It was 1983 when Lionel Richie attended a Prince concert in Los Angeles, California. Standing in the crowd, Richie was enjoying the music when he noticed something very out of place — a two-year-old girl dancing on stage next to Prince.
Swaying her body, playing the tambourine, and seemingly enjoying herself, Richie wasn’t sure what to think of the young girl. And that’s when he started asking some more questions. A few months later, he made a drastic decision.
A Young Girl Was Dancing Next To Prince
It was the 1980s, and Lionel Richie was gradually making a name for himself as a solo musician after playing with the Commodores for years. But that didn’t stop him from trying to get backstage when he saw a two-year-old girl dancing next to a legendary musician, Prince.
Even though the little girl seemed totally fine dancing on stage, she was so young and in a place that was arguably not suited for a two-year-old. But who was she, and where were her parents?
Where Were Her Parents?
Richie had no idea what to think of the situation. But he knew one thing for sure; he had to get backstage and ask some questions about the little performer. For some reason, he was entranced by her and wanted to know more.
Well, at least, he wanted to know where her parents were and how in the world she managed to hop on stage during one of Prince’s sets! There were so many fans who would do questionable things for such an opportunity.
The Little Girl Is The Daughter Of Two Big-Time Musicians
Since he wasn’t a huge solo name in the music industry, it took some time for Richie to persuade the right people to allow him backstage. Eventually, he was let in. Racing backstage, Richie finally learned the truth about the tiny dancer playing the tambourine onstage with Prince.
She was the daughter of Peter Escovedo and Karen Moss, two big names in the music industry. Now, he was beyond curious. Richie had to meet the little girl.
This Little Girl Was Going To Grow Up In A World Of Rockstars
After learning that the two-year-old girl was the daughter of two big-name musicians, two performers who just so happened to be acquainted with someone like Prince, Richie knew he had to meet the little dancer.
She was about to grow up in a totally different world than other people her age, a world where she’d be surrounded by legendary rock stars and be able to dance onstage right alongside them in sold-out arenas.
The Young Girl’s Name Was Nicole
Richie was entranced by the young girl. So, he asked Peter Escovedo and Karen Moss if he could meet their daughter. They agreed; it was no problem at all. The thing is, Richie had no clue why he was so keen on meeting this girl, but something in his gut was telling him that it was necessary.
Their daughter’s name was Nicole, and she was beyond excited that someone wanted to meet her.
Richie Felt Better Now That He Met Nicole And Her Parents
Richie and Nicole played a bit backstage, laughing and goofing off. By the time the concert came to an end, the two unlikely friends said their goodbyes. Richie felt a bit better leaving the young girl behind, knowing that her parents were actually there and she didn’t randomly find herself in the middle of a Prince concert.
But the thought was fleeting, especially when Richie stumbled upon the young girl a few months later.
Nicole Wasn’t Being Raised By Her Parents
A few months after their initial meeting, Richie came across that tiny two-year-old once again. Only this time, it was clear something was wrong with the family dynamic. Nicole’s parents were divorced, and, from the sound of it, neither Karen nor Peter was taking the time to raise her.
Instead, they were leaving her with various family members and friends. But it was the last thing Richie learned that made him do something drastic.
Richie Didn’t Want Nicole Going On Tour
Richie learned that Karen and Peter were considering taking Nicole on tour with them, even though they were recently divorced and not in the best frame of mind. On top of that, a tour was no place for a young girl.
So, Richie turned to his now ex-wife, Brenda, telling her that he was very concerned about Nicole’s well-being and what would happen to her while on tour. They came up with a plan.
They Wanted To Take Nicole In
Richie and his wife Brenda didn’t want Nicole going on tour. She was only two years old; a music tour was no place for someone so young. They asked Karen and Peter if they could take Nicole in and give her a place to stay while they were gone.
During an interview with the Huffington Post, Richie said, “We [were] a little worried…a 2-year-old needs to be stationary.” At first, Nicole’s parents were hesitant.
Eventually, Nicole’s Parents Agreed
Karen and Peter were a bit skeptical about leaving their daughter with virtual strangers. Yes, they were having issues of their own, and it probably wasn’t the best environment for a young child. But they were strangers.
