Singing legend Melveen Leed ‘humiliated’ after impromptu mall performance cut short

State Senator Kurt Fevella is calling for the general manager of the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo to be fired after an impromptu performance
Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 5:22 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 25, 2023 at 5:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Hilo mall has apologized after Hawaii singing legend Melveen Leed and a beloved kumu hula were told to stop an impromptu performance recently.

The incident happened April 14 at the Prince Kuhio Plaza.

Hawaii singing icon Melveen Leed, 79, had plugged in her karaoke machine and started singing while 73-year-old kumu hula Iwalani Walsh Tseu danced. She says the crowd loved it, but during the second song she was told to stop.

“This gentleman, this guy comes up and he says, ‘Excuse me. I’m sorry you have to stop.’ I said, ‘Excuse me?’ He said, ‘You have to stop singing.’ I said, ‘What do you mean I have to stop singing?’” Leed told HNN.

Leed says it happened in front of the crowd and as she was live-streaming on social media.

“I felt embarrassed, shocked, and humiliated. It’s just the way that he did it,” she said.

Tseu says the crowd was stunned as they stopped performing.

She fought back emotions as she recounted the incident.

“I want to thank the supporters and the people who are so kind in saying we don’t tolerate our elders, our kupuna, to be treated that way because that’s the way our culture is,” she said.

Prince Kuhio Plaza is run by Brookfield Properties.

Hawaii News Now spoke with the General Manager Daniel Kea and the director of public relations, who say the performance needed to stop because a crowd was gathering and blocking an exit so it was a safety issue.

Despite multiple accounts that the general manager spoke directly to Leed, the mall says the general manager asked her to stop through a vendor.

Even so, Prince Kuhio Plaza’s management is facing mounting backlash following the episode.

“I was appalled that someone in a position of authority, responsibility, and leadership was able to handle the situation in such a callous manner,” said Native Hawaiian leader Kumu Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu.

The mall says it will be reaching out privately to Leed and Tseu.

Both women say they want situations like this to be handled with aloha and kindness.

Brookfield Properties issued this statement:

“It was never intended for Melveen Leed and Kumu Iwalani Walsh Tseu to be interrupted while performing at our shopping center. We are deeply sorry for the misunderstanding surrounding our event during the Merrie Monarch Festival week.

“Of course, we were honored and grateful to have two legendary performers share their aloha at our Prince Kuhio Plaza, but we also have a responsibility to maintain a safe gathering place for our community. Because of the large crowds that quickly gathered, we recognized a potential safety hazard. We were simply working in the best interest of everyone.

“We will be reaching out to the performers privately to discuss this matter and apologize to anyone who may have been upset by the misunderstanding that occurred.”