Entertainment Music 'American Idol' Contestant with Autism Wows Judges with His Vulnerability: 'You Are Enough' "What we consider your handicap, is your gift ... you are enough," judge Lionel Richie told contestant Sam Finelli By Christina Dugan Ramirez Christina Dugan Ramirez Writer-Reporter, TV People Editorial Guidelines Published on March 14, 2022 02:00 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Sam Finelli is ready to chase his dreams. During Sunday's episode of American Idol, the 28-year-old contestant from Peachtree Corners, Georgia faced his fears by auditioning in front of judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan — and the outcome exceeded all of his expectations. "I kind of shy away from singing with people," Finelli, a bakery cashier, told the judges. "I've done some karaoke around our town. That's about it. I'm going to be honest with you all, I never thought I'd be here in a million years." Sam Finelli. ABC/Eric McCandless "Sam has been diagnosed with autism," his mom told the cameras. "He's high-functioning but he has struggled. Music helps him a lot. He keeps meeting expectations that we never thought possible." "I really don't like talking about it usually, but I was always different as a kid," added Finelli. "I don't connect with people very well. It's just a small part of who I am, it's not all of who I am. It was lonely growing up, but music was my best friend. I work at a bakery to put myself out there ... it's how I can support myself. I hope for the future for more. I'm afraid I'm not good enough, but I'm 28. I wanted to at least try." Singing "Rainbow" by Kacey Musgraves, Finelli instantly wowed the judges with his pipes and earned himself a standing ovation from all three judges. Sam Finelli and the judges. ABC "You told us about your struggle and you walk out here with other experience to American Idol and you have three judges giving you a standing ovation," said Richie. "We are so proud of you, man. Sam, you were born enough. What we consider your handicap, is your gift. You are enough." "Sam, you picked the perfect song," added Perry. "There's always been a rainbow hanging over your head." "I needed this song 20 years ago," Finelli said. American Idol: Katy Perry Details Fiancé Orlando Bloom's 'Bromance' with Fellow Judge Luke Bryan Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. ABC "Well, you're 28 and the moment is now," said Perry. "All that you have to do is let go of all that fear and negativity and always sing from your heart. That's exactly what you did just then. And we felt that." "I love an experience and that felt like an experience," said Bryan. "Thank you for being here." Before giving him a final judgment, Richie invited Finelli's mom to come into the audition room and stand beside her son. "Sam has come in this door and has blown us away because he gave us the pure Sam," said Richie. "We're about to vote for him right now. My first word is, yes." "Rainbow over your head, yes," said Perry. "Yes!" said Bryan. Katy Perry. ABC After earning that golden ticket to Hollywood, Perry asked: "You ready to be the next Kelly Clarkson?" "I sure as hell will try," said Finelli. American Idol airs Sundays at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.