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LB Ah See is Le Leo o Amerika Samoa 2013

With a total of 4,662 text votes, LB Ah See was named the winner of the first ever Le Leo o Amerika Samoa singing competition on Wednesday night, during the finale of a show that gained popularity amongst local residents, who were given the power to select the overall winner through text voting results.


The program was spearheaded by the Department of Youth and Women's Affairs (DYWA) and the major sponsor was Blue Sky Communications who made an in-kind donation of $2,935 that was presented to DYWA Acting Director Pa'u Roy Taito Ausage by Blue Sky Chief Operating Officer (COO) Pulelei'ite Tufele Li'amatua Jr. at the end of Wednesday's show.


In addition, Blue Sky Communications also donated cellular telephones and gift bags for all 20 contestants, while the winner was presented with a Dell tablet. For every text vote that was made, DYWA was to take 20-cents while Blue Sky was supposed to keep the other 5-cents. But Blue Sky offered to have DYWA keep the entire 25-cents, which included Blue Sky's 5-cent share. The total amount of money that was collected from all the text votes amounted to $7,442.70


Add that to Blue Sky's in-kind donation and the total cash that was collected from Le Leo o Amerika Samoa's text voting format totaled approximately $10,337.70


DYWA Deputy Director Tapumanaia Galu Satele Jr., who also served as the host of the show since its inception, explained that the money collected is used to off-set expenses like cash prizes for the contestants, overtime for the KVZK-TV crew who film the weekly shows, rental of tables and chairs, and the use of the Governor H. Rex Lee Auditorium (Fale Laumei).


Wednesday's finale was a remarkable event, as 19 of the 20 original contestants each took the stage to perform a song of their choice. And while  only the Top 5 finalists were supposed to receive prizes, DYWA surprised everyone by awarding prizes to all 20 participants, including the lone contestant that did not perform that night.


Guests of honor included Ms. American Samoa Arielle Tuilefano Maloata, Blue Sky COO Rep. Pulelei'ite Tufele Li'amatua Jr. and other staff members, Origin Energy's Ethan Lake, and Ms. Ramona Toeaina who offered both the opening and closing prayer for the event.


The show kicked off with a performance from Fagamalo's very own Jonathan Utu who sang a couple of love songs, while strumming away at his ukulele. His performance was followed by Farani Fetoa'i who sang Enrique Iglesias' "Hero" but put his own spin on it by translating the lyrics into Samoan. Tualaulelei Jackson Samoa took the stage next, with his rendition of "It's So Hard to Say Good-Bye" by 90s crooning group Boyz II Men.


Next in line was Savea Si'uleo Fetoa'i who belted out Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up," but then mixed in a little bit of reggae at the end to finish off his performance.  Jonathan Kramer was up next, followed by Anasetasia Momoe who started to sing but then stopped and had to start over. During her performance, she stopped a few times, laughed, and acted as if she didn't know the lyrics of the song she was singing.


Christina Filipo sang her heart out while performing a country gospel tune, before Anna Samu took the stage and won the hearts of many who were watching through her performance of "Tuivanu," an original song she wrote in memory of her late uncle who was blind and taught her how to play the guitar.


Helen Brown, who did not garner enough text votes to make the cut for the Top 5 but was one of the favorites to win the competition, strutted on stage in a white halter mini dress with white plumeria flowers encircling her french roll hairdo as she belted out "My Redeemer Lives." Brown is a previous winner of the Star Search Samoa competition.


Tonya Tuigamala, another crowd favorite and accomplished singer from Faleniu who won the "So You Think You Can Sing" competition, took the stage next. Tuigamala, usually composed in long dresses when performing on stage, let it all out on Wednesday when she appeared in leggings, tennis shoes, and a plain white t-shirt to sing "Any Man of Mine." And while her strong voice carried her through her performance, it was actually her dance moves - which included lots of hair flipping and deep shoulder action - that got the crowd working.


Solomona Phillips, a SPED student at Poly Tech High School who is known for his love of country music, started off singing an acapella country tune but then stopped, took off his cowboy hat and said he was going to sing a song from a different genre, seeing that almost everyone who performed that night belted out a country song. Phillips put on a red ula fala and sang a Samoan song.


Leata Te'o was next in line, doing what she is best known for — meshing different songs together and singing them in a smooth remix. Iliganoa Viena wowed the crowd with her performance of "Falling" by Alicia Keys. Tautala Seti did not disappoint, singing Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me," while donning a lavender sleeveless mini dress with diamond hoop earrings and a necklace to complete the look.


Pae Tuiasosopo took everyone back in time, with an oldies medley featuring favorite hits from the 70s and 80s that had the crowd singing along. Le Leo o Amerika Samoa winner LB Ah See, who usually performs with dark sunglasses, shorts and a button-up shirt, came prepared in a black suit complete with shirt and tie as he sang a gospel song in both English and Samoan.


