Hometown: Grew up in Dennis, moved to New Bedford during middle school, 2007 New Bedford High School graduate.
Think of: “I’d hope people think I have a unique voice, but I take influence from Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion — I love divas. And I love Michael Jackson,” said Johnson, who performed in some 500 shows around the globe in the London-based Michael Jackson tribute show, “Thriller Live” from 2011 to this past April.
What caught our eye: A current contestant on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” Johnson offered a rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” that wowed celebrity judges Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, and Mel B.
Light bulb moment: “Music is a part of who I am. I’ve known forever, since I could start talking and making noise, that there’s nothing else I’d want to do. My mom is a flute player — she studied at Boston Conservatory — and I started playing her flute when I was 4,” said Johnson, who played flute competitively in high school (go to YouTube to see her playing “Flight of the Bumblebee”) and whistles like a bird. “My dad is a great whistler; his whistles are so precise to the song. I picked it up from him.” (Again, hit YouTube to hear her whistling Billy Joel’s “The Stranger.”)
Biggest thrill: “I’m really lucky; I get lots of big thrills,” said Johnson. “I was doing ‘Thriller Live’ in Japan, and their reception was overwhelming,” she said. “But this experience on ‘America’s Got Talent’ takes the cake. To have [the judges] tell me I belong onstage, and knowing that 10 million people were watching at home . . . that was the biggest moment of my career.”
Biggest surprise: “I didn’t think so many people would respond the way they have” since the June 30 performance, said Johnson, who tweets at @SamanthaTheBomb. “The response on social media was amazing.”
Inspired by: “I love show-women and divas — Bette Midler, Barbara Streisand, Whoopi Goldberg, Christina Aguilera. I love Diana Ross because she was able to have it all — she was a mother and a Motown legend. . . . I would love to get to that point in my career.”
Aspires to: “I’d love to be on Broadway; I’d love to be a show-woman,” said Johnson, who loves improv comedy and impersonates Rick James, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, and Shakira, among others. “I’d love to be like Bette Midler — when you see Bette Midler, you know you’re going to get dancing, songs, monologue, comedy. I want to be like that.”
For good luck: “I truly have nothing that I do for good luck. The stage is so comfortable for me,” said Johnson. “I walk on stage and I’m ready to go.”
What people should know: Active in theater in high school, Johnson tried out for Fox’s “American Idol” at age 16 and 18, and for “America’s Got Talent” the first time at age 20 before making it on AGT this season. “It’s a good thing I didn’t make it earlier, because I’ve got so much stage experience from ‘Thriller.’ There’s so much more to [performing] than being able to sing — you don’t want to hear that when you’re 16, though,” she said with a laugh.
Coming soon: Johnson will compete on an upcoming episode of “America’s Got Talent,” which airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.