America’s Got Talent season 15 quarterfinalist Bonavega performs live for America’s votes on August 18. The talented glam rocker captured AGT viewers’ attention since his audition, and he continues to be a stand-out act for both his powerful vocals and flashy attire.
While he dons ornate makeup and Speedos as a performer and is featured fully made-up in most of his social media posts, he has shared a handful of photos where he is makeup-free.
Bonavega’s Parents Disapprove of His ‘Sexually Provacative’ Performances
While Bonavega, whose real name is Branden Wilbarger, has been embraced by the AGT judges and audience, he’s explained that his hometown and family were not as accepting of his performance style. In his video package aired before his AGT audition, Bonavega said, “Toledo is definitely a small town, and my parents were very strict so a lot of the music I was interested in was not allowed, so it was very hard to express myself creatively. I realized that if I really wanted to pursue music in a real way I was going to have to get out of Ohio.”
In an email sent to The Blade after Bonavega’s America’s Got Talent audition aired, his father confirmed their disapproval of Bonavega’s choices as an artist. He wrote, “My wife, Diana, and I love Branden. We also love the fact that he is so talented and creative. However, we are disappointed he is performing in a way that we believe is sexually provocative, not pleasing to God, and in a way that we would not want our granddaughters to see. Of course, [America’s Got Talent] is trying to be a ‘family-approved’ show, so his performance for them was much milder in contrast to the videos he has been producing. We realize there are many people who do not share our Christian worldview and would think we are close-minded or old-fashioned in thinking this way, and I respect their right to disagree with our opinion. The important thing to me is that you understand that we love Branden and we respect his right as an adult man to live his life as he sees fit. … However, although we love him, we do not love his performances.”
Bonavega Wants His Audience to ‘Feel a Type of Freedom’ Watching Him Perform
Before his impressive audition, the judges almost wrote Bonavega off as a gimmick act because of the way he was dressed. Luckily, they gave him a chance to blow them away with his unique act and talent. After his performance, he told them, “I really like performing obnoxiously. I like to do that to be a bit of an escape for people watching. We can all disappear together.”
In an interview with KALTBLUT. Magazine, Bonavega said, “Before I moved to LA and before I was heavily pursuing making my own music and performing, I was a DJ in Ohio… I had to come up with a name for myself and I kept throwing around ideas with friends. I was looking for something that sounded kind of Euro. Eventually I just came up with BONAVEGA. It sounded euro and trashy and I pictured that name in neon and thought it would look cool. So it stuck… since then Bonavega has become a totally new thing. I want Bonavega to be a creative outlet not only for myself but for people watching me on stage. I want them to see and feel a type of freedom and be able to take that freedom home and apply it to themselves in their own lives and their own creative endeavors.”
New episodes of America’s Got Talent season 15 air live on Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 8/7c on NBC.