On the Monday, November 2 episode of Dancing With the Stars, celebrity contestant took the time to remember his sister, Jacqueline Donahue, who died of leukemia. It was also the R&B singer’s birthday.
Prior to their performance of the Rumba to the song “Nobody Knows” by the Tony Rich Project. Nelly commented that that song was one of his sister’s favorites.
He dedicated the dance, which took place on his birthday, to his late sister. Donahue died in 2005 when she was 31 years old.
Nelly and Daniella Were Thanked by the Judges
— Dancing with the Stars #DWTS (@DancingABC) November 3, 2020
“Something I love about this show is sometimes… there’s moments like that that kind of just transcend everything else,” judge Derek Hough told Nelly before thanking him for the touching performance.
Bruno Tonioli said that he adored the performance and said it was touching. Carrie Ann Inaba said that Nelly wasn’t quite up to her standards yet, adding that he needed to work on the “variety.”
“What I loved is that you danced from your heart and we could all feel that tonight,” Inaba told him.
Overall, Nelly and Daniella received a 21 out of 30 for their performance.
The Emotional Tribute Was Loved on Twitter
When the dance wrapped up, many fans took to Twitter to express their support for Nelly.
“ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL,” one user wrote. “My heart was touched!! Regardless, you two danced beautifully & the score should have been higher! Keep up the good work!”
Other users commented that the dance had them in tears. Another called for everyone to vote for him, tweeting a gif of a cat busy on the computer and writing, “me voting for nelly on every platform to make sure that sweet angel doesn’t get sent home.”
“Thank you Nelly for sharing this story,” another user tweeted. “I love this man so much.”
Donahue Had Two Children
Nelly is a great uncle to Donahue’s two children.
According to her obituary, Donahue died at a St. Louis hospital. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2001, and the cancer was in remission for nearly two years but she suffered a relapse.
A bone marrow match was never found, an obituary reports. Nelly organized a campaign called the “JesUs 4 Jackie” to try to find a match, and nearly 1800 people signed up, but none of them were a match, according to amomama.
After his sister died, Nelly said he was angry.
“I was enraged,” he said. “We had this door in the back where my room was; I split the door straight down the middle, just punched it.”
On an episode of VH1’s “Behind the Music,” Nelly revealed that he was able to speak with his sister before she died.
“I talked to her for about 20, 25 minutes,” he wrote. “And she gets off the phone and she lays down and she’s gone. They said the only thing that kept her alive was that she wanted to talk to me before she left.”
Dancing With the Stars airs on Monday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.