America’s Got Talent had quite an emotional moment when singer Jayy sang “Lost Without You” by Freya Ridings in dedication to her late parents. The singer revealed to the judges that her family owned a grocery store in Philadelphia and during a robbery her parents were murdered in front of her.
Jayy, who revealed the story in response to judge Sofía Vergara’s question, said she put her dreams of a career in music on hold for several years as she had to step up as the big sister to her siblings. She said that her parents loved to see her doing music and hoped that they were happy to see her onstage. The singer displayed a powerful and emotive R&B voice set to a lone piano part for her performance.
Jayy’s real name is Jessica Nunez and she appeared on season 16 of America’s Got Talent at the age of 29. The original song is about the heartbreak of saying goodbye to a lover, although Jayy’s interpretation gives a different feeling to the song and she was wiping away tears at the conclusion of the performance.
Sofía Vergara commented “that was spectacular”, while Simon Cowell said “what you just did was incredible. To be able to sing a song like that, with that lyric, with all those memories in your head was extraordinary.” Jayy then got four yes votes from the judges in what was clearly an emotional moment for her. Jayy was subsequently eliminated in the deliberation rounds before the quarter final, although she later shared more of her story with NVC10 Philadelphia, which you can see below.
Jayy told NBC10 that she has been performing since the age of seven and that “it’s surreal to me that I was there and that I made it to the audition itself. I used to tell my dad ‘I’m gonna be there’ and years pass and here I am.” She also commented on her choice of “Lost Without You”, saying “I felt so connected to it. I’ve gotta tell the truth, it’s been the hardest song that I’ve ever had to perform ever.”
Jayy also revealed that her family moved to Philadelphia when she was 15 years old, saying that “My dad always told me ‘we’re just trying to make it better for you guys so you have more opportunities.’” She also explained that she loved to watch America’s Got Talent with her family growing up, saying “my whole thing was like ‘OK, I can’t wait to be a superstar.’”
Her parents ran Lorena’s Grocery store on 50th and Parrish Streets, although things unfortunately changed for the family on September 6, 2011. The family were looking forward to celebrating Jayy’s father’s 50th birthday that night, although as they were closing up, both of Jayy’s parents and her aunt were murdered by an armed robber.
Jayy and her younger sister witnessed the triple homicide and she was able to get justice for the tragedy through the courts. Jayy concluded, “I’m grateful that I was able to see my brother and sister grow up to be what my parents would have loved for them to be.”