'American Idol' Contestant Kelsie Dolin Brings Lionel Richie to Tears in Her First Performance

The 18-year-old West Virginia native saw an ad for auditions on social media and wowed the judges.

Not only did Kelsie Dolan have to take her first ever plane ride to get to her American Idol audition, she had also never performed before she stepped on the stage in front of judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie

The 18-year-old native of Boone County, West Virginia, shared the story of her difficult childhood, and being raised by her grandparents. Kelsie noted that her grandmother sadly died in 2021 after suffering complications from COVID-19. 

Noting that her grandmother "pushed her" to try things, Kelsie decided to "step outside" of her comfort zone in her honor. She said that after seeing ads for Idol auditions continuously popping up, she took it as a sign from her grandmother to audition. 

Kelsie started off her audition by singing Kelly Clarkson's "Piece By Piece," and the judges sat watching her closely. She later shared that the song was her first time performing in front of people.

"I tried to sing in church one time. The music started playing and I just froze," she admitted. 

The judges then asked if she could try another song, with Perry urging her to "show us a little bit more power," and to "step on the gas." Kelsie then performed Adele's "When We Were Young." 

Perry continued to push Kelly, urging her forward throughout the performance. And when she got to the chorus, Kelsie confidently belted out the notes as Richie wiped away tears. 

Bryan told the young contestant that she hit "zero" bad notes during her performance. 

"We are so emotional and we are so overcome because you've been sitting down in West Virginia and you have this pure, beautiful voice that's never been challenged, it's never been pushed, it's never been lifted up and loved on," Bryan said. 

Richie added, "This is the only person that's just walked in here and messed me up completely."

Perry praised the contestant, and let her know that they were going to "push" her in the competition. 

The judges then unanimously told her that she was going to Hollywood.