After discussing the situation, they decided it would be best for their daughter if they left her with Richie and Brenda. It would be a more stable home life for the two-year-old girl.
The Situation Was About To Get Rocky
During an interview Richie had with Piers Morgan, he revealed that Nicole’s parents had many issues between them that they had to work out. And it wasn’t a healthy way for a child to grow up. He said, “They were having difficulties with their relationship.”
And even though they agreed that Nicole could stay with Richie and Brenda while they were away on tour, the situation was about to get a lot rockier than anyone could imagine.
Nicole’s Family Was Unraveling
Taking in Nicole, Richie and Brenda got an up-close-and-personal look at how hectic the young girl’s home life actually was. Karen and Peter were constantly at odds with one another and their lifestyle choices weren’t helping matters.
With their budding musical careers, their tiny family was falling apart at the seams. And it was the unraveling of their family that convinced Richie he had to do something to save Nicole. She shouldn’t have to live in an unstable environment.
Richie And Brenda Were Appointed Legal Guardians
Richie knew he had to do something for Nicole. According to the interview he had with Piers Morgan, “It took about maybe a year for me to just fall in love, and she was a little button.” Fast-forward another year, and Richie and Brenda were appointed Nicole’s legal guardians.
Everyone was overjoyed with the news. Finally, Nicole was going to have a safe and stable home life away from the lifestyle of rock and roll. Or was she?
A Budding Career Meant A Lifestyle Change
Now that Richie and Brenda were Nicole’s legal guardians, they thought she was going to have a normal life. That is until Richie’s career began to take off. The musician’s talent in the industry was finally starting to make waves.
Ironically, it was the lifestyle of a rock and roll musician that had Richie and Brenda taking in Nicole, to begin with. He knew some things were about to change; they had to.
Nicole Had Abandonment Issues
For obvious reasons, Nicole had serious abandonment issues. Being taken in by another musician just meant he was going to eventually leave her behind to pursue his career and go on tour.
But Richie wasn’t going to let that happen. He wanted to make sure the young girl knew he wasn’t going anywhere and that he was always going to be there for her. “By that time, I was Dad,” Richie said to Piers Morgan.
Nicole Escovedo Was Officially Made Nicole Richie
Richie was determined to gain Nicole’s trust. The first step: making Nicole Escovedo officially Nicole Richie. At nine years old, Nicole wasn’t entirely aware that, aside from her last name, her entire world was about to change.
Her new dad was going to make sure she never got left behind again. Even so, Nicole had serious doubts about the new arrangement. Richie could tell she didn’t trust he’d stay by her side.
Richie Promised Never To Leave Nicole
During an interview on Talk To Me, Richie told Nicole about how she was as a little girl, saying, “I remember you had abandonment issues for obvious reasons. You’ve been handed around to every relative in the family. And remember what I said to you.”
“I said, ‘I’m never, ever going to leave you.'” He then recalled the look of doubt on her face, an emotion no nine-year-old should ever have to express when it comes to family.
Richie Decided To Shorten His Tours
To help Nicole with her abandonment issues, Richie decided some lifestyle changes were in order, especially considering he was becoming more and more popular in the music industry.
So he’d be at home more often, Richie decided to shorten the length of his tours, always making sure to come home with some gifts for little Nicole and a lot of stories to share with her. Little by little, he was getting through to her.
A Messy Divorce Rocked Nicole’s World
Unfortunately, just when things started to become stable for Nicole, there was another speed bump. Her seemingly perfect world fell apart when Richie was caught cheating on Brenda, resulting in a messy divorce, some charges, and more than one tabloid writing about the story.
It seemed as though no matter which family she was in, her parents always left. Thankfully, as she got older, Nicole realized her father’s unlucky streak when it comes to women.
Nicole Now Pokes Fun At Her Dad’s Love Life
During an interview with Huffington Post, Nicole poked fun at her father’s love life, saying, “Women haven’t really been your strong suit.” But then she went on to say that he was the opposite when it came to her.
She said, “But you’re very gentle with me and, and I feel like you and I have a really good, strong relationship.” That relationship took some time to build, though. And it was put to the test when Nicole got into a bit of trouble.
