Back in 2006, Bianca Ryan was just 11 when she won the first season of “America’s Got Talent”. Twelve years later, Ryan is making a triumphant return to the “AGT” stage in “America’s Got Talent: The Champions”, in which some of the most talented competitors from past seasons of “AGT” and the various “Got Talent” series across the globe come together in one epic talent show.
On this week’s debut, Ryan delivered an outstanding performance that came with an incredible backstory, revealing she suffered a serious problem with her vocal cords that caused her career to screech to a halt, eventually undergoing risky vocal surgery that could have cost her voice.
In an interview with ET Canada, Ryan, now 24, opens up about the paralyzed vocal cord that sidetracked her promising singing career, and her emotional return to the stage.
According to Ryan, she wasn’t aware there even was a problem “for years and years,” until she began to notice “my voice just wasn’t working with me. I was struggling through every show. I continuously kept losing my voice. I was practising so much to fix the issue without realizing that was probably making it worse.”
At her wit’s end, she finally made an appointment to see an ENT, who told her that one of her vocal cords was paralyzed. The only way to fix the problem was surgery, which carried the risk that she may lose her ability to sing.
“Any time you go in for vocal surgery, that’s such a fragile muscle,” Ryan explains. “There’s always a really good chance that you’re not going to be able to sing again.”
Thankfully, the surgery was a success, and Ryan couldn’t believe that her voice “actually gained range, because usually you lose range after vocal surgery.”
Afterward, she says, “I remember just feeling so incredibly happy, and so, so thankful, and so blessed. It was a crazy journey.”
Returning to the “AGT” stage for the first time in 12 years, she admits, “was extremely, extremely emotional… I was extremely nervous. I have actually only had this ‘new’ voice — I don’t know how else to describe it — for about a year and a half, almost two years, so it was nerve-racking… I worked so hard and practised so hard, and it gave me a reason to really experiment and really learn about every square centimetre of my new voice, and it just gave me that inspiration and that hope again.”
When she refers to her “new voice,” she’s not exaggerating. “I feel like there are new things I’m learning about my voice every single day,” she says, divulging that what didn’t make it into her “AGT” interview was the fact that she required a second vocal surgery.
“I’ve had to relearn how to use my voice twice. The first time, I had a paralyzed vocal cord, and they went in and fixed that the best that they could. About a year later, after I was almost fully recovered and was back to singing again, I went to an ENT because I had a cold, just getting a checkup, and then I was told I had blood vessels all over my vocal cords.” That surgery, like the first, was successful.
Getting the second surgery, she admits, “was an even harder decision, because at that point I did feel like I had something to lose, because I was extremely happy with where my voice was going and the progress I had made in a year.”
Looking back at her journey, she now sees her experience in that first “AGT” season as “pretty crazy. I was not expecting any of that. I really just wanted to do it for fun. I guess as they kept narrowing it down, I started to think, Wow, maybe I actually have a chance at winning this competition. But at the time, it was the first TV show to really showcase other talents besides singing, so I just figured they didn’t want another singer to win because there was already ‘Idol’ at the time… and when I won, I really couldn’t believe it. It changed my life forever. It was a dream come true, for real.”
While the future holds endless possibilities, Ryan says she’s anxious to get into the studio to record some of the numerous songs she wrote during the time when she wasn’t able to sing. At the moment, however, she finds herself experiencing some unexpected success on the charts.
“I just released the full version of ‘Say Something’ that I performed on ‘America’s Got Talent’. On Spotify and iTunes, it actually charted at 51 on the pop charts so I was really in shock by that,” she says.
“That amazed me. I just didn’t expect that, especially because I don’t have a label, I don’t have management or an agent or a booking agent, which I’m currently looking for,” she adds. “It’s crazy to get to number 51 on the pop charts on my own label that I opened myself a year ago. It was pretty shocking for me.”