Shayy Winn | From Aida To American Idol She Rose Up

The header is a beautiful photo of Shayy with wavy long dark hair. Her eyes are closed and she's wearing bright red lip color.

Women On The Move | Shayy Winn

Editor’s Note

If you’re an American Idol fan you may have followed our Featured Woman On The Move for April. Shayy Winn captured America’s heart from the moment of her audition where she sang Rise Up by Andra Day.

While losing eyesight is never easy Shayy demonstrates resilience and pushes through during the tough times. Choosing to hone her craft through hard work and courage are the keys to her success.

As a legally blind artist, Shayy showed the world how she had to ‘rise up’ during the competition. We are so honored to share part of her story with you via video and the transcript which has been edited for clarity. Enjoy! ~Steph

Contents:

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover 1

Women On The Move YouTube Video

Transcription

Shayy Begins Losing Her Sight

American Idol photo of Shayy Winn with her hair styled straight. She's posing with her white cane, wearing an off-the-shoulder white sweater.
Shayy with her white cane

Hi, my name is Shayy and this is my story. So I lost my sight when I was about 16 years old. I was starting my junior year of high school and everything was going fine. I was in show choir, I was a lead the school play, I was in my regular classes; everything was going fine until eventually, it wasn’t anymore.

So I started to notice a change in my vision one day and I complained to my parents. I think I need glasses, I don’t know what’s going on but I can’t really see things as well; my textbook, the board, all that stuff. And they were like okay we’ll set you up with an appointment, so they scheduled the appointment.

I finally went to my appointment and once I got there the lady does all the tests and all that stuff and I’m like all right this is weird, but okay. And she’s like “well you have what we call papilledema which means both of your optic nerves are swollen.” And I’m like alright. She’s like “well that means there’s a brain problem, I’ll make a phone call real quick.”

She goes, makes the phone call, and comes back in less than five minutes. She’s like, “you need to go to the ER now!” And I’m like now? She’s like, “now!” And I’m like okay cool, I guess I’m going to the ER then.

American Idol Audition photo of Shayy on stage with her white cane. She's wearing jeans, fringed boots with a black sweater, and a large American Idol logo is lit up behind her.
Shayy’s American Idol Audition

The Emergency Room Visit

So me and my mom get there we go to the ER. Of course, we’re in the ER for a while. And as being in the ER for a while because I have no symptoms I’m getting CT scans, contrast, all of that stuff. The follow my finger test, all of that, and then one doctor slips up and he’s like “oh we’re gonna try to save you from going blind.” And I’m like whoa! Because keep in mind me and my mom have no idea what any of this stuff means until that doctor says that. And I’m like whoa, what do you mean by going blind? Like what are you trying to say? He doesn’t really say anything more.

So I call my friends and explain to them what’s going on and we don’t even know exactly why I’m having this issue yet. Finally, I go have an MRI and that’s when they find my brain tumor. Now I have what’s called an epidermoid cyst which is skin tissue in the wrong place. This was causing me to have hydrocephalus which is too much fluid in the brain which was causing me to have papilledema which is a swelling of the optic nerves.

Gold Gown - In this photo Shayy is laying on the floor propped against an ottoman wearing a stunning gold gown trimmed with black feathers along the hemline.
Gold Gown

Optic Nerves Die

So with all of that being said, they were like, “oh we need to have emergency surgery” and things like that. And I was like whoa no, I don’t think so. They were like, “are you having symptoms?” I was like not really, I had one, a headache. And they were like “oh, okay, well then maybe we can be more careful with how we do this,” so they went in. They were only able to get half of my tumor out but they gave me what’s called an ETV a hole somewhere else so that the fluid doesn’t ever build up like that again.

And they were like from optic nerves the swelling should go down. But mine stayed swollen for an abnormal amount of time. Which is okay, which caused some of the nerves to die from being swollen for so long. Which left my vision where it is.

AMERICAN IDOL - "Hollywood Week" - Coverage. (ABC/Eric McCandless) SHAYY is performing on stage wearing a white off-the-shoulder sweater with jeans, and brown fringed boots.
AMERICAN IDOL – “Hollywood Week” – Coverage. (ABC/Eric McCandless) SHAYY

The Show Must Go On

I still continue to go about life, as usual, I’m in the hospital joking. And I was learning my lines to my play and the songs because I was dedicated to my role. This was my first lead role ever and I was not about to lose it just because of my situation going on right now.

So I showed up at school, well not officially at school but at the play rehearsals three weeks before the premiere of the show. I got permission from my neurosurgeon to rehearse with the kids and actually be able to do the show. And we literally did it, I did the show.

