| USA TODAY
“American Idol” auditions continued this week, with one young contestant giving a performance so powerful she brought Lionel Richie to tears.
This person was 19-year-old Ronda Felton from Milwaukee, who came to the audition accompanied by her mother.
“Growing up, it was definitely rough for my mom and I,” said Felton, who was raised by her single mom. “We were homeless. We had to live in shelters and off of people’s couches, cars. It was tough, but I had my mom, so it was OK.”
When host Ryan Seacrest asked Felton what song she and her mom love singing together, the teen answered “Zoom” by The Commodores. “Idol” judge Lionel Riche was a member of the funk and soul band from 1968 to 1982.
“Music made me realize things that I could be, things that I could achieve,” Felton continued. “I am here today because I want to succeed.”
Upon walking into the audition room, Felton burst into what she called “tears of joy,” which prompted Richie to offer her a handkerchief. The emotional Felton then belted out “One Night Only” from the musical “Dreamgirls.”
Her performance clearly moved all three judges, but especially Richie.
“You came in and did something that no one has done tonight, which is touch me to the point of making me cry,” he said. “Every once in a while, life happens, and then you figure, ‘How do I get out of this situation?’ And God provides a crack in the wall. Just a crack. Just like every other crack that’s been there forever, but that crack is just enough for you to get through. And my dear, you just found that crack. Because that was the moment that will change your life. It’s a yes for me.”
Felton also earned a yes from Katy Perry, who told her, “You don’t have to be strong. You just gotta be Ronda. And that will take you all the way.”
Luke Bryan also gave her a yes, noting her best performance is still ahead of her.
Upon finding out she was going to Hollywood, Felton couldn’t contain her excitement. She ran out of the room to share the good news with her mom even before grabbing her golden ticket.
Felton brought her mom into the room to meet the judges. Through tears, mother and daughter sang “Zoom” with Richie to celebrate.
“When I wrote that song I was deeply troubled, because I didn’t know where I was going,” Richie told the pair. “So if I’ve touched you in any way… you’ve given me the greatest gift ever.”
Another memorable audition came from 26-year-old college student Erika Perry, who, despite her “government name,” said she prefers to go by “E.T.”
And Perry wasn’t just looking to prove to the judges she can sing — she was also looking to prove something to her ex-boyfriend, who recently dumped her. After claiming a spot in Hollywood, Perry gave her ex a special message.
“Hey, Stephen,” she said directly into the camera. “You said I had no drive, no motivation. I was going nowhere in life. But hi, I’m going to Hollywood.”
Perry held up her golden ticket and flashed a sly smile.
She and Felton will be joined in Hollywood by 21-year-old maid Christian McGuckian, 19-year-old real estate sales associate Mary Jo Young, 22-year-old software developer Hunter Metts and other standouts.
Auditions continue next Sunday (8 EST/PST).