Quite the journey! Created by Simon Cowell, America’s Got Talent debuted on NBC in June 2006, shortly after the show was set to launch in the U.K.
While the contestants and their talents change each season, they’re not the only element that switches up. At first, the reality competition series was hosted by Regis Philbin with David Hasselhoff, Brandy Norwood and Piers Morgan serving as judges. After the first season, Philbin was replaced by Jerry Springer while Norwood left and Sharon Osbourne stepped in.
Over the years, Cowell, Howard Stern, Howie Mandell, Mel B, Heidi Klum, Gabrielle Union, Julianne Hough and Sofia Vergara sat at the judges’ table. As for the hosting duties, Nick Cannon stepped in at the start of season 4, helming the show through season 11. In 2017, he announced he was leaving the show after making a racially insensitive joke about the network on a Showtime stand-up special.
“I was to be punished for a joke … My soul won’t allow me to be in business with corporations that attempt to frown on freedom of speech, censor artists, and question cultural choices. Not to get too detailed but this isn’t the first-time executives have attempted to ‘put me in my place’ for so-called unruly actions,” the Masked Singer host wrote on Facebook at the time. “I will not stand for it. My moral principles will easily walk away from the millions of dollars they hang over my head.”
Tyra Banks hosted seasons 12 and 13 with Terry Crews stepping in for season 14 and remaining the host since.
There was also a great deal of drama behind-the-scenes when it came to the judges. In 2019, Union and Hough announced their exits after only one season.
The Being Mary Jane alum claimed she experienced racist incidents on set, including being told that her hairstyles were “too black” for the show’s audience. At the time, the network released a statement explaining that they “take any issues on set seriously” and were looking into the matter. NBC, Fremantle and Syco launched an investigation to look into her concerns but found no evidence that the environment wasn’t inclusive.
“I didn’t feel like myself,” she told Variety of her time on the show. Wednesday, May 27. “I’m shape-shifting to make myself more palatable. I’m contorting myself into something I don’t recognize. I had to look at myself and say, ‘Do you want to keep it easy? Or do you want to be you, and stand up?’ Because I’m not the only one being poisoned at work. … “I felt isolated. I felt singled out as being difficult, when I’m asking for basic laws to be followed. I want to come to work and be healthy and safe and listened to.”
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Still, through all the ups and downs, the contestants remain the center of the show. Scroll through the gallery below to see what every AGT winner has been up to since winning: