In a touching interview with PEOPLE Magazine, award-winning singer, producer, and "American Idol" host Lionel Richie opened up about adopting his first daughter, Nicole Richie.
"Nicole was actually a godsend. She was a little girl who needed a shot,” Richie told the publication during a lengthy interview for PEOPLE's Black History Month cover story. “She was used to people coming and going. She looked at me and I’d say, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’”
Richie adopted Nicole when she was 9 years old with his first wife, Brenda Harvey. Harvey and Richie split soon after, divorcing in 1993 after it was reported that Harvey "caught" Richie with Diane Alexander, a dancer and fashion designer. Richie and Alexander later married in 1996, having two more children — Miles and Sofia — before divorcing in 2004.
It was during this tumultuous time that Richie says his first daughter, Nicole, kept him grounded.
“Brenda and I went through a very interesting time,” Richie told PEOPLE. “We didn’t agree on a lot of things, but we did agree on [Nicole].”
Richie first saw Nicole at a Prince concert, while she was on stage playing the tambourine.
“The discovery was not the show for Prince,” Richie told HuffPost in late 2020. “The discovery was: there’s a 2-year-old on stage with Prince playing a tambourine.”
Richie met Nicole backstage, realizing that he knew her biological parents. Born Nicole Camille Escovedo, Nicole was the biological daughter of musician Peter Escovedo and assistant Karen Moss — friends of Richie's. The "All Night Long" singer later learned that Nicole's biological parents were experiencing financial hardship and that their “family situation was falling apart." Wanting to help, he and his first wife adopted Nicole.
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“I think you...changed my life a great deal in terms of softening my heart, because everything up to that point was about songwriting and the business and touring,” Richie said to Nicole in the same HuffPost interview. “All of a sudden I found something that I could actually fall in love with that was never going to leave me. How about that?”
Today, Richie a grandpa twice over thanks to Nicole and husband Joel Madden, who are parents to daughter Harlow, 14, and son Sparrow, 12. And while parenting Nicole wasn't always easy, Richie told PEOPLE that her becoming a mom has brought it all full circle.
“I’ll say something and she goes, ‘Dad, we don’t use those kind of words around the kids.’ And I go, ‘Excuse me?’” he says with a laugh. “She turned into a fantastic young lady.”