Second place winner Daniel Helsham performed next, followed by Kirt Aab on guitar who sang "It Will Rain" by Bruno Mars, the platinum hit from the "Twilight" movie soundtrack. Aab, who always gives props to his co-workers during his performances, finished off by singing an original song he said he wrote during his junior year at Faga'itua High School, called "Good Bye My Darling," about a female friend that he dated but later broke up with. This stirred up a few laughs and giggles from the crowd.


Bernadine Ott, the youngest performer who is a senior at Manumalo Baptist High School "Shined Bright Like A Diamond," the repetitive lyrics of the song she sang and appropriately so, as she shined in a sparkling pink, white, and silver sequined mini dress.


The only original contestant that did not perform during the finale was Fa'auiga Matai'a but nonetheless, she still received a prize like everyone else.


The prizes for all the contestants, included $100 cash, a cellular phone and gift bag from Blue Sky Communications, a gift bag from DYWA, and a movie ticket from Samoa News. The following is the list of contestants, in the order they placed based on text voting results:


6 - Anasetasia Momoe


7 - Tonya Tuigamala


8 - Iliganoa Viena


9 - Helen Brown


10 - Leata Te'o


11 - Tautala Seti


12 - Anna Samu


13 - Solomona Phillips


14 - Savea Si'uleo Fetoa'i


15 - Jonathan Utu


16 - Tualaulelei Jackson


17 - Jonathan Kramer


18 - Farani Fetoa'i


19 - Christina Filipo


20 - Fa'auiga Matai'a


Blue Sky COO Pulelei'ite put to rest some of the concerns raised by several members of the public regarding the validity and accurateness of the text voting system by saying that he personally witnessed and confirmed the numbers through a machine already set up by Blue Sky to tally up all the votes as they came in.


The text vote format enabled DYWA to gain revenue to fund the production of the show. Since the show was launched more than a month ago, almost 20,000 text votes were made. From the time the names of the Top 5 were announced all the way up until this past Monday, a total of 13,900 text votes were cast by the public.


The Top 5 results are as follows: Bernadine Ott took fifth place with 39 votes. She received the same prizes as the other contestants who placed below her, except her cash prize was $150. Fourth place went to Kirt Aab who garnered 2,168 text votes and received $200 cash, a $25 certificate from Toa Bar and Grill, a cell phone and gift bag from Blue Sky, a DYWA gift bag, and a movie ticket from Samoa News.


Pae Tuiasosopo won third place with 3,045 text votes and won the same thing as Aab, except her cash prize was for $300 and the gift certificate from Toa Bar and Grill was for $50. Daniel Helsham won second place with 3,986 text votes and took home $600 cash, and roundtrip ticket to Samoa on InterIsland Airways, and a two-night stay at Transit Motel.


For taking home the top award with 4,662 text votes, LB Ah See won $1,000 cash, a Dell tablet from Blue Sky Communications, a roundtrip ticket to Apia from Polynesian Airlines, and a two-night stay at Transit Motel.


In addition to the contestants, the four local musicians who served as coaches/mentors/judges during the program (Kuki Tuiasosopo, Jonitta Fruean, Nina Namazzi Ah Soon, and Elijah Tavai) all received prizes which included $200 cash, a plaque of appreciation from DYWA, a Le Leo t-shirt and bag of goodies, and a compilation DVD featuring the performances of the singers throughout the program.


So what's in store for the participants? Pa'u announced that DYWA intends to host the same program for the youth in the Manu'a Islands next month. But yesterday, when Samoa News inquired about the issue, Tapumanaia said that plans to host the show in Manu'a have been postponed until further notice, as the busy graduation season draws nearer.


Pa'u also revealed that he has been in contact with TV3 in Samoa, about having the finalists from Le Leo o Amerika Samoa perform in a showdown with finalists from the popular Star Search Samoa program.


Tapumanaia explained yesterday that because Le Le o Amerika Samoa and Star Search Samoa use different formats, specifically the text voting requirement, their office is looking more at recording a showcase featuring local singers and having the production aired in Samoa via Blue Sky Communications. “We would rather have it be a friendly showcase between the singers from the two Samoas, instead of a full on singing competition,” Tapumanaia explained.


According to Pa’u, DYWA has been in contact with Tama ole Mua'au Studio who have offered to work with any or all of the 20 contestants. He said DYWA has arranged for the contestants to get free recording with Tama ole Mua'au and he is certain that there will be support from the community through the purchase of the CDs once they are produced.


Lastly, Pa'u says DYWA is connecting with people in Hawaii in an effort to expose local singers. Referring to the Le Leo program, Pa'u said, "This is the beginning of something great and profound for our young people. This program is not for DYWA but for the youth of American Samoa. It is the first program of its kind and we were bound to make mistakes."


Pa'u apologized for any mishaps that may have come about during the production of the program and said their main intention is to expose the talent of local youth.