Exclusive: King Homeboy opens up on year since The AM Show stardom

Champion beatboxer, MC and artist Te Ariki Toki - also known as King Homeboy - shot to fame after appearing on The AM Show's 9 in 10 in 2018 and donating his prize to Kidscan.

One year later, Newshub caught up with him to discuss his life and how it's changed since his win.

In this exclusive interview, he opens up on the death of his mother and his recent diabetes diagnosis.

Toki says he had a tough upbringing. He grew up in the capital's suburb of Newtown, which at the time was "Wellington's rough version of Otara and Flaxmere".

He also struggled with being deaf until he was seven.

"Because we lived so rough, I was bullied. I was teased a lot when I was young and I never knew why. Why they were bullying me? What did I do so wrong? This is how people are," he tells Newshub.

"For me, I've always been the outsider. I've always been in the situation when I'm the odd one out."

But Toki was also always the child who would help someone out when they were in trouble. As a kid, he used to watch a TV show called The Munch Bunch, and one character in particular always stuck with him.

"One of the characters was the Onion. He's always crying. He's easy to make cry because he's ugly," he says.

"As a little kid, I used to get worried about Onion, because he's always crying. I would ask mum, 'why is he crying all the time? Can't someone just give him a hug or something?'

"I was that sort of kid."

Newshub caught up with Te Ariki Toki recently.
Newshub caught up with Te Ariki Toki recently. Photo credit: Newshub

Giving back

These early experiences left a mark on Toki - and gave him the burning desire to help others.

"I've had to put up with so much bigotry and so much hate right in front of me, but I also get the good as well," he tells Newshub.

He spent a year trying to get onto The AM Show's 9 in 10 competition. When he finally had the opportunity in December last year, he made the most of it and rattled off 11 New Zealand towns or cities in 10 seconds to win a $10,000 package.

But rather than use the prize for himself, he shocked the nation by humbly asking if he could give it away to KidsCan to help children in need.

"Yeah, I still get people recognising me now because there's still like a whole country that's never seen me in person but remembers that moment," he says.

"It's now part of television history. It became a big moment. 

"I didn't expect it to be as big as that, I never expected that. All I wanted to do was to go on it, win it and get back to my life."

A tough year

"I just recently lost mum to stomach cancer about seven or eight weeks ago. It's still a big loss, a big loss to me and all my family," he says.

"She'll always be a part of me."

Tragically, the death of his mother led to worsening health problems. He was at a friend's party when he began feeling faint and needed to be hospitalised.

The diagnosis was type 2 diabetes.

"When mum was alive, she was always concerned about my health and would say 'you need to go to the doctor'; but I had the stupid mentality of money over health and since I don't have a community services card, I was worried about the price," he says.

"I went into the hospital and they checked everything in my body, so for now it's still new.

"In my mind I want to beat the hell out of it."

Staying positive

Despite all this, he's trying to look on the positive side and keep promoting positive energy.

"You go into a storm and sometimes you get struck by lightning," he says.

"And some people look at being struck by lightning as being bad. But actually, it can be good as well, you know? Because when The Flash got struck by lightning, he became The Flash."

And so, despite the recent death of his mother and his type 2 diabetes diagnosis, he's still determined to give back to New Zealand.

"Now I'm older I need to work harder, manifest something even bigger, bigger than the community, bigger than this country, bigger than myself," he says.

"Hopefully, I can find some sort of action, some sort of moment like I did with The AM
Show where it transcends past me, so it's no longer about me, it's about everyone else.

"I may be in the middle of it, but at the same time as all eyes are pointing at me I'll be pointing my hands, like, 'this is all for you now, this is all for you'."