Houston student stuns ‘Idol’ judges with riveting ‘Strange Fruit’

Judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan were blown away by his haunting performance

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An 18-year-old from Houston, Texas has become the talk of his town after wowing the judges on American Idol over the weekend. 

As reported by Billboard, during the second round of auditions in Austin, Douglas Mills belted out a beautiful rendition of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” a track recorded in the late 1930s, described as the catalyst of the “civil rights movement.”

Judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan were blown away by his haunting performance, with Richie saying, “Young man, that was superb.”

“You’re a superstar,” said Perry. “You transcend time and space. You froze the room. That was iconic.”

The judges continued to shower Mills with praise as he scored a coveted golden ticket to Hollywood.

Mills’ Idol audition was made possible by the love and support of his teachers and peers at Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. They reportedly teamed with a local news station that surprised Mills with a silver VIP Affiliate Ticket Pass. 

The pass allowed him to audition for American Idol. For Mills, the moment was a dream come true. 

“I was about to faint, honestly,” he recalled of the surreal experience of Channel 13 news showing up at his high school. “It was a complete surprise.” 

Mills’ path to American Idol has been rough. After experiencing bullying growing up, the teenager said music become his “safe place” to escape from being called cruel names such as ‘gorilla,’ ‘King Kong.’”

“Still, today, it’s hard for me to love myself,” he said. 

“Music is my life, basically,” Mills said in the pre-recorded segment on American Idol, according to the report. “It’s my safe place from doubters and haters. And people who just don’t like me in general.”

As reported by ABC 13, Sarita Mills, Douglas’ mom, said going into the audition she “spent the whole time just praying for him and wanting the best for him.”

She added, “As we’ve been watching, it’s like, ‘That’s our son and he made it.'”

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