Justin “Kamalu” Kong has been everything from a college football player to an Orlando firefighter, but it’s his Hawaiian heritage that keeps him dancing.
Born and raised in Honolulu, Kong found his background was both an outlet and an asset when he moved to the mainland to attend Utah’s Snow College. Doing Polynesian dancing at night gave him the time to attend school during the day, and eventually led to a dancing career that took him from Japan to Taiwan to Singapore and points throughout the United States. The culmination was a booking at Walt Disney World that became a five-year gig for Kong and his wife, Tiana. An atypical career move into the Orlando Fire Department has allowed Kong to practice cultural outreach in a different way. In his nearly 20 years with OFD, he has spearheaded initiatives like the 50th State Fire Conference, which brings firefighters to Hawaii for training, and another annual gathering that welcomes firefighters from Germany to our shores to learn the tactics and techniques of their U.S. counterparts.
“Through my years in the fire service, it has opened up many doors to fellowship and networking with people of all ethnicities and walks of life,” he says.
The entertainment bug never really went away, though: In 2009, the Kongs founded Island Vision Productions, LLC and Kong’s Kitchen to supply Polynesian entertainment and Hawaiian catering to Central Florida and the neighboring states.
It’s turned into quite the satisfying life for Kong, his wife and their five children (and one granddaughter). As he puts it:
“As I approach 20 years in the fire service and 11 years in the entertainment and catering business, we continue to share the traditions, cultures and flavors we grew up learning and understanding while growing up in Hawai’i. We continue to strive and live ‘pono’-righteous and share the ‘aloha spirit’ with our children and everyone we come in contact with.”