Northwest Asian Weekly
Japan-born Kenichi Ebina won the eighth season of TV show “America’s Got Talent” on Sept. 18, becoming the first person of Asian descent to win the competition. He received a prize of $1 million and will headline a show in Las Vegas.
“Oh my god, I don’t know what I can say, but it’s amazing,” Ebina said immediately following the announcement. “First of all, I want to thank my wife and daughter for being supportive all the way through; my mom, brother and sister; and all my friends. Crazy.”
Ebina won over the judges and America with his brand of “dance-ish” performance involving freestyle hip-hop, popping and locking, mime, house, jazz and ethnic dances. Ebina auditioned for the program with a routine based on the robot and the movie “The Matrix,” showcasing his physical abilities and artistry. He performed six more routines, the first placing him in a real-life video game, followed by performances that showed off his sensitive side, pitted him against a doppelganger of himself, a group performance with the other finalists and a final, higher-production revisit of his audition.
“I really do think Kenichi deserves to win,” said judge and radio host Howard Stern before the finale. “I think the guy is an incredible talent, and for two reasons he deserves to win.”
“Number one, he was great all season,” Stern continued. “And number two, he creates (his own material)… with singers who sing other people’s songs, half of the challenge is over.”
This is not the first time Ebina has had a brush with fame. He formed a dance troupe of Japanese dancers called BiTriP in 2001, which won first place at the “Apollo Amateur Night.” In 2006 and 2007, Ebina won the Apollo Amateur Night seven times, becoming the grand champion for the season; he remains the only two-time grand champion. He has also taken the crown at Kollaboration Los Angeles, winning the grand prize in 2009.
The self-taught dancer has made a fair share of sacrifices to achieve what he has. Ebina’s wife and daughter reside in Japan. When asked about what he would do with the $1 million prize, he said he would have to ask his wife first.
Ebina, currently 39 years old, was born in 1974 in Tokyo, Japan, but traveled to the United States in his youth. He attended the University of Bridgeport, graduating with an associate degree in general studies in 1998 and a bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2000. Ebina debuted his first full-length at the Kennedy Center for Performing arts in Washington, D.C. in 2008. He also gave a TED Talk at the main TED conference in 2007 and has performed in the United States, France, China, Japan, Australia, Monaco, Mexico, Singapore, Israel and Austria. (end)
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