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Faces of 2019: Shayla Winn - ‘American Idol’ contestant who suddenly lost her vision - is working on a single
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Faces of 2019: Shayla Winn - ‘American Idol’ contestant who suddenly lost her vision - is working on a single

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Why you know her: Shayy Winn, an 18-year-old from Midlothian, wowed the judges on “American Idol” this past season. Winn, who lost her vision suddenly due to a tumor, didn’t let that stop her from trying out for the reality singing competition.

Her audition moved celebrity judge Lionel Richie to tears and was viewed millions of times on Facebook and YouTube.

Winn didn’t make it to the “American Idol” Top 20, but over the past year, she has used her newfound fame to launch her singing career, traveling to multiple states and performing everywhere from Minneapolis to Atlanta.

What’s new: Now 19, Winn was planning to spend her first year out of high school learning independent-living skills for the visually impaired, instead of going to college like many of her peers.

But because she was traveling so much to perform, she wasn’t able to enroll.

“I’m going to wait until my schedule lightens up a little,” said Winn, who’s still living with her mother at their Midlothian home.

Winn’s main focus now is making new music, and she mostly works out of a home studio. She plans to release her first single sometime in 2020.

“The goal is to release it myself on all platforms — SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple — so that everybody has access to it,” she said.

Winn is currently filming a music video for the single around Richmond. She’s also working on a few other songs that span R&B, ballads, dance, inspiration and love songs.

Winn said that “the biggest difference is that I’m not in high school anymore. Most days are pretty boring, mostly sitting in my room singing a song or watching ‘Law & Order SVU.’ ”

“My friends are away at college. I had hoped to study physical therapy for athletes, but right now, I’m focusing on my music and trying to get it out there.”

Her vision is stable; it hasn’t gotten worse or better. She said, “I’ve just become more adapted to it.”

Over the past year, she’s also connected with others who are visually impaired on social media. “We talk about how we do our hair when we can’t see it. How to tell if there’s a stain on your shirt. We talk about dating. It helps a lot,” she said.

Almost a year after the “American Idol” experience, her empowering message is the same:

“Having low vision doesn’t hinder your dreams; I just have to find other ways to do it,” she said.

“Follow me on social media, and look out for my songs.”

— Colleen Curran

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Colleen Curran covers arts and entertainment for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She writes the weekly column Top Five Weekend Events.

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