American idol judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan, were all touched by the story of single mom Fire Wilmore on Sunday’s episode of the talent show.
Perry, 38 — who recently broke down in tears in another emotional episode — Richie, 73, and Bryan, 46, were in the fifth week of Season 21 auditions in Las Vegas, when they encountered Fire, 22, from Lawton, Oklahoma.
Fire discussed her hard childhood, her hardships as a young single mom to a four-year-old daughter Maja, and revealed that she wanted to get out of being an exotic dancer and provide a better life for her daughter.
She performed a rendition of Bruno Mars’ ‘Talking to the Moon,’ but left the judges wanting more, with Lionel and Luke both voting ‘no.’
However, after Fire broke down crying, Perry decided to offer her a second chance, and invited her to audition again in Nashville in a month.
Touching: American Idol judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan, were touched by the story of single mom and exotic dancer Fire Wilmore on Sunday’s episode of the talent show
Second chance: Though Luke and Lionel voted not to send her through, after Fire, 22, broke down, Perry decided to offer her a second chance, and invited her to audition in Nashville
Sweet: ‘I’m gonna give you a second chance. That’s where you’re gonna show us what the fire is, okay? I know you didn’t name yourself that for nothing,’ Katy told her
‘I never expected to be pregnant and alone at the age of 18. But I was so happy. I forgot about everything else in my life. All I could think about was I didn’t want to see her struggle. I didn’t want her to live the life that I had in any shape, way, or form,’ Fire revealed as she introduced herself.
‘So what do you do in Virginia?’ the judges asked.
‘I’m actually a dancer.’
‘What kind of dancer?’
‘A stripper,’ she shared quietly.
She was then asked about her childhood. ‘My life is kind of a crazy story… My mom was in and out of drugs. So right off the bat, I was put into state custody, which is the Indian Child Welfare. I was this young little Indian girl who had been dirty because I didn’t have parents to take care of me. My life really sucked.’
She went on, ‘The world’s not designed for single moms to be successful. So I did what I had to do, and I need to do better. I need to get away from dancing. I need to do this for me. I need to do this for my daughter.’
Unfortunately Lionel and Luke both said no following her performance, prompting Fire to cry.
Emotional: Fire, from Lawton, Oklahoma, discussed her hard childhood, her hardships as a single mom to daughter Maja, four, and shared she wanted to get out of being an exotic dancer
Adorable: She brought her adorable daughter with her for the journey
Wanting more: She performed a rendition of Bruno Mars’ ‘Talking to the Moon,’ but left the judges wanting more, with Lionel and Luke both voting ‘no’
Talent: However Katy showed her support: ‘You don’t deserve three no’s. ‘Cause you’ve got something there. I just think that it hasn’t been worked out enough’
That’s when Katy decided to step in by giving her a second chance with an audition in Nashville.
‘You don’t deserve three no’s. ‘Cause you’ve got something there. I just think that it hasn’t been worked out enough.’
‘There’s always beauty. There’s always light in the darkness. Somehow, someway, you will find what you came looking for,’ she tried to encourage Fire, who looked heartbroken.
Katy then stated: ‘Alright. I got a little something for you. We’re gonna be in Nashville in about a month, and I’m gonna give you a second chance. That’s where you’re gonna show us what the fire is. Okay? I know you didn’t name yourself that for nothing.’
‘You got one month. One month. Okay?’
‘I don’t want it. I need it,’ Fire replied. ‘I’m gonna put in everything I got,’ the performer assured the judges.
Another standout performance of the night was PJAE, 23, from Lawton, Oklahoma, who received a standing ovation from the judges.
When asked about his life and his high and low points, the singer discussed his weight loss journey as well as the struggles he went through in school.
‘I think probably the biggest, like, most defining thing for me has been my weight loss journey.’
Standing ovation: Another standout performance of the night was PJAE, 23, from Lawton, Oklahoma, who received a standing ovation from the judges
Touching: He also touched the judges after discussing his 150 lbs weight loss, and the bullying he went through in school
He then discussed the bullying he experienced in school. ‘Growing up, I was super outgoing, so I was bullied a lot for being, like, flamboyant. I would get, like, a solo or like a performance at school or something like that. And then, like, after the concert, I would get bullied in the locker room. It was very unsafe for me. I felt like I was super uncomfortable.’
