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Burn Survivor’s Beautiful Voice Is Inspiring Millions — Grab The Tissues

Most celebrities won’t go out of the house if they aren’t wearing makeup. Singer Kechi Okwuchi, a star on the 2017 season of America’s Got Talent, chooses not to hide anything.

She is one of only two survivors of Sosoliso Airlines Flight 1145, which crashed at a Nigerian airport in 2005.

Even after more than 100 surgeries, Kechi still lives with scarring all over her body—but it doesn’t hold her back. In addition to being an accomplished singer, she was first in her class and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. She’s also pursuing an MBA.

A Flight Home Ends In Trauma

Kechi traveled on the plane to go home for Christmas with fellow students from Nigeria’s Loyola Jesuit College.

Beset by a combination of poor weather and pilot error, the airplane crashed near the airport and burst into flames when it struck a cement culvert. Kechi suffered third-degree burns over 65 percent of her body and awoke in a Johannesburg hospital five weeks after the crash.

“When they found me, I was mixed up with debris, covered in burns—but I had a pulse,” Kechi said during the videotaping of her contestant introduction.

Drawing Strength From Tragedy

In 2007 her family moved to Pearland, Texas, so Kechi could undergo treatment at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston. A choir singer in her childhood, Kechi started singing to pass the time while lying in bed. It became a form of therapy for her; she had already been studying voice for twelve years.

“Lying in the hospital bed with bandages from head to foot, not being able to move or do anything else, music was my escape. And that’s why it means so much to me,” Kechi said to the four judges of America’s Got Talent.

Then she amazed them and the audience with the power and beauty of her voice, singing “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran. In a later episode of the show, she sang John Hiatt’s “Have A Little Faith In Me.”

“What happened to me was horrible, but I refused to let it define me,” she says. “I drew strength from it.”

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