Of course, had to change a little few things but since my character’s name is Aida and she’s a slave I was barefoot. So it was easy to make certain things like the different textures on the floor so I know where I’m stepping at times. Or different signals from different characters that we had so the audience couldn’t tell what was going on. It was new to them so it was new to me.

I became the first disabled lead at my high school so it was a really really great and exciting thing. I did this show and I had a blast and I absolutely loved it. But then I was at home and doing my work from home I finally went back to school in January of 2018.

A headshot of Shay with styled with bangs and a high ponytail. She's wearing a white top and both her hands are playfully covering her face exposing her left eye.

Back To School & Winning Best Soloist

In going back to school, that’s when stuff was a little rockier. Because it was kind of like a little battle with the school to accept what was going on and kind of deal with it. They were trying to tell me, it wasn’t a life-changing situation and I need to stay in high school an extra year, even though I have all my credits. I was like, I’m not staying here an extra year.

I did what I needed to do to graduate on time, so that’s what I’m going to do. And you need to let me try the classes before you try to take me out and different things. So that was a little bit of a battle. Also, while that’s going on, I’m in show choir as I mentioned earlier.

Now, my choreographer’s mother was visually impaired, so he was like, “what do you need from me to help you learn?” He was like, “I’m not giving up on you.” And I was like, okay, cool. If you’re not gonna give up, I’m not gonna give up, we’re gonna do this together. And all of the other kids in the class were very, very supportive. So it ended up happening.

And we did our show choir competitions and actually got grand champions twice that year. And I also got Best Soloist twice that year, which was also my first time getting Best Solist. So I was so excited. And I got to wear my special shades on stage, I was the only person on stage that had them. So it worked out because I was the soloist. So there was that.

Playful photo of Shayy in a yellow tee under a denim short overall set. She has on blue lip and eye color with a coordinating statement necklace.

Reprising The Role Of Aida

Then that summer, about June, I auditioned for my city, the city of Richmond, here in Virginia. I auditioned for their version of Aida because they were having one. And I was like, oh, since I loved this show so much the first time I did it, I want to see if I can do it again. So I tried out and I actually ended up getting the role again.

At this program, I became another first disabled lead. And also the first lead to not ever take any of their classes or anything and just automatically get a lead role. I also started the matinee for the blind and the tactile tour because of the stage and everything. I had something to do with it because they had to make sure it was workable for me, so it was able to be walked on by other visually impaired or blind people. So I was so excited that I got to do that and start that for them. It was really, really great. The show was amazing. I’m so happy. I got to meet a bunch of great people.

Photo from Shayy's song Crazy. She's sitting on the floor against a bed in jeans, socks, and a tank top resting her head against her hand propped on her knee. It looks like she's been crying.
Crazy

American Idol Audition

Then that August, I auditioned in my city, again, for American Idol because this was their first time coming to my city. So I was like, oh snap, I gotta try, I gotta try out.

I will say I tried to back out but my mom wouldn’t let me. So I ended up auditioning, and I made it to sing in front of Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie, and Katy Perry and I was the last person on my day to sing for them. So I was excited and nervous at the same time and a little tired, I’m not gonna lie. But I did it, I sang Rise Up by Andra Day and I got a golden ticket.

So I made it through to Hollywood and I turned 18 right before Hollywood Week started. So it was a little nerve-wracking to be newly legal. To the show, you’re automatically an adult once you hit 18. So I’m like, Oh gosh, I don’t even know how to be an adult and you’re making me an adult.

Hollywood Week

So Hollywood Week was very stressful I will say, but it was worth it. I enjoyed it.

I made it through the first round and made it to group night. On group night I was so nervous I wasn’t going to meet a group that was going to work with me. But I was so thankful to find out the group members that I had was so willing to work with me. They were willing to try to understand in everything that it was so great mutual and Assata I love them to this day I still communicate with them.

I made goggles as a school project to simulate my vision as close as possible with what we had, paint construction paper and nail polish. Like that’s the best we could do. So and the science goggles so that was the best we could do. So I gave them to them and they actually wore them during our performances. To this day they still have them in their closet somewhere. So it’s really really really cool.

Top 40 In Hawaii

Once I made it all the way through Hollywood Week, I made it to the Top 40 and I went to Hawaii for the first time. I was at Disney’s resort called Aulani and I got to sing on the beach and I sang All I Ask by Adele it was really, really nice. It was so pretty.

