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The following excerpt is taken from chapter 10 of podcast guest Kechi Okwuchi‘s new book, More Than My Scars, published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2022. Used by permission.

“Mommy, don’t cry. I’m okay! It’s not that bad. I’m actually relieved.”

“I’m okay, I’m okay,” she said as she wiped at her eyes. My heart went out to her because I couldn’t imagine how scary this must’ve been for her as a mother who knew just how into looks her daughter was. She’d probably been more worried than I was.

Did I wish my face had taken less damage? Of course I did.

But I felt like it was best this way. It was better that my entire face had been affected. If I’d only gotten a few scars here and there, I felt like I would have been more likely to obsess over hiding them. But my whole face looked like one huge scar; therefore, to hide the scar would be to hide my entire face. And I wasn’t going to do that. So, in a way, reality had forced me to choose between two extremes. I could either hide totally from the world or I could show myself totally to the world. There was a hidden parallel there, too, in reference to my identity, because I was forced to either completely accept myself or completely reject myself.

The fact that I could still see even a shred of Kechi in that reflection was something I knew I’d never be able to make sense of logically. It had nothing to do with the physical, even though, unbeknownst to me at that moment, I looked more like my old self then than I would later on. It was just a feeling in my spirit. The plane crash altered my face and body, but it did not take away the essence of who I was, and that essence had spilled out of Mommy’s mirror that day.

Things could have gone very differently. I could only thank God that they didn’t.

He gave me the ability to see the part of me that went beyond my physical appearance—the part of me that mattered most.

He had shown me Kechi through His eyes, and she was who she’d always been.

This was the very moment that birthed the phrase that went on to become my life motto.

My scars do not define me.

They were obviously going to be a big part of me from then on, but there was much more to my identity than that.

I am more than my scars. No one but God showed me that.

Kechi Okwuchi is a Nigerian American recording artist and motivational speaker. One of two survivors in the Sosoliso Airlines Flight 1145 crash on December 10, 2005, she was a finalist on America’s Got Talent in 2017 and has put out her own original music since her appearance on the hit TV show. As a burn survivor advocate, she became a national patient ambassador for Shriners Children’s Texas in Galveston in 2017. She has since been active in events organized by WE Movement, a global youth empowerment organization, speaking and singing to thousands of students at WE Day events all over the country, the most notable being WE Day UN, which took place in New York in September 2019. As a bullying prevention advocate, she has teamed up with the organization Be Strong Global, as well as Instagram and Teen Vogue, to speak out against bullying. She hopes to use her story and her musical talents to ignite hope. Okwuchi lives in Pearland, Texas.