Who is Iam Tongi? 5 facts about the Season 21 'American Idol' winner – The Cincinnati Enquirer

In a shocking turn of events, 18-year-old high school senior Iam Tongi was crowned the Season 21 winner of “American Idol” on Sunday night.
During the live finale, the remaining three contestants − Megan Danielle, Colin Stough and Iam Tongi − performed two songs: one by guest mentor Keith Urban and another in tribute to their hometowns. Then, host Ryan Seacrest revealed which contestants made the Top 2, surprising fans nationwide.
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Stough, a country singer, received the fewest viewer votes and was eliminated, leaving Tongi and Danielle to battle it out for the first-place title. The two finalists sang original songs released and recorded through “Idol” for the last chance to win over viewers.
Danielle sang her song “Dream Girl,” and Tongi performed his original single “I’ll Be Seeing You,” which ultimately won him the coveted $250,000 prize and a recording contract with Hollywood Records/19 Recordings. He’s the first non-country singer to win the show in three years.
Here are five facts about the 2023 “American Idol” winner.
Tongi’s Feb. 19 audition is the most viewed video on the “American Idol” YouTube page, amassing over 16 million views. During his viral audition, Tongi sang an acoustic cover of “Monster” by James Blunt, which he dedicated to his father Rodney, who died in December 2021, per Kent Reporter.
Tongi told judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie that he can still hear his dad harmonizing with him on every song he sings.
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According to Spectrum News, Tongi is originally from Kahuku, a town in O’ahu, Hawaii, and is of Tongan, Samoan and Irish descent. The 18-year-old singer is a senior at Decatur High School in Federal Way, Washington, outside of Seattle, where he and his family moved three years ago. When asked why he moved by the judges, Tongi said his family was “priced out of paradise.”
Tongi’s viral 2023 audition was not his only attempt at the “American Idol” crown. Tongi auditioned for the popular singing competition show once before, which pleased his father, Rodney, who always knew the young singer was talented.
However, he did not pass the initial screening, to which his father said, “Son. I need to talk to you. You need to work on your music.’” Although Rodney had high expectations for Tongi, he never allowed that to interfere with their relationship.
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“My dad, he wasn’t a perfect dude,” Iam told the Kent Reporter. “He wasn’t like a saint, or whatever. But he was the best father that I know. And I want everyone to know that he’s a tough guy. He always told me the truth, (and) he always loved me. And I always loved him too.”
Tongi told the Kent Reporter that he wears a warm scarf around his neck and drinks plenty of fluids to preserve his voice. He explained that he performs this ritual because he loses his voice before every performance.
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KHON-TV, a television station in Honolulu, Hawaii, reports that Tongi is the first person from the Hawaiian Islands to win “American Idol.” He is also the first Pacific Islander to win the singing competition show, per the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi posted a photo on Facebook with the Tongi writing, “It is a proud day for Hawaii, and all of the residents of Kahuku especially. For Iam and his family, this is a very special life-changing event that he has proven he deserves with his tremendous talent and even bigger heart! Mahalo Iam… you have made us all so very proud!”


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