CAPE York almost exploded with pride when Royston Sagigi-Baira was named the Australian Idol winner on Sunday night.
The singer himself was in shock as the news was broken in front of a live audience and more than a million TV viewers.
“I just want to say thank you so much to everyone who voted for me. Thank all this mob up here, all my family and friends for coming,” he said, before performing new single Invincible.
Cape York residents watched from the edge of their seats.
Big gatherings were held at the PCYCs in Napranum and Mapoon – Royston’s home town – while the Kumrumja Centre in Weipa also screened the show.
Amanda Allender watched from Townsville, hoping to see the teenager she mentored go on to be crowned the winner.
“He definitely deserved to win,” said the former head of the Western Cape College residential campus.
“Royston knew what he wanted and he’s worked his bum off to get where he is.”
Ms Allender said she still kept in close contact with the 24-year-old as he forged a life outside the Cape.
“I’ve been proof reading his assignments and trying to encourage him while he’s at uni,” she told Cape York Weekly.
“His mum passed away not long after he graduated from Western Cape College and that had a big impact on him.”
Still called “Miss Amanda” by Royston, the deputy principal of Cranbrook State School said she could still picture Royston singing at the res campus.
“I think he made his debut with Daiana Volavola and they were a hit,” she said.
“They performed at every MADD night and got a big following at the school.
“Whenever they had time off at the res campus they would be singing and rehearsing.”
Ms Allender said Royston was destined to be a leader.
“He has always been stubborn,” she said with a smile.
“At the res campus he always had a voice and would speak out if something was wrong.
“If something wasn’t right, he would stand up and talk to me about it.”
She also remembers tough conversations about his struggles with identity.
“I think that is what I’m most proud of,” Ms Allender said.
“He’s been able to show off his vulnerable side, which he struggled with in high school.
“We had a lot of conversations about when the right time was for him to be open about who he was.”
With a new single now out on Spotify and other platforms, the world is at Royston’s feet.
The Australian Idol judges believe he has what it takes to make a career out of music.
“Your journey through this process has been one of the greatest I’ve seen,” said Harry Connick Jnr.
Amy Shark added: “You’re so far away from home, and you’re just crushing it every single week. I love you, man.”
And Meghan Trainor said: “Thank you for all you brought to the show. I love you so much. You’re amazing.”
The Idol franchise has launched the careers of many artists including Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy, Matt Corby, Ricki-Lee, Anthony Callea, Stan Walker and Casey Donovan.