Sheldon Hernandez is a 21-year-old singer who is currently competing on season 15 of America’s Got Talent. Performing under the stage name Sheldon Riley, the Australian born singer first caught the attention of Got Talent fans with his audition of “I don’t want to be you anymore” by Billi Eilish.
The son of an Australian mother and a Filipino father, Sheldon has always had a passion for singing and stagecraft.
Sheldon explained, “When I was a little boy I wanted to be a dancer. I was singing, dancing around. I wanted to be on stage, and I didn’t really ‘get’ sport.”
Sheldon first appeared on the world stage in 2016 when he auditioned for The X factor Australia at the age of 17. He performed “The Circle of Life” by Elton John, but was stopped mid-rendition by Judge Iggy Azalea who wanted to hear something more current. Sheldon then sang a stirring acapella version of “Ordinary People” by John Legend. After the performance, Judge Iggy Azelea said “’I liked the first song but that second song just blew me away and it really put the nail in the coffin for me that like, you’re a star man. You’re awesome.”
Sheldon was initially rejected as a soloist during the boot camp portion of the show and was placed in the newly created four-member boy band “Time and Place” which was mentored by Iggy Azalea. The group successfully advanced from the three chair challenge before being eliminated during week 1 of the live shows.
In 2018, Sheldon auditioned for Season 7 of the voice Australia. Hoping to catch the attention of judge Boy George, Sheldon took a risk for his blind audition and performed “Do you really want to hurt me” by Culture Club. The performance earned him four chair turns and a spot on team Boy George. Sheldon ultimately made it to the grand finale of the show, placing third overall with his performance of “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey
A year later, Sheldon returned to The Voice stage appearing on the season 8 all-star edition of the show. For his blind audition, Sheldon performed Madonna’s frozen while concealing his identity behind a crystal mask. Judges Kelly Rowland and Boy George had already filled their teams and immediately recognized Sheldon’s voice from the prior season. The performance earned Sheldon chair turns from the remaining judges and a spot on Team Delta. Sheldon was eliminated during the semi-finals where he performed ”the show must go on” by British Rock Band Queen.
Despite not winning the show, Sheldon built a loyal base of fans and currently has over 100,000 followers on Instagram. He hoped the exposure would lead to bigger things and expressed his desire to participate in the 64th Eurovision Song Contest. After his appearance on the Voice, Sheldon said, “Eurovision is a main goal. It has always been my thing as a little kid watching. They’re just so weird and so different and so accepted for doing absolutely everything,” He went on to add “Big things are coming. I can’t talk about them right now, but if you think that my performances have been big, just wait to see what’s in store.”
While he was not selected for EuroVision , he did manage to make it to the world’s biggest stage, America’s Got Talent. Sheldon made his entrance onto the AGT stage by initially ignoring Judge Simon Cowell’s questions and turning his back to the judges. Wearing a beaded mask that concealed his face, Sheldon turned back around and gave a dramatic rendition of “I don’t want to be you anymore” by Billie Eilish. Judges Howie Mandel and Sofia Vergara were visibly captivated by the performance. After the performance, Judge Simon Cowell said “ I love the fact that I don’t know what you really look like. I like mysterious people.” Judge Howie Mandel told Sheldon “You have an amazing voice,” “And the fact that I don’t know what you look like, and the costume and the drama, for me, that’s what made this great.” All three judges voted yes to send Sheldon to the Judge Cuts round.
Sheldon did not appear on the Judges cuts episode but announced on Instagram that he had advanced to the live shows.
Growing up, Sheldon had always struggled with his identity He came out as gay when he was 15 years old and said he went through a really rough time finding who he was. After his AGT audition, Sheldon told host Terry Crews “I didn’t have much inspiration when I was a kid. I didn’t have someone to look up to. I just want to show to all the little kids out there, if you just want to be authentically yourself, you can be, and you don’t need to be afraid to be that.”
Sheldon now moves on to the live quarterfinals. Do you think Sheldon has what it takes to win America’s Got Talent? Let us know in the comments below.