Age does not define me, says Final 1 winner

Student Jermaine Leong, 16, is confident of juggling studies and a singing career

Jermaine Leong won a $100,000 recording contract with Hype Records.
Jermaine Leong won a $100,000 recording contract with Hype Records.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Jermaine Leong, 16, winner of the second season of television singing contest The Final 1, is confident that she can juggle a singing career with her studies.

"Studies and singing are the two most important things in my life and I will have to talk to my family and my mum about it. But I want to do both simultaneously," the Temasek Polytechnic student tells reporters soon after her win on Sunday night at Capitol Theatre.

Jermaine, who turns 17 in December, won a $100,000 recording and artiste management contract with Hype Records. She won more votes from the public than fellow finalist Charlene Su, 19, a National University of Singapore undergraduate.

MediaCorp, which co-organised the contest aired on Channel 5 with Hype Records, is not revealing the total number of votes cast or the win percentage.

In the first season in 2013, viewers had most of the say in voting which contestants advanced through the rounds and ended up the winner. This time around, the judges were responsible for eliminating the contestants in each episode based on their performances. The public only got to vote the eventual winner in Sunday's grand finale.

Studies and singing are the two most important things in my life... I want to do both simultaneously.

JERMAINE LEONG, winner of the second season of The Final 1

Jermaine, a first-year communications and media management student, was one of the show's youngest contestants - 16 was the minimum age for participation.

She had to fight off detractors who told her that her youth might be a hindrance in the competition, which was open to contestants up to 26 years old.

"To me, it's only a number because my age doesn't define who I am," she says.

Hype Records head Ken Lim, one of the show's three judges, says that he was happy with the performance by both finalists. "Throughout the season, they were pretty outstanding in many ways. They are both natural-born singers."

He singles out the segment in the finale where both sang with guest singer Jessica Sanchez, best known as being the runner-up in the 2012 season of American Idol.

"I think the audience can see that our talents are on a par with international artists like Jessica."

More than 1,000 budding singers submitted their auditions online to the contest earlier this year. Judges Lim, and Taufik Batisah, former Singapore Idol winner, then whittled the finalists down to 12 male and 12 female singers.

Former Malaysian Idol champ Jaclyn Victor joined the show as a third judge, replacing Mandopop singer Kit Chan, another judge in the first season.

Filming of the contest took place from March and it affected those contestants who were in school.

Su, now in her second year as a communications major in university, is grateful her lecturers gave her leeway with her assignments.

"I did miss a lot of lessons, but I am trying to recover from that," says Su, who gamely pressed on in the finale despite nursing a sore throat.

"I had a presentation that I was supposed to do on Tuesday, but then my lecturer was like, 'Oh, I see you on TV so you do it next Tuesday instead.'"

Lim acknowledges that Su's condition was a factor in her performance, but praises her spirited singing. "I admire her courage in going through the finale despite not being well," he says.

Jermaine admits that taking part in The Final 1 had eaten into her study time, but says that she coped by bringing her schoolwork on set.

If handling both studies and singing becomes too much, she says she is open to following in the footsteps of inaugural The Final 1 winner Farisha Ishak, an NUS political science undergraduate who took sabbatical leave from her studies to concentrate on her singing career.

"My parents and I are looking at all the options. We haven't come to a conclusion, but we all want what's best for me so we will be discussing it. But that is one of the options, it's a possibility."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2015, with the headline 'Age does not define me, says Final 1 winner'. Print Edition | Subscribe