American Idol is no stranger to moving contestant backstories. People come from all across country to audition for the show, and they come from all different backgrounds and with different life experiences. Often they share these experiences on the show, endearing them to both the judges and the audience before they even open their mouths to sing. And this season, very few contestants have a more compelling backstory than Top 24 finalist Marcio Donaldson. But who is American Idol's Marcio Donaldson, and what are his chances of winning American Idol?
Marcio captured the hearts of America when he showed up to his American Idol audition with his infant son, Rashaad, in tow. Marcio had actually auditioned for the show before, in Season 16, but didn't make it past the group round in Hollywood week. The now-28-year-old Compton native returned to the American Idol auditions, and shared the story of his turbulent childhood in Compton with America.
"Growing up in that neighborhood there was a lot of shooting, a lot of substance abuse, a lot of people who did not even see the age of 13," Marcio said during his audition segment. "My mother tried her hardest, but children services ended up placing me and my sister in the system." And Marcio says that the cycle repeated with his sister, who gave birth to a son but couldn't keep him due to drug abuse problems. "Because she couldn't take care of him, the police and the social worker came to my home," Marcio shared. "They brought him, and here's this week old baby, and they said you have to decide if you will keep this child, or he goes in the system." Marcio decided on the spot to take the baby, and adopt him as his own son. "I didn't want him to go through what I went through," Marcio said through tears.
Marcio made it to Hollywood based on his performance of "Jealous" by Labrinth. But it wasn't all smooth sailing once he got there. Marcio and his group, which also included near-top-24-finalist Maddie Zahm, struggled to remember all of the lyrics to "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees. Though a few of them stumbled their way through the song, Maddie and Marcio were able to advance in the competition, and both made it through to showcase round.
When it was time to perform for the first time in front of a live audience, Marcio performed "If You Really Love Me" by Stevie Wonder. In a dramatic final showdown, Marcio and fellow contestant and father Dennis Lorenzo were left to face the judges with seemingly only one spot left. But the judges gave both of these contestants a spot in the Top 24, giving both fathers a chance to be the next American Idol.
In an interview with ABC news, Marcio shared that his participation in an arts program at the Watts Tower as a kid helped him find his passion for music. "It was amazing, it kept the inner city kids doing something with their lives, productively," said Marcio. "So I found my outlet. And I want to let others know, find your outlet. When there were times when I was feeling sad or lonely or abandoned, I would sing and my day would switch from that dark depressed stage into a sort of bliss." He shared in the same interview that he hopes that his journey onto American Idol will be an inspiration for others growing up in less than ideal circumstances. "Growing up in the inner city, it was hard. It was tough, and a lot of people succumb to the circumstances," he said. "So I wanted to be a light for those who don't believe in dreams or don't see them being possible or obtainable, you know what I'm saying?"
By appearing on the show and sharing his story with the country, Marcio has already inspired people everywhere. But now it will be up to America, and the judges, to decide whether his Top 24 performances are good enough to send him through to the Top 12.