I had on a white dress with a Haku it’s like a flower crown and it was all white. And basically, as I’m walking and I get on the stage, it’s nighttime and the wind picks up, and then my dress starts flowing. Then I started singing it was really, really cute and magical. It was beautiful. But I did get eliminated. Sad, but I got eliminated. But it was okay.

AMERICAN IDOL - "208 (Showcase/Final Judgment)" Shayy described this image in her piece. She is in the long white dress with a Haku on her head.
AMERICAN IDOL – “208 (Showcase/Final Judgment)” – For the first time ever, “American Idol’s” iconic showcase round hits the road, heading to Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii, where the show’s Top 40 contestants take to the beach for incredible solo performances in front of a live audience and the superstar judge panel. Following the performances, it’s an emotional roller coaster in paradise as the judges sit down with each contestant to reveal their fate, culminating with the show’s Top 20 finalists. The search for America’s next superstar continues on The ABC Television Network, SUNDAY, MARCH 31 (8:00 – 11:00 p.m. EDT), streaming and on-demand. (ABC/Karen Neal) SHAYY

I came back home and went to school as normal because I couldn’t say anything and didn’t tell anybody anything. The only people that I knew were the people that knew and they couldn’t say anything, either.

Finale

So after all of that, about May of 2019 I think it was, they called me and they were like, “Shayla will you come back?” We want you to sing with a special guest at the finale.” And I’m like, okay, who’s the special guest? They’re like Andra Day saw your video, and she wants to sing with you. And I’m like, what, are you serious? I get to sing Rise Up with the lady who not only sang it but wrote it? She recorded it and wrote it and I get to sing it with her? She wants to sing with me?

So yeah, I got to meet Andra Day. She’s so amazing. She was so sweet. She was so cool, like down to earth, all of that. I got to meet her and sang the song with her it was great. And I will never forget that moment a day in my life.

Then I graduated high school, and I’ve been recording and performing ever since. And I’ve been trying to continue to inspire been teaching myself how to do my makeup and different things like that.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Shayy Winn Bio

Shayy Winn was on season 17 of American Idol. She made it to the top 40. She’s become an inspiration to so many people and millions of viewers fell in love with her. She continues to focus on her music. She’s now released two singles “Addicted” and  “Crazy “ and she is currently working on an Album. Her music can be found on all digital platforms. She can also be found on Facebook at ShayyTheSinger and On Instagram @ShayyWinn. 

Image Descriptions:

  • The header is a beautiful photo of Shayy with wavy long dark hair. Her eyes are closed and she’s wearing bright red lip color.
  • Beyond Sight Magazine Cover the same photo as in the header. The text reads Shayy Winn | From Aida To American Idol She Rose Up.
  • American Idol photo of Shayy with her hair styled straight. She’s posing with her white cane, wearing an off-the-shoulder white sweater.
  • American Idol Audition photo of Shayy on stage with her white cane. She’s wearing jeans, fringed boots with a black sweater, and a large American Idol logo is lit up behind her.
  • Gold Gown – In this photo Shayy is laying on the floor propped against an ottoman wearing a stunning gold gown trimmed with black feathers along the hemline.
  • AMERICAN IDOL – “Hollywood Week” – Coverage. (ABC/Eric McCandless) SHAYY is performing on stage wearing a white off-the-shoulder sweater with jeans, and brown fringed boots.
  • A headshot of Shay with styled with bangs and a high ponytail. She’s wearing a white top and both her hands are playfully covering her face exposing her left eye.
  • Playful photo of Shayy in a yellow tee under a denim short overall set. She has on blue lip and eye color with a coordinating statement necklace.
  • Crazy: Photo from Shayy’s song Crazy. She’s sitting on the floor against a bed in jeans, socks, and a tank top resting her head against her hand propped on her knee. It looks like she’s been crying.
  • Headshot of Shayy from her song Addicted. Her dark wavy hair is fanned out and she appears to be singing with her right hand alongside her face.
  • AMERICAN IDOL – “208 (Showcase/Final Judgment)” Shayy described this image in her piece. She is in the long white dress with a Haku on her head.

3 Comments

  1. Hi Wendy! It’s so good to hear from you. Thank you for the lovely comment you left for Shayy. I will pass it along to her. I hope you are well. 💗

  2. Thank you for sharing your story Shayy. You shared your journey on learning that you had a brain tumour; the operation that followed; your determination to commit to completing your lead role in the school play/musical; all the challenges you overcame along the way; and also, the culmination of singing with Andra Day (you go girl!). You have and will continue to go far as you cross any or all your bridges with a matter-of-fact manner and a can-do demeanour. You’re an inspiration! Well done and I wish you continued success in your current and future endeavours. 👏🏻🌹

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