Page 5 - MidWeek Kauai - May 24, 2023
P. 5

 Born William Guy Tongi and raised in Kahuku, he attended Lā‘ie and Kahuku elementary schools, and Kahuku High & Intermedi- ate School before moving to Seattle a few years ago be- cause, as he explained on the show, they were “priced out of paradise.”
“(My favorite restaurant is) Da Bald Guy — they’ re so good,” says Tongi. “It’s the best breakfast on the whole island. It’s a little food truck by the sugar mill in Kahuku.
Each week, before tak- ing the stage, Tongi shares that he has a ritual of sitting down and singing a song called Teu Hiki A Hoku Leo.
“My favorite memories growing up was walking down to Kahuku Famous Shrimp and all of us were like, ’ cause we never had
artists, he lists Josh Tatofi, Josh WaWa White, Fiji, Al- len Stone and Teddy Swims.
my dad’s favorite.” Throughout his journey
“Oh man, I get the kalbi, it’s boneless kalbi with eggs and stuff, it’s so good. We also like to get the shrimp and they have the best mac salad I ever had.”
“It’s a Tongan gospel song that me and my dad used to sing together all the time,” explains Tongi, who is of Tongan, Samoan and Irish ancestry. “It kind of gets the nerves out and gets the feels in and brings out emotion.”
Although his influences are many, Tongi is especially fond of artists George Strait and Lionel Richie — the latter a judge on the show American Idol.
In addition to singing, Tongi says he also loves to cook (he enjoys making
Looking ahead, Tongi says he wants to record a lot of singles and perform at live concerts. Among his favorite
“I love a lot of artists,” he explains. “My favorite artists of all time is proba- bly George Strait and Lionel Richie. Lionel Richie was
on American Idol, Tongi says the best part has been making new friends along the way, hanging out with them and just “jamming out and having fun.” So, natural- ly, the hardest part has been saying goodbye to some of them as contestants get elim- inated each week.
MAY 24, 2023
  Tongi Living His Dream On American Idol FROM PAGE 4
 performances, including a moving rendition of I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bon- nie Raitt and beautiful cover of Bring it On Home to Me by Sam Cooke that received thunderous applause.
much money as kids we were all broke, someone would bring $5 and some- one would bring $2 and we would go down to Kahuku Famous Shrimp and get $1 garlic rice,” remembers Ton- gi. “We would just sit there and just eat the garlic rice and jam out, and that’s one of my favorite memories.”
shoyu chicken, fried rice, pork chops and steak) and draw.
to see Iam be able to reach so many people,” says mom Lillie. “This is something his dad always told him that that was his ability or his magic was to get people to believe him when he’s singing or to touch their souls, and to see him believe in himself now with American Idol helping him with that confidence, it’s been magical.
“I had no idea this was gonna happen, but I’ m glad I touched so many people,” says Tongi, who returned to the islands last week for a Hometown Hero concert at Turtle Bay Resort. “And when people chant my name, it just makes me feel like this is unreal and I’m so grateful.”
“And, I love to call my family and irritate them,” laughs Tongi, the youngest of five children.
As for the things he miss- es most about Hawai‘i, he lists family (he has “at least a couple hundred cousins”), the food and the beach.
He credits his dad, who was an electrician, for teaching him to sing. He was in the fifth grade at the time, which is also when he learned to play the ‘ukule- le, and remembers his dad really pushing him to make it a career. Sadly, his mom, Lillie, shared on the show that his dad got sick a cou- ple of years ago and had to go through dialysis. Music was how they bonded, and Tongi admits it’s been hard since his dad’s passing. He notes the tears when he sings come from hearing his dad’s harmony. However, with some encouragement from his family, and a determina- tion to make his dad proud, he decided to take his music seriously.
“For me, it feels awesome
“I think something I would want to put out for every- body is you’ re in charge of your future, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Shoot for it and just give it your best.”
        He also knows that Amer- ican Idol is his “chance to be something more.” But, at this point, it’s already changed his life and many others, too.
     “My dream is just to con- tinue to touch people’s heart and make them feel the mu- sic and see what I’m trying to put out there,” says Tongi.
     (Left) The Kahuku native delivers another stirring performance during an American Idol show taped here in the islands. (Above) Tongi (second from left) poses with fellow contestants and judges, from left, Zachariah Smith, Oliver Steele, We Ani, Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, Haven Madison, Colin Stough, Megan Danielle and Warren Peay.
When MidWeek asks if he’s already enjoying the dream life, he responds, “Yeah. I’m living it right now.”

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