‘And food was one of my biggest coping mechanisms for trauma. I would always just escape to food. When I graduated high school, I was 400 pounds,’ he said, as the judges looked on surprised.
‘It was just terrible. Like, I hated my body. I hated looking at myself in the mirror. It was difficult growing up. I was always telling myself, “No.” But my mom was always there to tell me, “Yes.”‘
‘Once I kind of got more comfortable with myself, I started to finally come into my own. I was like, You know what? I’ve got to prioritize my happiness. And music was, like, my saving grace. And now I’m here, 150 pounds lighter.’
He then sang ‘Mirror’ by Madison Ryann Ward, thrilling all three judges.
‘Okay. Put that down. The kid can sing. Hallelujah,’ Lionel stated, excited about the performance.
Meanwhile Luke stated: ‘I’ve been saying a lot of “No’s” this year to get to someone like you. You know, we’ve been dealing with some singers coming in that weren’t really putting the emotional connection in there. You just slayed all of that.’
‘I think it was the first time today that I have felt…a wave of chills so naturally,’ Katy said.
Chris Stapleton vibes: Appliance repair technician Warren Peay, 23, from Bamberg, South Carolina stunned the judges with ‘To the Table’ by Zach Williams and got a yes from all three
Top 10: Lionel was thrilled with the performance, telling Warren ‘That is about as heading down the Top 10 road that I ever heard in my whole life’
‘It was so beautiful, so effortless, so angelic and emotional and sad and painful. I felt like you were telling that story and it was your story.’
‘PJAE, personally, as a judge, I’d like to thank you for healing our family. Because up to this point, they have agreed on nothing,’ Lionel added. The trio then all gave a resounding yes.
Appliance repair technician Warren Peay, 23, from Bamberg, South Carolina was also a highlight of the episode, and played ‘To the Table’ by Zach Williams.
Katy was impressed: ‘Warren. You walked in that door and I was like, “Please, God, please, God. Answer our prayers, God. This guy looks the part. Please have him sound the part.” And you sound the freaking part. You are authentic. Authentic.’
He also received a standing ovation from all three judges.
Lionel was thrilled with the performance, telling Warren ‘That is about as heading down the Top 10 road that I ever heard in my whole life.’ All three judges then said yes.
The first contestant of the show was Mariah Faith, 21, from Conway, South Carolina. She shared a touching story of how her stepdad supported her singing dream, before passing from a heart attack.
‘Easter of 2019, my senior year, he went to go pick up a gift for my little sister…And he never came home. He had a heart attack.’
First one: First contestant of the day Mariah Faith, 21, from Conway, South Carolina, got a ‘yes’ from all judges after performing Whenever ‘You Come Around’ by Vince Gill
Thrilling: Nailyah Serenity, 22, from Charlotte, North Carolina, sang ‘Oh, My Man’ by Barbara Streisand and easily got through to the next round
‘That was my best friend in the whole world. How do you just lose that? You know, it’s like, how do you continue going on without that?’
‘I know I want to do music, so I had to suck it up. I’m like, he can’t be here. He never will be able to now, unfortunately, just here, and that’s okay.
She sang a gentle rendition of ‘Whenever You Come Around’ by Vince Gill.
Katy then stopped her, ‘Wait. Girl, you are playing it a little safe. I just feel like there is a lion that needs to be let loosein there.’
She then asked her to sing ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me.’
The judges loved the performance, with Katy calling her ‘one of the most interesting voices this season.’
They all voted ‘yes’ and put her through to the next round.
The next contestant was Nailyah Serenity, 22, from Charlotte, North Carolina, who was accompanied by her mom.
Up and coming: 17-year-old Kayleigh Clark, from Sumrall, Mississippi, sang ‘The Dance’ by Garth Brooks and split the judges
Lucky gal: Though Katy voted no, Kayleigh got through after Lionel and Luke said yes
She sang ‘Oh, My Man’ by Barbara Streisand and stunned all three judges with her incredible vocals.
