‘American Idol’ crowns first Pacific Islander and Hawaiian as winner
An 18-year-old from Oahu, Hawaii made history on Sunday after becoming the first Pacific Islander singer to win “American Idol.”
Fan favorite Iam Tongi won the show’s 21st season after a moving rendition of his original song, “I’ll Be Seeing You”, dedicated to his late father. Country singer Megan Danielle of Georgia placed second, and Colin Stough of Mississippi came third.
“My dad would probably be crying right now. My dad is a tough man, but when my brother won the state wrestling title, he was crying. So I can just imagine it right now,” Tongi told “Access Hollywood” after the finale.
Tongi captivated viewers from her first audition with a rendition of James Blunt’s “Monsters” that instantly went viral, garnering over 22 million combined views on YouTube and TikTok. Blunt joined Tongi in the final for a duet that left judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan visibly emotional.
“I’ll Be Seeing You” and “Monsters” took the top two spots on the iTunes Charts the morning after the finale.
Tongi, who is of Tongan, Samoan and Irish descent, according to her social media pages, was born and raised in Kahuku, Hawaii before moving to Seattle, Washington with her family.
“Kahuku is just a small little town, everyone is full of love and support. Even though I moved, they still know this is my home,” Tongi said during her visit to his hometown as part of the show’s finale.
Tongi paid homage to her home country several times throughout the season, with covers of Kolohe Kai’s “Cool Down” and “Lava” from the Disney short of the same name set on an island in the Pacific.