Carmen Carter is a contestant on America’s Got Talent. The singer has gotten lots of attention from fans due to her impressive vocal range and her impassioned covers of classic songs. She is a favorite heading into the quarterfinals for season 14.
Carter, 55, has spent most of her life as a singer, despite having to contend with A&Rs and music executives who said that she does not fit the mold of a lead singer. Now that Carter has a platform on America’s Got Talent, she’s made it a point to combat “size discrimination” and encourage others to pursue their dreams.
Here’s what you need to know about AGT contestant Carmen Carter:
1. Carter Dropped Out of UCLA to Pursue a Career as a Backup Singer
Carter hails from Inglewood, California, and she enrolled as a biology student at UCLA. During her time in college, she performed at nightclubs and different venues in the area, but found it increasingly difficult to juggle her academics with her musical passion. According to the America’s Got Talent Wikia, Carter dropped out of UCLA to devote all her time to starting a singing career.
Carter initially went to work for producer Alex Brown, and toured as a backing vocalist for popular acts like Karen White and Milli Vanilli. She also performed as a featured artist for the Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn with the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra in Thailand, which was conducted by renowned artist Shardad Rohani.
Some of her other performing credits include guest spots on the soundtracks for Nutty Professor II: the Klumps, Meet the Fockers, and The Comebacks. Her taped performances on television shows include Ellen, The Jay Leno Show, The Arsenio Hall Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live!
2. A Record Executive Told Carter That She Was ‘Not Fit’ to Be a Lead Singer
Carter has been singing since she was a teenager. TV Overmind reports that she was a choir member and a cheerleader in high school, and her first solo performance in front of an audience was a cover of Debbie Laws’ “Be Yourself.” Carter tried to parlay her talents into a recording career, but she was crushed when a music record executive said that she was “too fat,” and did not have the physical appearance to be a lead singer.
Carter addressed the crushing remark during a recent interview with NBC. “You shouldn’t be discriminated against because of your sexual preference, your size, your color, your weight, none of that,” she explained. “We should take each other at face value. Everyone deserves a chance to show what they have and not feel like they’re not good enough to be a star, because I believe everybody is. If you have a talent, you should be able to go for it.”
Carter’s belief in herself was vindicated when she auditioned for America’s Got Talent and received a standing ovation from the judges. “You didn’t come out here as a victim. You came out here to prove a point,” Simon Cowell said, commending her bravery. “And 4,000 people gave you a standing ovation. I think you have an amazing voice — amazing. I love you.”
3. She Has 2 Children & Often Refers to Her Husband Lynn as ‘Mr. Right’
Carter gave birth to her son Christopher London Carter when she was touring as a backup singer. As a single parent, she struggled to balance raising her son with the demanding schedule of singing on the road. “It was hard making that decision,” she writes on her website. “But my parents and best friend Rozalind Hampton and her Husband Brunsen took good care of Chris that week that I was away…I remember crying on stage and telling the audience that I could only express how much I missed my son with tears.”
Carter eventually met her husband, Lynn Alonzo Watson, during a stop in Las Vegas. “I believe in marriage and family, loyalty and commitment. It was love a first site,” she recalled. “I married Mr. Right… He is a wonderful husband, fantastic father, delightful son in law and a true gentleman.” Carter and Lynn have a daughter named Sierra Ne Shelle Watson, who has followed in her mother’s footsteps and performed onstage.
4. Carter Performed Alongside Maroon 5 At the 2019 Super Bowl Halftime Show
Carter appeared alongside Maroon 5 during the 2019 Super Bowl Halftime Show. She was backed by a choir that included her son, daughter and nephew, and her vocals opposite Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine impressed viewers so much that she was hailed as the best part of the show. She talked about her performance during an interview with Good Morning America.
“Of course I was overwhelmed and overjoyed,” she admitted. “To be able to bring my children because we’re really family-oriented, it was a chance of a lifetime.” She also thanked Levine for inviting her onstage and giving her career a sizable boost. “I wouldn’t be here if it were not for him being gracious enough to share the stage with me,” she added. It was because of her Halftime Show performance that Carter’s family encouraged her to audition for America’s Got Talent.
Maroon 5 isn’t the only popular act that Carter has performed with. She has also recorded alongside famous artists like Adele, Michael Bublé, Céline Dion, Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, Nelly Furtado, Queen Latifah, and Lionel Richie.
5. Carter Has Been Influenced by a Wide Range of Musical Styles
Carter prides herself on her varied tastes in music, and the fact that her style is not confined to one particular genre. “When I was younger, I would listen to Chaka Khan, Karen Carpenter, Phyllis Hyman, Carol King, Phoebe Snow, Rickie Lee Jones, Johnny Mathis, Chicago, Tina Turner etc,” she recalls. “I grew up in a household that loved music…all genres of music…We would even listen to Spanish music but I never knew who the artist were or what they were saying. But it didn’t matter….It felt good!”
This eclecticism has been evident during Carter’s AGT performances. Her first audition saw her cover “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS, and she followed it up with a knockout rendition of “Come Together” by the Beatles. That said, Simon Cowell has warned her about relying too heavily on classic material. “Even though it wasn’t perfect, your voice is outstanding,” he said. “But you can’t just keep doing cover versions and expect everything to materialize. That’s the only thing in my opinion you’re lacking, but we’ll see. Good luck.”