Iam Tongi was the winner of American Idol 21. (Image via American Idol)

Who is Iam Tongi? Hawaii native wins American Idol 2023 

Back in February, American Idol fans saw Hawaiian resident Iam Tongi being crowned as the winner of season 21. Only 19 years old, Tongi had already broken multiple show records and impressed fans worldwide to go all the way. His first-ever performance on the show, a rendition of Monsters by James Blunt, became American Idol’s most-watched performance on YouTube.

With over 16 million views, Tongi quickly became a star. Taking inspiration from his father, his journey on American Idol resulted from his dad's motivation and support. The American Idol 21 winner recently released his first single and is on his way to becoming a bonafide household name.


Who is American Idol 23 winner Iam Tongi?

Originally from Hawaii, Iam Tongi belongs to Kahuku, a small town in the O’ahu region of Hawaii. Winner of the 21st season of the show, Tongi’s performances were followed closely by his father, who attended each of them. The Hawaiian also has traces of the Tongan, Samoan, and Irish heritage.


His original brand of music also takes inspiration from the regions he belongs to. Iam Tongi is originally a classical singer. His family relocated in 2020 due to a high cost of living in Hawaii. This is also something he shared during his journey on the show.

Tongi’s attempt to enter a previous season of the show failed after he could not qualify past the initial screening. Regardless, he returned for season 21 after having consistently worked to improve his music, something his father supported all along the way.


This included creating a routine involving wearing a warm scarf around his neck for hours daily. Tongi revealed on the show that he had to overcome various challenges and had issues with his throat. Regardless, his victory on the show broke multiple records.

Iam Tongi became the first person from Hawaii to win the American Idol competition. He was also the first Pacific Islander to win the title, which works well with the kind of diversity his original singing and music style possesses.

Iam Tongi sang Monsters with James Blunt back in August


Monsters was the song that Tongi sang during his audition. However, life changes quickly. In August, a few months after his American Idol success, Tongi released a cover of the song featuring Blunt. The collaboration marked a proud moment in his career and represented a bonafide full circle.

The last few months have been highly eventful for Tongi in a positive sense. He recently released his new original single Why Kiki? And has recently been involved in raising awareness for the Maui wildfires.


Tongi has become a bigger success and has recently been on his first-ever tour. He initially planned limited destinations and recently expanded the tour to the East Coast. Still aged only 19, Tongi has a range of musical talents. Apart from being a singer, he plays the acoustic guitar and the ukelele.

Tongi’s initial attempt at American Idol season 20 failed. He attended the Federal Way High School and graduated from the Decatur High School in Washington. Tongi is now a full-time musician and has found a lot of success in recent months.

Other recent initiatives he has participated in include headlining the MLB 2023 Home Run Derby. His career has grown consistently after being announced as the winner of American Idol 21 in May. Tongi sang his original song I'll Be Seeing You in the final and impressed fans by adding an original, classical twist to the 3-hour finale.


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Edited by
Pradyot Hegde
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