"I made it through to the next round, Mom."
American Samoa’s native son, Paul Ieti stole the hearts of the audience and the judges alike on national television Tuesday night when he sang ’Stay’ by Rihanna, on America’s Got Talent (AGT), an American television series on the NBC television network with millions of viewers worldwide.
The ‘Toa o Samoa’ — who is from the village of Aoa — is stationed at Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Georgia and because of his awesome voice, made it to the next round on AGT. Ieti is a US Army Private First Class and a Petroleum Supply Specialist. He is the son of Akenese and Lemaua Ieti of Aoa.
This reporter watched AGT, as did many local viewers, to see Ieti’s first live performance on national TV, last night, which played at 7p.m. on Channel 5. AGT is in its ninth season. A video of his full performance can be viewed through a link on samoanews.com
Samoa News in chats with some viewers heard that some shed tears of joy, some were screaming his name during his performance — and some took screen shots of their TV while Ieti was on, and later posted them on their Facebook pages.
When Ieti took the stage and introduced himself, he was fielded with questions from Howie Mandel — where he was from and what he did for a living. The 21-year-old soldier proudly stated he was from “American Samoa” and announced that he’s a serviceman, to great cheers from the audience.
Mandel thanked Ieti for his service and asked why he took the military as his “life path”. The toa-singer said he joined right out of high school because he wanted to serve as a way of giving back. “Speaking of service we just got back from deployment from Afghanistan for nine months,” he added.
Mandel asked Ieti how long he has been singing. Ieti’s response, “All my life. Music has been a comfort zone for me, and this was a really big deal in Afghanistan… and it got me… and my brothers and sisters [fellow soldiers], it was our escape whenever I’ld sang.”
During the performance, the ‘intro’ to the song began slowly, and one of the judges thought he might’ve missed his cue. However when Ieti finished singing, the crowd went wild and all four judges stood up, clapping and applauding the young toa-singer.
As normal following each performance, the judges make their comments, however, Samoa News notes that following Ieti’s powerhouse performance, judge Mel B jumped up from her seat and ran onto the stage to give the American Samoa son a hug, saying, “That was my comment!”. The second judge to give Ieti a hug was Heidi Klum, who told him, “You are so awesome and you have the most beautiful voice.” Howard Stern also got up from his seat announcing, “I want to hug you” and walked up onto the stage, and gave him a hug as well — saying “good job… good job…”
Mandel, pronouncing his name “Yetti”, told the toa-singer, ”You came out very unassuming and very nervous and very shy, and then all of the sudden you started to sing — and a sound came out of you that nobody expected.”
“You are amazing,” said Mandel. All the judges gave Ieti four yes votes (thumbs up), and a standing ovation, with a salute from Mandel, as he left the stage. Stern said of Ieti’s performance, “I really thought he was going to blow it… big time!” — with the other judges agreeing.
Last night’s AGT show was the beginning of Judge’s Auditions, which will continue until a set amount of performers are found.
Ieti has passed his audition and now moves on to the next level, which according to the show’s format, will eventually have performers compete against each other in episodes aired weekly, with eliminations dictated by votes from America’s viewers of the show. The ultimate prize: A chance to perform at Radio City Music Hall and win $1 million dollars.
The audience got up from their seats applauding and cheering for Ieti as he left the stage. Backstage, fighting back his tears, Ieti said “I still can’t believe this is really happening to me.” He then called his mother, Akenese, and told her he made it. She replied loud and clear through the phone, “Yes you did, wow that’s amazing!”
In an earlier interview with Ieti, he told Samoa News that AGT had reached out to him to audition. “I was contacted by America/s Got Talent a few months ago and they said they have seen my videos.”
There are 25 video clips of Paul Ieti singing covers posted on his youtube page, where close to 800,000 viewers have visited, with more than 13,000 subscribers. According to his youtube page, Ieti created an account in February, 2011 and has since posted “hey everyone i hope you enjoy all my videos .... just sharing a God given talent.” Viewers of Paul’s youtube videos range from 2,000+ to 77,000 on each one.