Singer Mandy Harvey earned a spot in the finals of America's Got Talent earlier this year—no less impressive a feat because she's been legally deaf for a decade. But the 29-year-old from Ohio tells the BBC she got death threats from the deaf community when she started her post-hearing music career. Harvey was born with near-perfect pitch but also a condition that caused her to gradually lose her hearing, NPR reports. She was a college freshman, studying to become a choral director, when she finally lost her hearing altogether. Harvey, who says "music was my life," dropped out of school and lost direction. But her father encouraged her to try singing again, and she used an electric tuner to learn how to stay on key without hearing herself. That was followed by hundreds of shows, three albums (a fourth comes out later this year), and, of course, America's Got Talent.
Despite her success, Harvey hasn't been fully embraced by the deaf community. "I got a lot of backlash from certain people in that community because I was promoting oralism," she tells the BBC. Oralism is pushing deaf people to conform to the hearing world through speech and lip-reading rather than using sign language, and "oral" can be lobbed as an insult at deaf people accused of doing "hearing" things. "When you're doing something that is living inside the hearing world, such as music and singing, it can be frowned upon," Harvey says. A deaf blogger says what happened to the singer shows the "ugly side of our community." But Harvey isn't going to let criticism—or death threats—stop her. "I really wanted to change the idea of what is possible," she says. "If it hacks off a couple of people, well, it's encouraging a heck of a lot more, so they can just get over it."