Richie Gave Nicole A Hard Truth
In 2003, the Hollywood partying lifestyle got to Nicole, and she checked into rehab. With a tour scheduled, Richie knew that his music was the last thing he had to worry about. His daughter needed him.
He wound up canceling the tour so he could be by Nicole’s side. While helping his daughter get better, Richie spoke some harsh truths, saying, “Get used to [Hollywood], kid, because it doesn’t get any better.”
Through Thick And Thin, Richie And Nicole Stuck Together
Now, married with two children, Nicole looks back at her childhood and upbringing with gratitude. While growing up with a rock star as a dad wasn’t easy, Nicole is indebted to Richie.
The two have been through a lot together, including two messy divorces, her Hollywood partying stint, and even her being the odd duck in the pack alongside her two half-siblings who are Richie’s biological children. But through it all, they’ve stuck together.
Nicole Wouldn’t Change Her Childhood For The World
During an interview with The Telegraph, Nicole was asked about her childhood and if it ever felt strange to her, considering everything that happened. Nicole said, “My childhood was my childhood. I don’t have another one to compare it to.”
One thing she will say is that her father, Richie, didn’t consider himself to be a good dad at the time since he was always on the road and touring.
Richie Was Never Fake Around Nicole
“My dad [Lionel] has said before that he doesn’t think he was a good dad,” Nicole said during an interview with The Telegraph. “But I’ve never felt like that. He’s being too harsh on himself. Looking back, I think I had a wonderful childhood.”
According to the socialite, her father is her number one fan and is always there for her no matter what. She especially enjoys that no matter what, Richie has always been himself around her.
The Best Thing About Richie: His Sense Of Humor
During an appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan in 2020, Nicole explained her father’s personality, saying that what you see is what you get. Richie is exactly the same person in front of the camera as he is behind closed doors.
She said, “He’s got the zingers and the one-liners and zoom zoom zoom. And I’m like, ‘Were you waiting for me to call? Do you have a list written down? How do you have so many jokes ready to go all day long?’”
They Changed Each Others Lives
Of course, the beginning of their father-daughter relationship was anything but ordinary. Richie first found Nicole on the stage at a Prince concert, dancing alongside the legend while playing the tambourine.
Before he knew it, that little two-year-old was changing Richie’s life. During an interview with Talk to Me, Richie said, “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.”
Nicole Was Never Getting Left Behind Again
He continued during the interview, saying, “All of a sudden, I found something that I could actually fall in love with that was never going to leave me.” The issue was that while Richie thought Nicole was never going to leave him, she didn’t have the same feeling towards the musician.
She was used to being left behind and didn’t want this to be another case of getting comfortable with a family, only to have them leave her once something better came along.
Richie Was Going To Give Nicole The Best Life Possible
Richie was determined to give Nicole the best life possible. During an interview with Piers Morgan, the musician recalled what he said to Nicole before officially adopting her.
He remembers telling nine-year-old Nicole, “You’re going to make everyone wish they had adopted you. You are going to make everyone in your family wish they actually had a chance to get you back.” It didn’t take long for her to officially take Richie as her last name.
The Adoption Was Hard On Nicole’s Biological Mom
When Nicole finally took Richie as her last name, her biological mother knew she lost her daughter. In the memoir, The Beat of My Own Drum, Nicole’s biological aunt, Sheila E., wrote about how hard it was for Karen to give up Nicole.
She wrote, “As a single working mom, Karen was extremely grateful but very torn…The heartbreaking part is that once Nicole Escovedo legally became Nicole Richie, it felt like we lost her. We all lost her.”
Richie Made Nicole Feel Safe
But fate would have it that Nicole would be the daughter of musician Lionel Richie. Though her life has had many ups, downs, and milestones, Richie has always been there for Nicole, even if it is making fun of her choice in husband, rock star Joel Madden.
According to Nicole, a rocker for a husband was the obvious choice. It’s what she grew up around, and it made her “feel safe.” A nod to her adoptive father, who made a young girl feel safe during a very chaotic and uncertain time in her life.