Iam Tongi spoke out Monday about his “American Idol” victory after being crowned the youngest male to ever win the competition and how he honored his late father during his time on the show.
“It’s amazing,” Tongi, 18, told TV Insider. “I was so happy everyone voted. Thank you to everyone. Now that I’m the ‘Idol’ of the 21st season, it’s crazy.”
Tongi’s remarks came after several viewers claimed the entire competition was “rigged” in the high school senior’s favor and his win was due to a “sympathy vote.”
One nay-sayer tweeted that while Tongi “had the best sob story,” the competition was about musical talent.
Since his initial audition for “Idol” three months ago, the Hawaiian native’s video has racked up 16 million views making it the top video on the show’s YouTube page.
During his time on the show, the Hawaii native told judges Katy Perry, 38, Lionel Richie, 73, and Luke Bryan, 46, that he lost his father a few months prior to his audition due to Stage 4 kidney disease.
As the show progressed, Tongi continued to use his late father’s guitar during every performance until it broke mid-season.
“I always wanted to play my dad’s guitar,” stated Tongi. “But when it broke the first time, that was hard.”
According to the singer, his mother as well as another “Idol” contestant named Oliver Steele, who made it to the show’s Top 8 and developed a close bond with Tongi, told him that “it wasn’t about the guitar but the voice.”
“I just started to believe my dad was going to be with me no matter what whether I used it or not,” continued Tongi. “The guitar will always remain a treasure.”
Tongi stopped the show during the finale Sunday with two stunning renditions of Keith Urban’s “Making Memories of Us” — which brought the judge to tears — and James Blunt’s “Monsters,” which he sang with the British pop star.
According to the singer, his entire experience on the show taught him that “it’s not a bad thing to talk about your problems and what you go through.”
So where will Tongi go from here?
The “Idol” winner said that he plans on expanding his musical horizons.
“I don’t want to limit myself to one genre of music because I love all music,” Tongi said to the outlet. “I just want to have fun with it.”
Despite the hate, other viewers were excited for the young adult.
“Congratulations to Hawai’i’s own American Idol, Iam Tongi,” tweeted Hawaii’s Gov. Josh Green with a photo of the star.
“Congratulations @wtongi! It was a great season of #AmericanIdol, excited to hear more of your music,” tweeted one fan.
“American Idol got it right. Congratulations Iam Tongi,” declared a third fan.