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Iam Tongi becomes first Pacific Islander to win American Idol

Tuesday 23 May 2023 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional


Iam Tongi becomes first Pacific Islander to win American Idol
Iam Tongi performs in the final of the 21 season of American Idol. Photo: ABC/23052203

Teenage sensation Iam Tongi has won American Idol.

Tongi is the first Pacific Islander to have won the TV singing competition, one of the most popular shows in the world.

The 18-year-old's debut performance of James Blunt's 'Monsters' brought tears to the eyes of celebrity judges Lionel Richie and Katy Perry, and is the most viewed American Idol video on YouTube

"I'm singing next to a guy who has the most beautiful voice and he wears his heart on his sleeve and I felt just very lucky to be up there with him," Blunt said after the show.

He also sang Keith Urban's 'Making Memories of Us', the crowd cheering his name, and his new single, 'I'll Be Seeing You'.

"Every time you come on and you sing, the vibration that comes out of your mouth, it goes through the weeds of people's hearts," Perry told him.

The runners-up were Megan Danielle and Colin Stough. Stough was widely favoured to win, singing the same kind of rugged country rock as previous recent winners. The audience gasped when he was the first to be eliminated from the three-way finale.

"Thank you everyone for voting," Tongi later wrote on Instagram. "Love all you guys! Thank you so much, yessah blessa never stressa!"

Tongi is from Kahuku, on the Hawaiian island of O'ahu, and reportedly of Tongan/Samoan and Irish descent. His real first name is William.

This was the 21st season of American Idol, which will be back next year for another.