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Iam Tongi, 18, credit his mother and late dad for his ‘American Idol’ win : NPR

Iam Tongi is the primary Pacific Islander to win American Idol. His dad died a couple of months earlier than Tongi’s audition, which he says his mother signed him up for and pushed him to apply.


Eighteen-year-old Iam Tongi has had an unimaginable week.


RYAN SEACREST: The winner of American Idol 2023 is Iam Tongi. Congratulations.


SUMMERS: Not solely did Tongi win the twenty first season of “American Idol.” He additionally turned the primary Pacific Islander to take action. And Iam Tongi is right here now to speak with us about his massive win. Hey. Welcome.

IAM TONGI: Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot – good to be right here.

SUMMERS: Properly, I’ve received to begin off with some congratulations to you. How are you feeling about every little thing?

TONGI: I really feel prefer it nonetheless hasn’t hit me, hit me but, and I nonetheless must, you already know, get it in my thoughts that I really received.

SUMMERS: In the course of the remaining episode, you carried out an authentic track. It is referred to as “I will Be Seeing You.”


TONGI: (Singing) All of your wit, all the laughs, your grin will keep in my coronary heart, keep in my thoughts for all of time.

SUMMERS: To begin with, it is simply an unimaginable, lovely track. And the person who you are speaking to there, the person who you will be seeing is your dad, Rodney, who sadly handed away a short while earlier than you auditioned for “American Idol” – a couple of months earlier than. I’ve to think about he simply would have been so happy with you for all you have achieved.

TONGI: Thanks. And hopefully, I feel he can be.

SUMMERS: When you may, may you inform us a little bit bit about who your dad Rodney was and the way he instilled such a love of music in you?

TONGI: Yeah. My dad – he is Tongan and Samoan. You recognize, rising up in Hawaii, I listened to a variety of island music, and my dad influenced my music by displaying me – from a really younger age, he used to play, like, Keith City’s reside CD thrice or, like, 4 occasions a day. And after I realized ukulele, he pushed me to study guitar and pushed me to begin singing. And I owe every little thing to my dad as a result of if my dad by no means pushed me, and I would not be right here proper now.

SUMMERS: Your mother has shared that when your dad handed away, you did not wish to sing anymore since you saved listening to your dad again you up. What introduced you again to singing?

TONGI: My mother simply signed me up, after which she was telling me to apply. And I informed her there is not any want for me to apply as a result of, like, the one purpose why I did it was for my dad. She was like, effectively, I signed you up for “American Idol.” I used to be telling her, Mother, I do not wish to do it. And he or she’s like, too late, I already did. I used to be like, oh, shoot. So that actually received me as much as check out, and I am glad I did.

SUMMERS: I wish to speak for a minute about your audition. You carried out the James Blunt track “Monsters,” and also you devoted your efficiency of that track to your father.


TONGI: I am not your son. You are not my father. We’re simply two grown males saying goodbye.

SUMMERS: I watched that video earlier at present earlier than this dialog, and I used to be tearing up at my desk. It left judges and audiences in tears. You have been unimaginable. The track is unimaginable. You’ve got this wonderful story to share. How did you decide that track?

TONGI: Once I went to the audition, my mother requested me like, what do you consider “Monsters”? And at first, I wasn’t actually open to the thought ‘trigger each single time I sing that track, you already know, I get emotional or it is arduous for me to, like, end it. I wasn’t going to do it, however then I used to be fascinated about it, and I simply needed to dedicate it to my dad as a result of I owe all that I’ve to him and my mother.

SUMMERS: I imply, you bought off to an unimaginable begin in your season, however as any devoted watcher of “American Idol” is aware of, there’s by no means an ideal journey. What was the hardest second for you in the course of the competitors?

TONGI: In all probability Hollywood Week ‘trigger that is after I was, like, first launched to, like, this schedule – proper? – you already know, waking up early and coming dwelling late. So I misplaced my voice earlier than the duet, and I used to be so, like, pissed off. And after I went on the stage, my guitar broke.

SUMMERS: Oh, gosh.

TONGI: I simply was attempting to carry it collectively and went on the stage. And proper after they requested me, like, what’s mistaken, I simply began crying.


TONGI: My dad had spent his vacation paycheck (crying) to purchase me the guitar. And I made a promise that I used to be going to make use of it at each efficiency.

SUMMERS: You’re the first Hawaiian and Pacific Islander to win “American Idol.” What does it imply to you to be the primary?

TONGI: You recognize, it means so much to me to be the primary. I do not wish to, like, sound cocky, however, like, pave the best way – yeah – for my folks to only do what they love and haven’t any worry, as a result of I did not wish to do it ‘trigger I did not wish to get embarrassed. That is how my persons are. They’re very prideful. And I simply need them to get out that mindset. And should you do one thing you like, you possibly can succeed should you attempt your greatest.


TONGI: (Singing) ‘Trigger I will be seeing you…

SUMMERS: That is Iam Tongi the most recent winner of “American Idol.” Good luck. And I actually stay up for attending to hearken to the music you make.

TONGI: Thanks a lot.


TONGI: (Singing) …Wherever I’m going.

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