The most inspiring singer in America’s Got Talent history returned on Monday for The Champions, and blew the roof off the theater once again.
Kechi’s heartwrenching story of surviving a plane crash that killed 107 other people, leaving her with third-degree burns over her entire body, garnered the songstress a lot of sympathy when she first took the stage during season 12.
However, when she opened her mouth and proved that she had the voice of a true diva, the focus shifted to her undeniable talent and she earned a place in the finals.
“For the longest time I’ve been recognized as a survivor, but being on America’s Got Talent was the first time that I was recognized as a singer,” Kechi said in a pre-taped segment before her performance. “America’s Got Talent showed me that there is life after burns.”
“I feel like I owe it to the kids who lost their lives in the accident to live in exemplary ways that would make those who we lost proud,” she added. “This is my chance to follow my dreams… this is my chance to prove that I am a champion.”
Shining brightly in a shimmering silver and grey gown, Kechi showed just how much of a masterful performer she really is with a stirring cover of “You Are the Reason” by Calum Scott that brought members of the audience to tears.
As she sang, Kechi’s adoring mom watched on from the audience, and joined the crowed in an emotional standing ovation after the touching performance.
“You’re so much more than your songs and your sound,” Howie Mandel marveled. “You’re more than a champion of singing and of talent, you’re a champion of life.”
“I’m so excited that I get the chance to see you again and to hear you again,” Heidi Klum shared. “It’s always a joy seeing you on the stage.”
As for Simon Cowell, the acerbic British judge threw something of a curveball when he shared, “Based on what I’ve seen tonight, I’m gonna be honest with you, I didn’t really like it that much.”
The feedback shocked the other judges and elicited jeers from the stunned audience before Cowell flipped the script, declaring, “I actually loved it!”
As Cowell jumped out of his seat to slam the Golden Buzzer, the crowd erupted in cheers as Kechi stood on stage in studded amazement while golden confetti rained down from the rafters and her mother wept in her seat.
“I always wanted to do that for you,” Cowell said as he hugged the singer on stage. “You so deserve it.”
Addressing the audience, Cowell said, “My one regret is I never got the chance to give her the Golden Buzzer. You want to know what a champion is? This is a champion.”
The inspirational singer will now move on the AGT: Champions finals to compete for the title once again.
America’s Got Talent: The Champions airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.