Marcio Donaldson moved all three judges with his powerful performance.
In an exclusive preview from Sunday’s episode of American Idol, the contestant made such an impact on the judges that Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan all walked over to the 28-year-old to give him a hug.
With tears streaming down his face, Donaldson listened as Bryan praised him for his “world-class performance.”
“To see Lionel so fired up, and when you’re singing to hear what he’s whispering to us is so inspiring,” the country singer remarked. “I got one word, man, you’re a survivor. You keep surviving this competition and you just — you just delivered us a world-class performance. I mean world-class.”
Following her fellow judge’s praise, Perry started to walk off the stage towards Donaldson, grabbing hold of Richie’s wrist, and urging him to follow her.
As the judges all made their way over to the contestant, Perry led the way as all three judges wrapped Donaldson up in a sweet group hug.
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Donaldson has said he wants to win the competition not just for himself, but for Rashaad — the 6-month-old baby boy he adopted after authorities stepped in due to his sister’s substance abuse. At his audition, the Compton, California native dedicated his performance to the child, as he recalled what it was like to step up and set a strong example, breaking their family’s cycle of being in the foster system.
“I didn’t want him to go through what I went through,” Donaldson tearfully told viewers. “I had no idea what I was doing, but actually he’s a real gift. And it was the right decision, I know. He’s changed my life.”
American Idol airs on Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.