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Desmond Koolen impresses Will Smith and Co with rendition of ‘I Got You’

Video clip received 13.8 million views on TikTok

Masego Seemela Online journalist
Desmond Koolen (7) captures hearts of South Africans with his viral video.
Desmond Koolen (7) captures hearts of South Africans with his viral video.
Image: Supplied

Pint-sized cutie Desmond Koolen has captured the attention of the internet, including American superstar Will Smith, with his rendition of I Got You (I Feel Good) by James Brown.   

In the now-viral video clip, the seven-year-old from Fourways, north of Johannesburg, is seen performing the 1965 classic at his school assembly. 

Smith posted the video (now liked by more than 300,000 users) on his Instagram account on his 55th birthday on Monday and captioned it: “My guy said it best: I feel good. This made my day, keep killin’ em Desi...”

The post received comments from A-listers ranging from Keri Hilson to DJ Sbu and Lady Du praising the little boy.

Smith’s stamp of approval came as a pleasant surprise to Desmond’s mother and TikToker, Adele Koolen. She told Sowetan yesterday morning that the original video benefitted immensely from Smith’s nod jumping to 13.8 million views on TikTok and 60,000 views on Instagram.  

“I do believe Desmond is going to change the world and touch lives, I’m just here to help him achieve that,” Adele said. 

“I remember thinking to video record this moment even though there weren’t any lights or fancy displays on stage. As I was sitting alone the following day, I thought to myself: ‘Let me just post this video’ on TikTok because my son did so well in front of his teachers and fellow schoolmates. I wasn't expecting such reception.”

Adele is Desmond’s adoptive mother. She and her husband Johan adopted him when he was almost four years old.

“We took him from foster care in 2020 and his adoption was finalised in 2021. When we first took him home with us, Desi didn’t speak a word of English. He was so tiny and had the cutest little personality. Within six weeks he learnt how to communicate in English,” she said.  

“Due to the lockdown, we spent a lot of time together as a family, bonding. We [Adele and her husband] realised that because he's always been a little character, we needed to help enhance his skills. 

“He did his very first voice-over advert for Jungle Bites when he was four years old. I then enrolled him for drama classes last year and he's just gone from strength to strength. This Friday, he’ll be participating in the SA Championships where he will be doing four solo monologues in different categories – formal, casual, swimming and spokes modelling as well as three solo vocal pieces.”  

Adele added that they planned, to the best of their abilities, to keep Desmond in touch with his African heritage as part of his upbringing and journey.

“I always strive to ensure that he remembers where he comes from. A lot of people might say, 'I don't see colour' but I always answer and say, ‘No, I do see his colour.’ I can see he is different, which is what makes him unique. Our family being different is what makes us unique,” she said.

Adele Koolen with her son Desmond.
Adele Koolen with her son Desmond.
Image: Supplied.

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