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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 observe.


    Eighteen-year-old Iam Tongi has had an unbelievable 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 grew to become 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: Nicely, I’ve received to begin off with some congratulations to you. How are you feeling about all the pieces?

    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 truly gained.

    SUMMERS: In the course of the closing episode, you carried out an unique tune. It is known as “I am going to 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: Initially, it is simply an unbelievable, stunning tune. And the individual that you are speaking to there, the individual that 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 completed.

    TONGI: Thanks. And hopefully, I believe he could be.

    SUMMERS: In the event you might, might you inform us somewhat 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. , rising up in Hawaii, I listened to quite a lot of island music, and my dad influenced my music by exhibiting me – from a really younger age, he used to play, like, Keith City’s dwell CD 3 times or, like, 4 occasions a day. And after I discovered ukulele, he pushed me to study guitar and pushed me to begin singing. And I owe all the pieces 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 need 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 observe. And I instructed her there isn’t any want for me to observe as a result of, like, the one purpose why I did it was for my dad. She was like, nicely, I signed you up for “American Idol.” I used to be telling her, Mother, I do not need to do it. And he or she’s like, too late, I already did. I used to be like, oh, shoot. So that basically received me as much as check out, and I am glad I did.

    SUMMERS: I need to speak for a minute about your audition. You carried out the James Blunt tune “Monsters,” and also you devoted your efficiency of that tune 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 immediately earlier than this dialog, and I used to be tearing up at my desk. It left judges and audiences in tears. You have been unbelievable. The tune is unbelievable. You have got this wonderful story to share. How did you choose that tune?

    TONGI: After I went to the audition, my mother requested me like, what do you concentrate on “Monsters”? And at first, I wasn’t actually open to the concept ‘trigger each single time I sing that tune, you already know, I get emotional or it is exhausting for me to, like, end it. I wasn’t going to do it, however then I used to be eager 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 unbelievable 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 through the competitors?

    TONGI: Most likely Hollywood Week ‘trigger that is once I was, like, first launched to, like, this schedule – proper? – you already know, waking up early and coming house late. So I misplaced my voice earlier than the duet, and I used to be so, like, annoyed. And once I went on the stage, my guitar broke.

    SUMMERS: Oh, gosh.

    TONGI: I simply was making an attempt to carry it collectively and went on the stage. And proper once they requested me, like, what’s unsuitable, 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: , it means rather a lot to me to be the primary. I do not need to, like, sound cocky, however, like, pave the best way – yeah – for my folks to simply do what they love and don’t have any concern, as a result of I did not need to do it ‘trigger I did not need to get embarrassed. That is how my persons are. They’re very prideful. And I simply need them to get out that mindset. And if you happen to do one thing you’re keen on, you may succeed if you happen to strive 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 take heed to the music you make.

    TONGI: Thanks a lot.


    TONGI: (Singing) …Wherever I’m going.

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