Lionel Richie doesn’t often let his guard completely down as a judge on American Idol, but he was reduced to tears when an inspirational 17-year-old singer gave a stunning performance this week.
Virginia teenager Shayy appeared on the show just one year after becoming legally blind due to a devastating tumour in her brain, and bravely shared her story with the judges and viewers at home before pulling off a flawless performance.
“A year ago I started complaining to my mother about not being able to see the white board,” Shayy said in an interview on camera. “I was like, ‘Oh man I’m going to get glasses now’.”
Shayy eventually went to the doctors to have tests, before she was sent to ER and had to have an MRI scan — which found the tumour.
“One doctor was like, ‘Okay, Shayy, I’m going to try and save you from going blind’. I was like, ‘What’d he just say’?” she added.
“When I first came home from the hospital, I had come home and I couldn’t see everything.”
At this point she began to cry on camera and struggled to speak, before eventually explaining: “Once I got back into school that was the bad part. The kids were so cruel. They would call me names. They would kick my cane. They pushed me. I asked my mum at one point, ‘Why did that happen to me?’
“But on the other side, I have people that have been really supportive and I have made new friends. There’s a whole other side to life that I never knew about. People are always going to say, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that’. But you can do it. You got it!”
Having been led out in front of the judges, Shayy confidently revealed how she’s coped losing her sight, with Richie, 69, appearing emotional throughout her audition.
He struggled to hold those emotions in when she began to sing a flawless cover of Andra Day‘s ‘Rise Up’, and was seen wiping his eyes and burying his head in his hand as soon as it begun.
“You have wrecked me,” he told her shortly after. “You’re a lesson to us all. It’s the power of the spirit and you’re the reminder just how blessed we are. I’m so in love with you.”
He wasn’t alone, and one viewer commented on Twitter: “The best I’ve heard so far. She could win this! Unbelievable!” while another added: “Definitely in tears now omg #idol stop it lol @AmericanIdol #americanidol I love this show so much.”
And one wrote: “The most inspirational performance ever! What a talent! What a story! Brought me to tears. #ShayyWinn Unbelievable!”