered her passion for music and told her mother. "[My mom] told my producer, 'She wants to sing, she wants to sing,' so we just found the first track and we did it," she says.
As an elementary school student with a flourishing singing, dancing and acting career, Willow leads a busy life. Her favorite part of the week? Ballet class! "My teacher [Miss Brianna]'s really awesome," Willow says.
A typical day for Willow includes dance class before school, where she's taught by a tutor. Then, Willow heads home to start recording new music. Even though her schedule is jam-packed, Willow says it's "50 percent work and 102 percent fun." At times, the attention gets to be too much, but Willow says she just follows her mother's advice. "I just pretend like I'm alone," she says. "I pull myself out from the world and just do what I've got to do."
Willow also works hard at being a trend-setting fashionista, and she says it doesn't matter whether she's on the best- or worst-dressed list. "I dress according to the event and how I feel about it," she says. "Somebody likes the outfits." Same goes for her hair. "If I'm feeling groovy, I'll put a little purple in it," she says.
This rising star has a lot to look forward to, including going on tour with pop sensation Justin Bieber in spring 2011. "He's energetic and goes around the stage," Willow says. "I get to learn a lot from him. I like watching him perform."
Pint-sized partners Amanda and D'Angelo made it big when they won the top prize on Live to Dance, a dance competition show, in February 2011. One of their biggest fans is none other than Paula Abdul, who's also a judge and executive producer for the show. "I have not seen many kids who have the ability and exemplify what it is to love what you're doing in the world of dance as these two youngsters," Paula says.
After winning, 10-year-old D'Angelo and 11-year-old Amanda waltzed off with $500,000! "I was really shocked, and I was really excited," D'Angelo says. "I couldn't believe me and Amanda won half of a million dollars." Amanda says she's planning to use her money to start a dance studio, where she hopes to teach children someday.
But right now, these dance partners are focused on perfecting their routines. "We really [practice] five or four hours [a day]. Sometimes, on Saturday, we do six or five," D'Angelo says. "We're, like, dancing 24/6."
Dancing must be in D'Angelo's genes—his parents Lory and Manny came on The Oprah Show in 1996 to teach Oprah how to do the Macarena!
Graham Stookey was just another high school student when his friend posted a video of him showcasing his guitar skills on YouTube. Within days, the video went viral and was viewed by more than 100,000 people. Today, 18-year-old Graham is being courted by some of the industry's major record labels.
After singing "Jonah," a song he wrote himself, Oprah tells him that one of his favorite musicians, Lenny Kravitz, saw his video—and said it was "really good."
In fact, Lenny was so impressed, he wanted to tell him in person and surprise him on The Oprah Show stage! "I thought you were really original," Lenny says. "That's really important. A really original sound and really original way of playing. And you have feeling, man, that's the most important thing."
Lenny started out in the music industry when he was in his early 20s—just a few years older than Graham—and he has some words of wisdom for this up-and-coming artist: "The best advice I would say is be yourself, which you're already doing. Be yourself. There's only one you. God made you and that's the right thing. Then, the other thing I would say is that through your success, try your best to retain your happiness, man."
Graham's surprises aren't over yet...Lenny presents Graham with a signed electric guitar.
"You've got to be kidding!" Graham says, in awe.
At just 9 years old, violin prodigy Brianna Kahane has an impressive list of admirers, including former President Bill Clinton. Brianna's talent may be big, but some say her heart is even bigger. She's performed across the country and helped raise nearly $18 million for charity.
"My mom and dad raised me to help people and follow my dream," Brianna says. "My dream is to make the world a better place one song at a time ... I want to make the world a better place."
Brianna also says playing the violin soothes her soul. "Whenever I'm happy, I play it. Whenever I'm sad, I play it. I mean it's just my passion and my hobby," she says.
Oprah first heard about Maya, a tiny YouTube sensation, from a friend. Maya's performance of "Amazing Grace" was so adorable, Oprah says she had to have her on the show. "I looked her up and said, 'She's so cute, I just want to eat her for dessert,'" Oprah says.
Maya's mother April says she first posted the video so friends and family could she what her 2-year-old daughter was doing—she had no idea Maya would end up on The Oprah Show! Now 5 years old, Maya still sings for fun. "This is just her hobby," April says. "She loves to do it." Her other hobby? Playing soccer.