Biological Family Surprises 'American Idol' Contestant after Her Performance of ‘There Was Jesus’

Milton Quintanilla | CrosswalkHeadlines Contributor | Updated: Feb 22, 2024
Biological Family Surprises 'American Idol' Contestant after Her Performance of ‘There Was Jesus’

Biological Family Surprises 'American Idol' Contestant after Her Performance of ‘There Was Jesus’

American Idol contestant McKenna Breinholt was surprised by her birth family during her audition on the season premiere of the prominent singing competition series.

Breinholt, a 25-year-old singer from Gilbert, Arizona, told the “American Idol” judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie that she was adopted and later discovered that her birth mother was a singer named Amy Ross Lopez, Church Leaders reported.  When Breinholt was 21, she attempted to search for her birth mother, only to learn that Lopez passed away in October 2013 following complications from Lupus. 

“I found [out] I was adopted as early as I was able to understand it,” Breinholt explained. “My mom struggled for several years trying to get pregnant and eventually they decided to go through the adoption process.”

“I have the best family in the world,” she continued. “They’ve always supported me.”

She also learned that her birth mother was a singer who performed locally in Bisbee, Arizona, just several hours away from Gilbert.  Breinholt noted she “instantly knew where I got my ear from and where I got my voice from—it just all clicked.”

Last summer, Breinholt was able to contact her birth family and learned that they all sing. 

“My birth family was looking for me for probably the last eight years,” she told the judges. “Knowing that I have another family out there who’s equally excited to know and love me was amazing.”

She also said that she had planned to meet them in the next several weeks after speaking with some of her birth family members through FaceTime. 

Breinholt performed a rendition of  “There Was Jesus” by Zach Williams and Dolly Parton, which earned her praise from the American Idol judges. 

Judge Katy Perry called the performance “beautiful,” while judge, Lionel Richie, said it was “gorgeous…storytelling, smoky voice and I love the little cry in your voice that just cuts right through.”

Perry then asked Breinholt if she wanted to invite her adopted family into the room so that they could hear the judge's verdict on her audition. What Breinholt didn’t realize, however, was that her birth family was also present when she opened the door to let her adopted family in, bringing her to tears. 

Perry then asked Breinholt if she knew any of her birth mother’s songs and if she could play them for everyone. Breinholt answered in the affirmative and sang of her birth mother’s songs as she sat by the piano. 

 Breinholt’s birth grandmother, visibly emotional, was shown singing alongside her granddaughter and later noted that it was like seeing the ghost of her late daughter. 

“Music is connection. Music is emotion. Music is the heart. You’re not the only person out there that’s searching for their birth family,” Perry said.

“Thousands of viewers are saying ‘me too,’ Perry continued. “It’s wonderful to have them all together and it’s so wonderful for your mom and dad to see this and to be so open and loving and supportive about this,” she said. “I’m sure there was a big loss for your birth family, and for you to sing like that, I think it’s healing.”

“You have no idea,” one of Breinholt’s birth family members replied.

As for the verdict, all three judges gave Breinholt a yes and told her, “You’re going to Hollywood.”

In a post on X, Williams posted a reaction video of himself and Parton watching Breinholt’s rendition on American Idol. 

“It’s amazing to see how God continues to use this song! Praying for McKenna and her family this season,” Williams told Church Leaders. 

In December, Breinholt wrote on Instagram, “This season has brought me so much closer to Christ. I pray that everybody has felt some peace this holiday season. Especially the families in my hometown pushing through these last several agonizing days.”






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A post shared by McKenna Breinholt (@mckennafaithbreinholt)

“My heart aches for those who are missing their loved ones today,” she continued.

“I am beyond grateful to have the faith that I do in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” she said. “I firmly believe that families are forever and that we WILL see our loved ones again. If we turn to Him, He will carry us.”

RELATED: Hear from Colton Dixon, the talented Christian singer who placed seventh on the eleventh season of American Idol!

Photo Courtesy: American Idol via YouTube


Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for CrosswalkHeadlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.



Biological Family Surprises 'American Idol' Contestant after Her Performance of ‘There Was Jesus’