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Blind since birth, Raleigh woman sings in national competition

Mary Mikels (WTVD photo)

RALEIGH - Mary Mikels can't see the piano keys she plays or the sheet music in front of her, but she can sing. The 20-year-old Raleigh native is set to graduate from Sanderson High School next weekend, but first, the young woman who's been blind since birth hopes to advance to the finals of a national singing competition, "Blind Idol."

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The youngest of four children, she was the only one born visually impaired. Her mother Juana says she first learned Mary was a gifted singer when she was very young, singing along to Christmas carols. "Sometimes I wasn't sure who was singing in the room- was it Julie Andrews? Or was it Mary?" said Juana. While Mary enjoys playing the piano and violin, singing is what she loves.

"It's a way to communicate my feelings about life," she said. Hearing Mary flawlessly belt out classics in her family's living room, you would never think she used to be too nervous to perform in public.

"It wasn't until later on that I started to realize the whole purpose of performing," she said. "It's not supposed to nerve racking. It's supposed to be a tool for other people. This world is a dark place. But music is what kinda brings the world back together, I think." "She just has the most blessed attitude of thankfulness," said Juana. "She's just such a picture of being thankful for what you're given, not what you're not given." Mary auditioned for "Blind Idol" and was selected out of 75 legally blind singers from across the country to be one of 15 semi-finalists. She's performing Saturday night at the Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel. Five finalists will compete in August for a $1,000 prize and studio time. She hopes together, their voices will send a message. "If you do have a disability or visual impairment that doesn't- it does not deprive you of being able to do things that you set your mind to," she said.

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