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The student news site of Hoover High School

The Cardinal

The student news site of Hoover High School

The Cardinal


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Iam Tongi

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, every school day The Cardinal will feature a prominent and historical Asian American or Pacific Islander, living or dead, who has worked toward change, advancement, and/or world peace. Some of them are heroes, and some are unsung heroes, who deserve recognition, and have made a contribution to society.

Iam Tongi was the first person from Hawaii, the first Pacific Islander, and the first non-country singer in three years, to win season 21 of American Idol. He is also the first winner to have been born after the show’s premiere on June 11, 2002.

Tongi was born September 1, 2004, in Kahuku, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu.  He is of Tongan,  Samoan and Irish descent.  He is the youngest of five children.  Tongi learned to play the ukulele in fifth grade. When he was 13, his father gifted him a guitar that he had bought with his holiday paycheck. Tongi would go on to use the guitar in nearly all of his performances on American Idol.

During the audition, Tongi talked about having to move to Washington because he was “priced out of paradise”. When asked about his father, Tongi became teary-eyed, explaining that Rodney, his dad, had passed away a few months before the audition, and that Rodney was the one who got him into music.

A few days prior to Idol‘s season finale, Tongi released the single “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and the song reached No. 3 on Billboard‘s Digital Song Sales and No. 1 on Rock Digital Song Sales, from 11,000 downloads.  Shortly after winning Idol, Tongi embarked on a tour that saw him reunite with fellow contestant Oliver Steele, who finished in the Top 8 and with whom Tongi formed a special bond during the competition.

On July 1, 2023, at a concert at the Turtle Bay Resort, Tongi surprised the audience by inviting Roman De Peralta from Kolohe Kai to join him on stage to perform “Cool Down”, the same song he showcased on Idol. The concert was their first time performing the song together. De Peralta said afterward, “He’s coming home after an epic win, and I texted him, are you going to jam ‘Cool Down’ tomorrow? And he said yeah, and I said, ‘Can I join?’ and he was really stoked. I am honored to be here.”

On August 12, 2023, Tongi released an Instagram video honoring the victims of the 2023 Maui wildfires. Encouraging his fans to donate, and expressing his love and support for the people of Maui, he sang a cover of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Starting All Over Again.”

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About the Contributor
Joseline Jardon
Joseline Jardon, Staff Writer
I like to go out to eat to views and at cool restaurants or simply just go to the beach with my girls. I love sushi but I also love Italian and Mexican food. My favorite roll is a crunchy roll as well as the California roll. I also love salmon sushi with just raw salmon and rice. My goals are to one day be a registered nurse and I aspire to be successful and become an inspiration for my younger brother. My role models are my parents, because they’re very hardworking people who have taught me everything I know about being a respectful and responsible person. My favorite drinks are Yerbamate teas, strawberry acacias from Starbucks (we're boycotting right now), Dr Pepper and ice cold water. I want to make an impact in the world by helping my community and taking care of people and their families. Society can make this world a better place by being more accepting and more open minded and not ass harmful towards things that aren’t bad they’re just different. Overall I feel like we need to be less hateful and help one another instead of break each other down to try and become better than the other person.