Inspiring singer Kechi once again wowed viewers on America’s Got Talent: The Champions this week, earning the Golden Buzzer and a spot in the finals. Learn about the 29-year-old’s amazing journey with the 10 facts below.
1. She was born Kechi Okwuchi in Nigeria in 1989. She grew up in Aba and would visit family in Lagos during the holidays. Kechi was an only child until age 11, when her sister was born. She called this her first “life changing experience.”
2. In 2005, at age 16, Kechi was one of two survivors of a plane crash that killed 107 people, including 60 of her young classmates from Loyola Jesuit College. She suffered third-degree burns over 65 percent of her body, and woke up in a hospital in South Africa five weeks later. In 2007, she was moved to Texas for treatment at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Galveston. She underwent over 100 surgeries.
3. Music therapy was part of her treatment in Texas. Her first time singing in front of an audience was a concert for her fellow patients. “Singing is what helped me survive,” Kechi said. “Music helped me pull through all the emotions of surviving the crash and through all the surgeries and recovery.”
4. In 2015, Kechi graduated first in her class from the University of St. Thomas, a small Catholic liberal arts school in Houston. She earned a degree in Economics, and delivered the commencement speech at her graduation ceremony. She returned to the school to pursue an MBA, and performed “Amazing Grace” at the Mardi Gras Gala last year.
5. Kechi is a motivational speaker, using her experience to inspire others. She gave a TEDx talk in 2015 called “Girls – know thyself.” She shared the story of the plane crash and subsequent events, and spoke about giving young people the chance to follow their passions.
6. She made it to the finals of Season 12 of America’s Got Talent in 2017. After auditioning with Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” Kechi continued to wow the judges and the audience. In the finale, she joined fellow finalist Angelica Hale and Kelly Clarkson to perform “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).”
I had surgery a couple days ago and I thank God it went well..to everyone who sent well wishes & prayers my way, thank you so much ☺️ I’m resting well ?? pic.twitter.com/Uwbiy2bpd6
— Kechi Okwuchi (@Kechi) June 10, 2018
7. She has undergone more surgeries since the show. In 2018, plastic surgeons Dr. Andrew Frankel and Dr. Peter Grossman helped the singer with some of the difficulties she has continued to face since the crash. That includes fully closing her eyes and comfortably turning her neck.
8. Her cover of “This Is Me” has over 1 million views on YouTube. Kechi covered the empowering song, from the movie musical The Greatest Showman, in February 2018.
9. She released her debut single, “Don’t You Dare,” in July 2018. Songwriters Scott Krippayne and Jeff Peabody were inspired by Kechi’s story on America’s Got Talent, and wrote the song for her. “The lyrics really mean everything that I believe in,” she told Great Day Houston.
10. She received the Golden Buzzer from Simon Cowell on America’s Got Talent: The Champions. Kechi performed “You Are the Reason” by Calum Scott. Simon said his “one regret” was not being able to give her the Golden Buzzer the first time around. “You want to know what a champion is? This is a champion,” he said.