1st Pacific Islander ‘American Idol’ Winner Iam Tongi Encourages Hawaiians

Iam Tongi, a high school student who broke out in the middle of guitar season, became the first Hawaiian and Pacific Islander to win “American Idol,” drawing national attention to island culture and sparking a wave of local celebration.

“Hawaii is a very close-knit community, so when we see someone trying to win, many of us cheer from the privacy of our living rooms and make as much noise as possible,” Roman de Peralta said. and Kolohe Kai, a songwriter from a local Hawaiian band, performed Tonki in the season 21 finale. “He tugged at the hearts of not just Hawaii, but the entire world.”

Her success at local concerts and school celebrations is particularly rare, as country singers typically dominate “Idol” and other reality singing competition shows. A fan favorite, 18 years old Christian singer from Kahuku, Hawaii crossed genres with her final performance to top Meghan Daniel.

The songs Donkey performed Sunday night were dedicated to his late father, who died of kidney failure just months before Donkey auditioned for the show. He covered “Remember Us” from country music artist and former “Idol” judge Keith Urban. He revisited James Blunt’s “Monsters.” Virus audit, this time singing a duet with the song’s British pop singer. And she sang her original song “I’ll See You”. “Gone but your love / Is all that’s left / I’ll stand tall / You’ll be in my arms,” ​​sang Donkey.

Donkey’s reminders of his father haunt him throughout the season. He promised his father before his death that he would always play the guitar he had gifted him. Midseason, the instrument broke, and Tongi had to sing Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me.”

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“It was a sign my dad gave me that I could make it on my own,” Donkey later said on “Live with Kelly and Mark.”

Many of the songs Donkey performed on stage were tunes he grew up singing with his father, and he said he still hears his father’s music in his head.

The ‘American Idol’ winner is no surprise. There is a reason for that.

In 2009, Tongi stayed true to his Hawaiian roots by performing Kolohe Kai’s hit song “Cool Down” in the islands. De Peralta said he was honored and humbled to see it.

“I’m excited now!” De Peralta wrote along with the video he posted on Instagram.

The high school student drew praise from Hawaii’s government, including Gov. Josh Green (D), who posted a selfie with the musician and wrote in a statement:

“He represented our state with grace, humility and, of course, his amazing talent. Congratulations to Iam, his entire ‘ohana and his beautiful hometown of Kahuku.”

“American Idol” premiered in 2002 and remains one of the country’s most popular shows, though its ratings have plummeted. According to Deadline, about 5.6 million viewers tuned in for last year’s finale. Ratings for Sunday’s show were not immediately available.

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