When Marcio Donaldson was faced with the choice of taking on his nephew or letting him fall into foster care, there was only one reasonable option. The young man decided to adopt the baby and turn his life around. As a result, he later appeared American Idol to sing a song for the pair of them.
Donaldson hails from Compton, California. Growing up, he experienced hardships, in particular when he and his sister ended up in foster care. However, throughout his low points, Donaldson found solace in his love of music.
Describing his eventful childhood, in 2018 Donaldson told American Idol, “Growing up in that neighborhood, it was a lot of shooting, a lot substance abuse, a lot of people who did not even see the age of 13 years old.”
Donaldson added, “We lived in a roach-infested apartment. My mother tried her hardest, but children services ended up placing me and my sister in the system. So I found refuge in my music.”
The youngster honed his skills at a local program at the Watts Tower in Los Angeles. “It was amazing. It kept the inner city kids doing something with their lives, productively,” Donaldson told KABC in March 2018. “So I found my outlet.”
Over the years, it became Donaldson’s dream to make it as a singer. In fact, it was this aspiration that offered him something to focus on during his years in foster care. “It gave me hope,” he admitted while speaking to American Idol.
Eventually, Donaldson decided to try his luck on the singing competition. He auditioned during season 15 and succeeded in getting as far as the Hollywood round. However, that’s when his stint on the talent show came to an end. He went home following the group performance.
However, Donaldson did not give up on his dream. A year later, he returned to the show to audition once more. This time, he would sing for judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. And while he may have been familiar to the show’s regular watchers, little did they know that the 28-year-old was now a man transformed.
On this occasion, when Donaldson entered the audition room he was not alone. In his arms, he carried a tiny baby. Introducing the infant to the judging panel, Donaldson revealed the tot was called Rashaad. Furthermore, in his audition tape, he explained that the child was in fact his sister’s.
It turned out that Donaldson’s sibling had been unable to care for her little boy. “She couldn’t keep him. Drugs played a big factor in that,” Donaldson revealed. That’s when the aspiring singer stepped in to take care of his nephew.
Explaining how that came to be, Donaldson said, “The police and the social worker, they came to my home. They brought him, and here was this week-old baby.” Growing emotional at this point, he added, “They said, ‘You have to decide if you will keep this child, or he goes in the system.’”
There was no way that Donaldson was going to allow that to happen. So, he decided to break the cycle of foster care in his family. “I looked at him once, and I said, ‘I’ll take him,’” he said. “I didn’t want him to go through what I went through.”
By the time Rashaad was six months old, Donaldson had officially adopted him. Now he had to learn how to be a father on the job. “I had no idea what I was doing, but he’s actually a real gift,” Donaldson explained. “I knew it was the right decision, and he’s changed my life.”
So, when Donaldson appeared on American Idol for the second time, he had a newfound determination. “I’m not only performing for me, I’m performing for my son,” he revealed during his audition. “I want to show him what a man can really do, when you step up to the plate.”
Shortly after, Donaldson began his rendition of Labrinth’s 2014 hit “Jealous.” It was clear that the emotional lyrics resonated with him as he sang his heart out. And Donaldson’s powerful performance left all three judges profoundly moved.
As Donaldson finished singing both Richie and Perry broke into applause. Moreover, Bryan would have no doubt done the same – if he hadn’t been busy cooing over little Rashaad instead. At this point, Donaldson couldn’t control his tears, as Richie told him, “That was quite moving. And you have range, my friend.”
However, while similar praise followed from both Bryan and Perry, Donaldson appeared inconsolable. As a result, Richie walked out from behind the desk and offered the contestant a reassuring hug. However, it soon turned out that Donaldson had no need for tears.
That’s because he went on to earn three yeses from the judges, winning himself a place in the next round. And this time, Donaldson breezed through Hollywood Week to become one of the show’s lucky finalists. He will perform in the live shows until he gets eliminated or storms to victory.
Whatever happens on series 16 of American Idol, Donaldson will no doubt go on to do his son proud. However, judging by the reaction to one of his first live performances, the dad-of-one could go far in the competition.
After wowing the crowd in the studio, Perry, Richie and Bryan all left their seats to envelope Donaldson in a celebratory group hug. “I got one word, man, you’re a survivor,” Bryan said. “You keep surviving this competition and you just… you just delivered us a world-class performance. I mean world-class.”