Kalifa Wilson, who goes by the name of "Kai the Singer," made it through the first round of auditions for the ABC series "American Idol."
Wilson, 19, performed her take on The Temptations "My Girl" on a recent episode in front of judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie. She played both the guitar and the piano during her audition.
The Kingstree, South Carolina native impressed all of the judges with her performance. But it was what she revealed about her life that really got their attention. Wilson said her background was rough, growing up in shelters and basically living out of a car sometimes.
"But I thank God for the car," she said.
Struck by her performance, Bryan told Wilson, "When you got on the piano, it truly started stirring many, many emotions in me. And quite frankly, I don't know how kids like you pony up and make it here."
"My church," Wilson responded.
"Your church sent you here?" Perry asked and immediately broke into tears.
"So sweet. So sweet," Richie responded.
Bryan told Wilson she was one of the kids who could do two chords and just sing and move mountains.
"You can do that," he said.
As she wiped her eyes, Perry told Wilson she was raised in the church too.
"I didn't grow up with any money. Money was always a problem. It was the cause of everything not great in my life," Perry explained. "We had food stamps and were at the food bank, all that stuff because my parents were traveling ministers."
"And so, when I was 13, the church bought me a guitar," she continued.
"That's where I got that one from," Wilson said motioning to her guitar.
"Exactly, so I relate to what you are saying. I think it's so beautiful. And I think you know... it doesn't really matter where you come from," Perry told Wilson. "I know it's so hard, this struggle. And you're an inspiration to so many people by getting here today."
Richie also spoke up, telling Wilson she was here for a reason and a purpose.
"God can only do for you what he can do through you," he pointed out.
And it was then that all three judges told Wilson she was going to Hollywood for the next round of the series.
Watch Kai's story and her performance and what brought all three judges to tears - BELOW.