Now, more than 12 years later, Ryan returned to the spotlight for America's Got Talent: The Champions with an amazing story of hardship, loss and overcoming obstacles, while showing she's still got the talent that let her win the first time around.
"After America's Got Talent, my life was a total whirlwind. I was touring, I was doing music videos. Then after a few years I noticed my voice just wasn't working with me," Ryan shared in a pre-taped package ahead of her performance.
"I finally went to an EMT, and he was like, 'Basically, one of your vocal cords is paralyzed. You're gonna need surgery and there is a chance you'll never be able to sing again.'"
"It felt like the moment where, like, 'Oh my gosh, this is all crashing down on me.' I had to go to speech therapists to relearn how to speak," she recalled. "I started getting less fan mail, less comments and less views [on my YouTube videos]. I felt like I had just disappeared and everybody was just forgetting."
"I have been working a lot the last year and a half to just make this comeback," Ryan continued. "I lived 12 years in shadows, and I'm ready to see the light again."
Hitting the stage with an endearing nervousness, Ryan blew the crowd away as she belted out a heartfelt rendition of "Say Something" by A Great Big World, and it was nothing short of breathtaking.
The committed singer proved just how far she'd come since having to relearn how to talk and sing by hitting some incredible high notes, and received I cacophonous standing ovation after finishing her performance.
"I think, without you, we may not be sitting here." Simon Cowell shared. "I'm genuinely thrilled that you're back… this was a great start for the show."
Howie Mandel recalled watching Ryan compete during the first season, sharing, "I was wondering what happened to you, and to have these barriers put up and then to have the wherewithal to overcome all that, you really are a champion. In life."
"I always say to singers on this show, 'You need to take us on a journey.' You did beyond," Mel B chimed in. "You delivered with the key changes and the soft and the light and the dark. It was just magnificent."
"I'm really happy you have your voice back," Klum added, "for yourself and for us all."
America's Got Talent: The Champions airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.