“I saw Nicki Minaj! Oh my god, yes!”
Before beginning 8th grade at her middle school near Suffern, N.Y., 13-year-old Grace VanderWaal made one last summer vacation outing: a casual spot in the front row of Marc Jacobs’ spring 2018 show. And yes, Nicki Minaj was there.
VanderWaal’s trajectory to fame has unfolded throughout her short time as a middle schooler. After participating in an open mic night near her hometown when she was just 11, Vanderwaal tried out for the 11th season of “America’s Got Talent” and was crowned the winner at age 12. Now a teenager — and starting to think about high school — she’s releasing her debut album, “Just the Beginning,” out Nov. 3.
“It sounds so odd that this is my last year of middle school — next year I’ll be a freshman. It sounds so weird,” VanderWaal says, hanging out one recent morning in Bryant Park. “I keep accidentally saying sixth grade because I went out of school in sixth grade and I never felt like I moved up a grade since then. Even when I say ‘eighth grade’ out loud…I remember seeing all the eighth graders and they were lookin’ all good, lookin’ like an adult. And I still look like a little baby child.”
VanderWaal, whose representation by IMG models was revealed just before the Marc show, is about to embark on major promotion for her music, but in the meantime she’s back to her routine, watching episodes of “New Girl” and “Bob’s Burgers” on the bus ride to school (and, OK, during study hall sometimes) and compiling Pinterest boards of “the most beautiful woman,” Brigitte Bardot.
“It’s refreshing and normal. It feels right,” she says of being in school. Her entry into music fame has been steep, but she seems unfazed. “I just like the adrenaline rush. I like sharing [music] with everyone.”
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