Willis Clan off ‘America’s Got Talent,’ thrilled with experience

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The Willis family kept its positive attitude Wednesday, despite not making it through to the semi-finals on “America’s Got Talent.”

Speaking with the Chicago Sun-Times after the show aired on NBC, and the Willis Clan was eliminated, Brenda Willis said her family is not disappointed by the end of their run on the talent show.

“It’s been a great experience,” said the mom of the twelve Willis kids who make up the band the Willis Clan. “It’s given us great exposure.”

She said her 3-year-old daughter, Jada, exited the stage after the elimination and was thrilled she could keep the new outfit she got on the show — cute cowboy boots and all.

And there were no tears, the cheerful mom said. Instead, the kids exchanged phone numbers and took pictures with other contestants — new friends.

“Whatever is going to happen is supposed to happen,” Brenda Willis said. “We are always going to turn it into something good.”

Brenda Willis said new opportunities have come out of their appearance on the talent show, but she couldn’t say much except “We’re thrilled.”

The Willis Clan — a dozen brothers and sisters ranging in age from 3 to 22 years old — hail from Tennessee but their name is synonymous with one of the biggest scandals in Illinois political history.

They’re grandchildren of the Rev. Duane and Janet Willis, who lost six of their children nearly 20 years ago in a van crash linked to the licenses-for-bribes scandal that landed former Gov. George Ryan behind bars. The band members’ father and Brenda’s husband, Toby Willis, was not in the van that caught fire and claimed the lives of his siblings.

A collection of singers, musicians and dancers, the wholesome-looking Willises charmed the judges throughout the competition before delivering a somewhat lackluster performance Tuesday night with their bluegrass spin on the Huey Lewis’ hit, “The Power of Love.”

Judge Howard Stern on Tuesday told the Willises that their act “fell flat” and felt like that point in a show where you take a bathroom break. Howie Mandel suggested their talents would be put to better use in a place like Branson, Mo., instead of New York City’s Radio City Music Hall.

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