When Kechi Okwuchi was sixteen, she was one of two people to survive a plane crash that killed 107 other souls.
Now 30, Kechi still bears the mental and physical scars of surviving the crash. After suffering third degree burns over 90% of her body, she’s fought for most of her life to overcome the pain and trauma that resulted from that fateful day. As she recovered, she says that hearing her mother singing became a lifeline to help her through her darkest days.
“Music became the ultimate distraction for what was going on with me,” Kechi explained. As a young adult, she worked hard on honing her skills as a singer and eventually became a contestant on “America’s Got Talent” in 2017. Although she didn’t win that round, she says that the experience encouraged her to find her voice in other capacities as well. She gained the confidence she needed to become a burn victim advocate for Shriner’s Hospital. Being on AGT also helped her see herself in a new light.
“For the longest time I’ve been recognized as a survivor,” she explained, “but being on ‘America’s Got Talent’ was the first time I was recognized as a singer. America’s Got Talent showed me that there is life after burns.”
Now, Kechi’s got another shot at winning the popular talent competition as a contestant on “America’s Got Talent: The Champions.” She’s older and wiser this time around, and she says she hopes to win not just for herself, but for all of the burn victims out there who are looking to her for inspiration. She also feels a need to do well to honor those who lost their lives in her tragic accident.
Kechi chose to sing, “You Are The Reason” by Callum Scott. Her voice is rich and truly lovely. The audience seems to be emotionally responding to her more than most other performers, possibly because her backstory is so incredibly inspiring!
When she’d finished singing, the entire auditorium was on its feet giving her a standing ovation, including all four judges. Each judge proceeded to give her words of praise and encouragement, with Howie Mandel calling her a “champion of life.”
Yet when it was Simon Cowell’s turn to speak, he shocked everyone by telling the singer, “I’m gonna be honest with you. I didn’t really like it that much.”
You can hear the crowd start to boo Simon’s controversial answer, and all of the other judges look crestfallen. Host Terry Crews seems like he can’t even believe his ears!
For several agonizing seconds you can hear hundreds of people protesting in the performance space, but thankfully Simon doesn’t yank our chains for long. Standing up and leaning over the table, the long-time talent judge proclaims, “I actually loved it!”
That’s when he hits that coveted Golden Buzzer that instantly propels a contestant to the next round of competition!
As the golden confetti flies down onto the stage, Kechi seems overcome by the strength of her emotions. She manages to stammer that she couldn’t have done it without her mother. Out in the crowd, tears are flowing freely down people’s faces as they are once again brought to their feet in wild applause.
“My one regret was that I wasn’t able to give you the golden buzzer before,” Simon told her after the confetti stopped falling. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is what a champion looks like.”
Watch Simon giving Kechi the Golden Buzzer treatment in the video below, and don’t forget to share this survivor’s story with others.
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