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Houston’s Space Kiddettes Appear on ‘America’s Got Talent’

The queer synth-pop duo remained upbeat despite daunting odds.

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Space Kiddettes band members Devin Will (l) and Trent Lira (photo by Trae Payton/NBC).

Houston’s Space Kiddettes made their first, and last, appearance on NBC’s America’s Got Talent (AGT) on Tuesday, June 29. And it was—and wasn’t—what the queer synth-pop duo expected.

“We were originally approached mid-2020 to audition,” band member Trent Lira recalls. “They were trying to figure out how they were going to shoot the show with COVID restrictions while wrapping up the season that was already airing. After a while, we didn’t hear from them and thought maybe they came up with another idea. We didn’t think about it for months until around Christmas time, when they reached back out saying we had made it on season 16. We still didn’t think it could actually happen, but it did! We decided to take this opportunity because we had a lot planned for 2020 and, of course, all those plans and hard work did not come to fruition. AGT was a chance to get back out and find a whole new audience on a national platform.”

“One of AGT’s talent scouts stumbled across a virtual performance we did last summer and reached out to us about auditioning,” says Space Kiddettes’ other half, Devin Will. “AGT was the largest platform we’d ever been offered, and after a year of no live performances and no releases, it seemed like any press was good press.”

It was the first time in over a year that the duo got to perform live, albeit in a slightly different format than the regular AGT shows.

“We were in a big convention hall as a holding room, and we were all very spread out. Masks were required at all times,” Lira says. “We were tested every day, and protocols were very strictly enforced.”

“It felt like being at a convention—sitting around in folding chairs, strange costumes, a lot of ‘Where are you from? What do you do?’” Will remembers. “We made a lot of friends that we’re still in touch with today. We also shot a lot of B-roll footage and were interviewed a few times, which was a blast. We performed an original song, ‘The Real Deal,’ which I think was the first song we wrote together back in 2015. It wasn’t our first choice, but it’s what the producers wanted,” she adds.

“We knew from the jump that performing an original track was a huge risk,” Lira notes. “If you do that, the judges have no choice but to judge you twice. Once because they’re judging your act, and twice because they’re judging whether they like the song. So with that, the judges did not really understand what we were about. It’s hard to convey everything that we’re about in only 90 seconds or less, especially on a stage so big. There wasn’t really an audience there because of COVID, so there were only 50 people in the audience. Even if there had been more people, it’s very hard to see anyone. They also play their canned audience-reaction tracks live on stage, so you hear every canned cheer, clap, shudder, and boo as well.”

“It felt clear, from the moment we started talking to the judges, that it wasn’t going well,” Will says. “I’m not sure they hated us so much as they were confused by us. We know we’re not exactly prime-time material. We never set out to be. Much of what we do is tongue-in-cheek and intentionally goofy. But as Trent so eloquently put it once, NBC does not stand for Nuance Broadcasting Company.”

“The outcome was four Xs from the judges, so we did not advance,” Lira says. “In all honesty, throughout this whole experience, we struggled to understand why they had picked us in the first place. This was something we never saw ourselves doing.”

“So no more free trips to Cali for Space Kiddettes!” Will laughs. “At the time, I was devastated. It was the outcome we’d expected, but I had no idea it would hurt so much. I felt like Carrie when they named her prom queen and then dumped pig’s blood on her head. It all happened so fast and felt so out of control. Was it deeply humiliating? Yes. But am I glad we did it? Yes. We took a risk, and while it didn’t pay off in the sense of advancing, we made so many friends and experienced something we might never have otherwise.” 

And would this intrepid duo do it again?

“Being on national television? Absolutely!” Lira says. “Being on AGT? Probably not. We understand that the main goal is to make a TV show—that’s no surprise. But [we know] that a competition reality show is not the best way to market what we’re selling. Overall, we’re grateful for the opportunity to be in front of a large audience, and we’ll let them decide whether they want to follow us or engage with our content.”

“Reality TV is not for us,” Will agrees, “but if Adult Swim or the IFC channel wants to hit us up to do a sketch show, our inbox is always open!”

Keep up with the Space Kiddettes online at spacekiddettes.com.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.
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