‘Your whole approach was like, “I’m fixin’ to stop traffic with this. I’m gonna make people watch me.” Pay attention. “I’m gonna make people listen.” And that’s what this business is,’ Luke told her.
All three judges then sent her on to Hollywood.
Next up was 17-year-old Kayleigh Clark, from Sumrall, Mississippi.
When she was asked about her daily activities in Sumrall, she replied ‘Hunt and fish. That’s about it.’
‘Do you bow hunt?’ Luke asked her.
‘I do. I actually killed my first buck last year with my crossbow,’ she replied, to Katy’s shock and amusement.
She then sang ‘The Dance’ by Garth Brooks. Katy was slightly underwhelmed, chiming in: ‘A bit quiet. I need a little bit more. What would be your second song?’
Tough decision: Next contestant Tori Green, 20, also had the judges split, with Luke saying no, while Katy and Lionel said yes
Made it! Carina Deangelo was thrilled as she also made it through to the next round
Sweet: She surprised the judges with a plate of meat balls
Charming man: Johnny Knox charmed the judges as he played the guitar and made it through as well
She then sang ‘I Surrender.’
Lionel said: ‘I was hoping there was something on another level, and you got there. We can coach you on this, but I think the overall potential of what you have to offer, there’s a real interesting possibility of how far you can go with this.’
Luke added: ‘I think if we can get you really, really digging in, I think you might be, like, a Top 10 contender.’
Katy then said: ‘Kayleigh, you’re 17. You do have a beautiful voice, but for some reason, it’s not filling the room. It’s literally only coming, like, right here. Until we did that exercise. I want it to wake me up, grab my attention. I think you just need to have a little bit more dominance.’
Lionel and Luke said yes, while Katy voted no.
Tori Green, 20, also had the judges split, with Luke saying no, while Katy and Lionel said yes.
Carina Deangelo also made it through to the next round. She also surprised the judges with a plate of meat balls.
Johnny Knox charmed the judges as he played the guitar and made it through as well.
Young talent: Next up was 16-year-old Paige Anne from Idaho Falls, Idaho. She sang ‘What About Us’ by Pink, and got through, despite getting a ‘no’ from Katy
Grooving: Ophrah Kablan, 20, from Clio, South Carolina sang ‘Baby I Love You’ by Aretha Franklin and got a got a yes from all judges
Exciting: Cashier Kamron Lawson, 21, from Beckley, West Virginia, sang ‘Take On Me’ by A-ha, and Lionel’s ‘Truly.’ The judges all voted yes
Next up was 16-year-old Paige Anne from Idaho Falls, Idaho. She sang ‘What About Us’ by Pink.
The judges were a bit torn on her, with Lionel voting yes, Katy voting no, and Luke voting yes despite a moment of hesitation.
Ophrah Kablan, 20, from Clio, South Carolina sang ‘Baby I Love You’ by Aretha Franklin and got a got a yes from all judges.
Following her was a cashier named Kamron Lawson, 21, from Beckley, West Virginia.
‘I love to sing at work. I’ll go to the bathroom and sing. I’ll stand at registers and sing while I’m ringing people up. I actually auditioned for “American Idol” while I was working,’ he revealed, and shared he never left West Virginia before.
He sang ‘Take On Me’ by A-ha. However the judges felt his performance was a little safe.
He then decided to sing Truly, by Lionel, but missed his cue the first time around. After getting some reassurance from the judges he tried again.
Despite liking his voice, the judges believed he needed to find his confidence.
Storyteller: Owen Eckhardt, 19, from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, sang ‘Something in the Orange’ by Zach Bryan
Puppies! The judges then brought in adorable puppies to celebrate, since Eckhardt was studying Animal Science
Katy said she was going to ‘fight’ for him, and voted yes. Lionel also voted yes, and Luke followed up with a yes as well.
Owen Eckhardt, 19, from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, was up next, and sang ‘Something in the Orange’ by Zach Bryan.
The judges gave him a bit of constructive criticism but all ultimately voted for yes. They then brought in adorable puppies to celebrate, since Eckhardt was studying Animal Science.
American Idol will return next Sunday on ABC.