Newly crowned Hilo Idol Kacy Sanchez hopes her journey, passion for music can inspire others
November 5, 2023, 4:56 PM HST
Kacy Sanchez’s passion for music holds a significant place in her life, one that will never fade away.
The 22-year-old from Honoka‘a silently struggled with depression and a lack of self-confidence as a child. Her parents split up when she was very young, breaking her heart. She slowly started to understand that her father wasn’t going to be around as she was growing up. He was battling his own demons.
Music became her solace.
“When I sing, it takes the weight off my shoulders and off my chest to where I can just be free, like it’s not there anymore,” she said. “I can relieve it in a song, whether it’s sad, happy, mad. I pick songs based on my emotion. I definitely sing with my heart on my sleeve.”
And indeed she did Saturday night on the grand stage at the Hilo Town Market. The lover of R&B, soul and pop music sang “Love” by Keyshia Cole in the first round of the finale and then in the second round belted out a pitch perfect “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston that was dedicated to her mother Stacey-Kelly Aguilar.
After Terran “TJ” Kaleiwahea Jr. and Teena-Marie Viavia were announced as runners up, the crowd of more than 300 people chanted “Kacy! Kacy! Kacy!” just before host and co-creator Levi Strauss, owner of Levitation Entertainment, announced Sanchez as the Hilo Idol winner.
During the two-month competition, she beat out more than 50 other competitors from around the Big Island.
“I’m definitely speechless,” said Sanchez, a barista at the Waikōloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa who began singing at age 3. “I really don’t know what to say.”
All three Idol judges were on their feet by the end of Sanchez’s performance of “I Have Nothing.” The crowd’s cheers were deafening. Even a motorcycle revved outside the gates in adoration.
Judge Sister Sauce of KBIG, HI95 and The Beat, a.k.a. Sasha Kauwale, said the rendition of Houston’s song was a 10 out of 10 and she could tell Sanchez was a “sing from the soul type of person.”
“Whitney would be proud,” added judge HawaiiazOwn MainLan of We Stranded Records. “That’s it.”
Sanchez said her mom has supported her in everything: “She was my mom and my dad my whole life basically. If it wasn’t for her, I would have nothing.”
Aguilar said they’ve been through a lot and she is amazed every time her daughter performs.
“I’m a very, very proud mom,” she said. “I raised an amazing daughter.”
As the winner, Sanchez won $1,312.50, half of the prize pot collected since the beginning of the entire competition. The other half will be donated to help families in Lahaina who were impacted by the devastating Aug. 8 Maui wildfire.
She also will receive a 6-month professional mentorship with Lōʻihi Studios owner Jonathan Humphries, who was also Hilo Idol’s director. Humphries will assist Sanchez with understanding the inner workings of the music industry and the tools she needs to navigate her options and take advantage of the exposure provided by Hilo Idol.
“I feel so honored and privileged to have even been chosen to be in this program,” she said.
Sanchez wants to learn how to write songs and is sure the mentorship will help.
“Maybe that’s just the first step of getting to the top,” she said.
Sanchez said the competition taught her to set aside her fears and “just go for it.” She hopes her journey to becoming Hilo Idol can help people understand it’s possible to endure anything — no matter where they come from or who they are — and encouraged others to follow their dreams.
“Just do it,” she said. “Don’t think. Just do it.”
All of the finalists made the crowd swell with cheers, screams and “chee-hoos,” leading to dancing at times and quietly enthralled and moved at others.
Strauss called the finalists six of the most talented individuals “this side of the world.”
“These contestants are fire!” said MainLan before the finale, admitting they wouldn’t make it easy for the judges to pick a winner.
Through two rounds of competition Saturday night, each finalist pulled out all the stops in their last chance to claim the title. They were judged on vocal performance, stage presence and audience applause and appreciation.
Josh Lozada, a 33-year-old mover from Pāhoa, played guitar while singing an original love song. Mountain View powerhouse Kaleiwahea, 31, sang Elton John’s classic hit “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.” Hilo resident Bridge Hartman, 28, showcased dance moves that would make Beyoncé proud as he sang his version of “Crazy in Love.” And Loretta “Green Eyes” Lopes of Hawaiian Beaches, 38, sang the emotional “Monsters” by James Blunt.
After 41-year-old part-time security guard and full-time mother Viavia’s blazing second round performance of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” judge KWXX’s Scotty on the Weekend, a.k.a. Scott Yoshizumi, said music makes people feel a lot of things: “I think that’s why we’re here.”
“Right here in the heart of Hilo Town, there’s a lot of hidden talent that nobody knows about,” Sanchez said before Saturday’s competition. “I’m hoping this competition gets noticed because it can really take people places they never thought they could go. More importantly, it brings the community together and helps people find their hidden talents.”
Strauss said Hilo Idol found success because of the community’s support.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” Yoshizumi added.
Week after week, the show was sold out. A photo of the crowd filling the Hilo Town Market lot that Strauss snapped from the grand stage during the finale said it all.
The subject line of the email he sent sharing the pic was a simple message of gratitude: “Thank you for everything!”
The success has been so great that organizers decided to rebrand, continuing and expanding the competition next year.
The Icon Series will begin in early 2024 in Kona at MyBar Kona for the first season of Kona Icon. It will return next summer to East Hawai‘i for the second season of Hilo Icon.
“Stay tuned!” Strauss said.
If you missed any of the first season of Hilo Idol, you can catch up watching each round of competition on demand at Hawaiiwatchlive.com.