Life & Culture

Keaau woman and her family bring a little island culture to ‘Family Feud’

A Keaau woman whose family was a big winner of “Family Feud” described her participation in the popular syndicated TV game show “definitely an experience I will never forget.”

Ruth Kao, 41 and a mother of five, appeared on the show — which airs on KHON-TV — earlier this month.

In addition to Kao, the family’s team consisted of her siblings, Joseph Ahuna, a speech pathologist at the Kao schools; and David Ahuna, an Oahu attorney. her sister, Angela Nikora, who is a homemaker mother from Oahu; Their father, Joe Ahuna, is an Oahu lawyer.

Ahuna’ ohana’s appearance was taped in early June in Atlanta, as the show moved from Los Angeles during the novel coronavirus pandemic. But their original experiences for the show, where they clearly impressed the producers, were at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu early last year.

“It was such a rollercoaster ride,” Kao told the Tribune Herald on Monday. “It was right at the beginning of COVID. We were all worried about it, so we thought we couldn’t go. Let’s go after that three times. Finally, we were like, OK, we’ve all been vaccinated. Let’s go. We’re ready.”

Due to COVID protocols, there was no audience inside the studio except for families who were flown in as contestants and some production staff. When the Ahunas received their call, it was against a family on the three-win list.

Ahunas lost.

“We were kind of devastated. We worked hard to get to this point,” Kao said. But the producers put us aside and said, ‘You know what? Normally, you come home after (losing) your first game. But we really love you guys. We want you to stay’ .

“So they gave us a second chance, which is very lucky.”

Perhaps one reason the Ahunas were given what golfers call a “Mulligan” was that the women performed a short hula on camera with feathered pumpkin rattles, while the men played the harp and sang the “Hawaiian War Song.”

“Our family does it side by side,” Kao explained. “We have performed in different countries, showing Aloha, fostering families and love at home. We have already returned from Russia last summer.”

While the Ahunas sure had people booking their dream vacations in Hawaii, the presenter, six-time Emmy Award winner Steve Harvey, “was in the back, pretending to dance as well,” according to Kao.

“It was kind of funny,” she said.

Kao said Harvey, a comedian who was part of the “Kings of Comedy” tours, was on the floor during the show’s breaks.

“He told me, ‘Ask me about anything,'” she recalls. “He was breaking us and making us laugh—and at the same time, making you feel warm. It felt like he loved you even though he barely knew you. You could tell he came from humble circumstances. He told us he lived in his car when he was trying to become a comedian.”

“He knew what it means to have a dream, start at the bottom, and start for him.”

At least one moment, in which she pits Nikura against another family member in a battle to match the answers to questions previously asked of the studio audience, has already become a buzz on the Internet.

“The question was: Name a word, starting with the letter ‘S’—and (Harvey) didn’t finish the question—and it went off and said the answer ‘snake,’ which begins with the letter S,” Kao said. “Because Angela was trying to be hype at first so we had control of the game.

But then, he kind of rolled his eyes, and started asking again. “Name the word that begins with the letter ‘S’ that many women call Steve Harvey.”

The whole audience started cheering as she said “snake”. I don’t mean to call him a snake, of course.”

The clip has gone viral, racking up over 300,000 views on YouTube since November 10, and it can be viewed on YouTube by searching for “The platform is a disaster! Angela calls Steve Harvey what???”

Cultural differences between Hawaii and the mainland also emerged during the Ahunas Race.

“One question was,” Kao recalls, “What’s the one thing you’d bring to a birthday party and also to a divorce party?” Easily the answer in Hawaii is ‘food.’ This was the answer I gave.

“Surprisingly, it wasn’t even on the list.”

Regardless of cultural differences and hilarious misreadings of Harvey’s speech cadence, Ahon won three games in a row — including $20,000 in the “quick money” section in their last game.

Their final stake was $22,310 and a car.

“We never thought we’d be on the show, let alone win anything, so we’re so grateful. Beyond the surprise is an understatement,” Kao said. “We’ve all had an attitude, like, ‘Whether we win or lose, it’s a great experience, to be with the family, to represent Hawaii and be cheerful and be able to share that.

“And actually winning and experiencing that excitement together and that excitement together – the applause and the childhood quintet and my brothers were constantly chest-hugging throughout the show – it was very unifying.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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