“American Idol” winner Iam Tongi says he enjoys the “drama” of “rigging” accusations surrounding his Season 21 victory.
“A lot of people are like, ‘[Runner-up] Colin Stough was robbed,’ or whatever. And I just love it,” he told the Daily Mail in an interview published Thursday.
The 18-year-old singer went on to say that his late father, Rodney Tongi — who died in 2021 — prepared him for any public scrutiny should his music take off.
“My dad always told me that your music’s not meant for everyone. There’s going to be people that are not going to like it and that’s OK, that’s normal,” he explained.
“Everyone gets their own opinion. Everyone gets to think what they think. So, it’s fine.”
Iam said he often showers his haters with kindness as a coping mechanism.
“I just ‘like’ [the comments], whatever what they say, ’cause you know, [I gotta] let those things happen,” he shared.
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“I am guilty for liking it. But look, [my] music’s not for everyone. And I have to learn that the hard way.”
On Sunday, Iam — who is of Tongan and Samoan heritage — became the first Hawaiian to win “American Idol” since the competition reality show debuted in the summer of 2002.
A loud portion of viewers claimed the entire competition was “rigged” in the high school senior’s favor and his win was due to a “sympathy vote.”
Iam told judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan that he lost his father a few months prior to his audition due to stage 4 kidney disease. He used his dad’s guitar in every performance until it broke mid-season.
One online critic tweeted that while Iam “had the best sob story,” the competition should have centered on talent.
Another polarizing aspect of “American Idol” Season 21 was Perry’s performance as a judge. While many viewers felt her critiques were harsh, Iam told the Daily Mail that he enjoyed his interactions with the pop superstar.
“[All the judges] are so fun and we had a lot of fun with them while I was on ‘Idol,’” he said, adding that he thinks Perry, 38, should stay put.
“The support [Katy] gives and the love [she] gives to the contestants would be missed. I would miss Katy [if she left].”
The “Firework” singer reportedly wants to step down as a judge on “Idol” because she feels misrepresented by the show.
Per the Daily Mail, Perry believes she has been repeatedly “thrown under the bus by producers” who she feels have edited the show to make her appear to be the “nasty judge.”