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American Idol Judges Brought to Tears after Learning Church Sent Once-Homeless Girl to Audition

  • Kayla Koslosky

    Kayla Koslosky has been the Editor of since 2018. She has B.A. degrees in English and History and previously wrote for and was the managing editor of the Yellow Jacket …

  • 2019 Mar 07

In an emotional audition on ABC’s “American Idol,” 19-year-old Kalifa Wilson stood before judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie to share her families struggle to overcome adversity.

According to CBN News, Wilson – who goes by “Kai the Singer” – walked into the audition room and sang covers of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and The Temptations’ “My Girl” before quickly bringing pop singer Katy Perry to tears with her story.

Wilson shared that all of her life she and her family had been living in homeless shelters. The South Carolina native even noted that at one point her whole family was living in a car.

Bryan, who was visibly moved by Wilsons rendition of “My Girl,” told Wilson that he was glad she was able to come to the audition. He said, “When you got on the piano, it truly started stirring many, many emotions in me. And quite frankly, I don't know how kids like you pony up and make it here."

Wilson responded saying, “My church.”

Perry, whose eyes were filled with water, quickly asked, “Your church sent you here?"

Wilson answered saying, “Yeah, just right there after church.” 

As tears streamed down Perry’s face, she told Wilson that her story reminded her of her own.

“I didn't grow up with any money. Money was always a problem. It was the cause of everything not great in my life," Perry told the teen. "We had food stamps and were at the food bank, all that stuff because my parents were traveling ministers."

Perry added, "And so, when I was 13, the church bought me a guitar.”

Wilson interjected saying "That's where I got that one from," as she pointed to the guitar she played while covering “Thinking Out Loud.”

"Exactly, so I relate to what you are saying. I think it's so beautiful. And I think you know... it doesn't really matter where you come from," Perry told Wilson. "I know it's so hard, this struggle. And you're an inspiration to so many people by getting here today."

Richie followed up by telling Wilson, “God can only do for you what He can do through you.”

Wilson told the judges that her once-homeless family now lives in a small home and while most of them do not have beds to sleep on, she is grateful to have a home.

While the audition had a shaky start that required Wilson to have to sing a second song, the judges were confident in their final decision after hearing the 19-yer-old sing as she banged out “My Girl” on the piano. The judges handed Wilson a golden ticket as they told her she would be going to Hollywood for the next round in the competition.

Photo courtesy: American Idol Screenshot

Video courtesy: American Idol

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