We can all use a little positive energy right now. Here to make his contribution is American Idol judge Lionel Richie.

Idol returned for a 20th season — the fifth on ABC after launching in 2002 on Fox — on Feb. 27. The singing talent search series airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and Citytv.

Richie was joined by fellow judges Luke Ryan and Katy Perry, along with host Ryan Seacrest and executive producer and showrunner Megan Michaels Wolflick, on a virtual press conference last month. The ABC session was part of the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour.

The 72-year-old singer-songwriter was asked by one veteran reporter about his generally upbeat disposition. Even daughter Nicole Richie calls him, “the happiest person I know.” What makes him such a cheerful guy, he was asked?

“I’ve always had the philosophy that everybody is going through some problems in their lives,” Richie answered. There’s no reason, however, to wallow in it. If he finds himself in a room full of miserable people, he said, “I like to leave that room.

“Sometimes you can live in pain for so long,” he added, “it becomes a way of life.”


Richie, who has sold over 100 million records, has his own little ritual each morning to avoid slipping into the doldrums. “I wake up in the morning. I’m miserable, lying in bed. And then I walk into the bathroom and I look in the mirror and I go, ‘Oh, my God. Lionel Richie.'”

In other words, no matter what problems are bugging him, “there are folks that have bigger problems than I have. And on top of that, how lucky am I to be here? And so, I use that as my going forward every day.”

Seacrest followed up by asking if Richie always had that attitude or did he learn it at some point along the way?

Richie answered by saying co-writing (with Michael Jackson) the African famine relief fundraising anthem “We Are the World” in 1985 was a turning point.

“After I did ‘We Are the World,’ I had no more problems in life at all,” he said, especially after traveling to Africa and witnessing so much famine and other hardships.

“They have nothing. And yet they were smiling and happy to see us. And that’s when I realized, wait a minute. I have no problems at all.”

Richie says his atitude towards those less fortunate extends to some who audition for American Idol — including a few who appeared to be homeless.

“We actually come together as mentors, as fathers and mothers,” Richie says of the judges, “because sometimes all they need is a hug just to understand what it’s all about, and that’s what we do as far as the judges. That’s why this show changed to what it is.”

Richie confessed he wasn’t always the happiest, huggiest guy in the room. He wasn’t too happy 20 years ago, for example, when Nicole and her spoiled heiress BFF Paris Hilton were goofing around as the bratty stars of The Simple Life.

“Honestly, Nicole and Paris almost killed me. But it’s okay. That’s a whole ‘nother story, but I’ll tell you about that later.”

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