Gareth Malone's Choir winner 'thankful' for having Asperger's
A student who wowed TV audiences with his performances during Gareth Malone's The Choir has said he is "thankful" for having Asperger's syndrome.
Michael Luya is a member of Semi-Toned, a group crowned winners of The Choir: Gareth's Best in Britain on Tuesday.
He said Asperger's, a form of autism, pushed him to be the best he could be.
He added: "I'm really thankful for the fact I've got Asperger's. It's a part of me and I wouldn't be where I am today without it."
Semi-Toned is a group of 12 former and current University of Exeter students.
In the semi final of The Choir, broadcast on BBC Two, Michael was praised for singing an emotional solo of Candle in the Wind.
The 22-year-old said: "I tend to get very socially anxious. I also have difficulties recognising how other people are feeling and reading other people's emotions.
"I couldn't grasp the emotional weight of the piece, so my approach was a lot more logical.
"I would say because of the challenges to connect, it gave me a drive to find something even deeper and even more personal."
Michael, who is now studying a master's in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge, has received messages of support on social media, including some from others with autism.
Clare Cox from the National Autistic Society said: "Many autistic performers tell us that they are happiest and most confident when they are on stage entertaining an audience.
"By demonstrating his musical and performance skills in such a high-profile competition, Michael will undoubtedly inspire more young autistic people to have the confidence to follow his example."