Escondido singer Celina Graves returns to ‘America’s Got Talent’ Tuesday

Celina Graves, an America's Got Talent contestant from Escondido
Celina Graves, an America’s Got Talent contestant from Escondido, poses for portraits at Daniel Bourget’s studio space in San Marcos on June 24th, 2020.
(Jarrod Valliere / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Graves, 31, works as a security guard at Valley View Casino but her dream is to be a full-time performer


Celina Graves, the singing security guard from Escondido, will return to NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” TV show on Tuesday evening to perform live for an online audience.

In June, the 31-year-old performer wowed the judges and was quickly moved through. Then on July 28, she was among 60 acts chosen from a pool of 100 to compete in the quarter-final rounds. At 8 p.m. Tuesday, she will be one of 11 acts performing in a live episode broadcast from Los Angeles. The episode is being shot without a live audience because of the pandemic, but hundreds of viewers faces can be seen, and their applause heard, on a live video wall on set.

While the celebrity judges have chosen which performers move ahead until now, public voting online takes over in the quarter-final rounds. The five acts that earn the most votes after Tuesday’s episode will be announced during a live “results” show at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The winner of the TV show’s season finale will receive a $1 million prize.

Graves’ emotional vocal audition of Shawn Mendes’ “Mercy” on the June 9 episode of AGT brought the audience and all four judges to their feet and a video of that performance has since racked up more than 4.2 million views on YouTube. In the video, Graves explained how she grew up dressing in boys clothes, was mistreated by other girls and feared by business owners for her seemingly tough exterior. But AGT lead judge Simon Cowell told Graves in that episode that she looked great and she should never let a stylist change her look.

Cowell had been Graves’ biggest cheerleader this season, but three weeks ago he broke his back in a bicycle accident. He is at home in L.A. recuperating from surgery. In last week’s live episode, host Terry Crews said “from this point forward” the other three judges will do the heavy lifting, implying that Cowell may not return this season.

Graves has not announced what she will perform on Tuesday’s live episode but wrote on her Instagram page Monday that the audience will see “a different side” of her. She also writes songs, plays piano and guitar and enjoys hip-hop dancing.

Raised in Mira Mesa, Graves grew up in a musical household with her father, a veteran musician and singers in Southern California bands. In her teens she started posting videos of herself singing on social media and that led to a part-time job as a wedding and party singer. Her day job is working security at Valley View Casino & Hotel in Valley Center. She lives in Escondido with her wife, Erica Graves, and their dog.

For more on Graves, visit or for episode information, visit