Despite having no formal training in carnatic music, student Subashini Sundaram beat two other finalists - both classically trained - to win Vasantham Star 2015.
The 20-year-old mass communications student at Kaplan won $15,000 in the fifth edition of the singing competition last month.
The panel of judges, including Erfanulla Khan, Vicknesvari Vadivalagan, Yugendran Vasudevan Nair and guest judge, South Indian playback singer Vijay Prakash - gave her their unanimous vote.
Subashini, the younger of two children, says her father, an amateur tabla player, "forced" her to sing when she was younger. "He'd ask me to sing as he played, from when I was 11 years old."
She credits her family, including her cleaner father K. Sundaram, postman mother Manorama Veerasamy and brother Lingeswaran, as the main reason for her winning.
She decided to pursue music after her N-Level examinations and went for weekly vocal training classes with her uncle.
Since her win, she has been featured in Vasantham's annual Deepavali music video and will make appearances in pre-recorded clips on Deepavali day itself.
Filming the music video with about 30 Vasantham stars on an open-top bus was an unexpectedly funny experience for her.
"Choreographer Rameshwara was trying to teach us dance steps but we couldn't dance because the bus was moving," she says. "After a while, he gave up and asked us to freestyle."
She also sang at SG50 concert Vasantham Ponvizha Live, which featured more than 100 artists. She says: "Whether it's a good or bad performance, I'll take it positively and work to improve myself."
1 How did you feel when you won Vasantham Star 2015?
I'm glad that I made my parents proud because they sacrificed a lot for me. I live in Jurong and the taxi ride to MediaCorp is about $18, but my mother gave me money for the taxi fare. She said: "You're going to win this competition, right?"
2 What did you do after winning?
My family and I went to Adam Road to have seafood. I had cold drinks and ate spicy food which I had avoided for the three months of the competition. I was so happy.
3 What was it like working with Vasantham Star music director and vocal coach Mohamed Raffee during the competition?
It was fantastic. During vocal training sessions, he shared his experiences with us. I learnt so much from him. I learnt about chest voice and head voice, and how to get into the right mood by visualising the song and what it's about. He's really funny, he'd crack a joke suddenly and make everyone laugh.
4 What have you done with the $15,000 prize money?
I'm saving it for my education and a driver's licence. I'll donate some of it to the needy. I also promised everyone who worked on the show, including the top 10 contestants and crew, that I'll hold a party at a chalet, but I have yet to do it. They'll kill me if I don't so I'll do it soon.
5 Do you plan to do music full time?
Not now because of my studies, but I would love to do albums. It's my dream.
6 What songs would your CD have?
I would go for what I'm comfortable with, so it would be an album of slow melodies. I'd like to work with Indian music director A.R. Rahman.
7 What has been the biggest change since your win?
I thought I could sing only songs with a slow melody. But during the competition, I had to sing folk, semi-classical songs and mash-ups. I had to prove I could handle them and attempt songs I thought I'd never sing, including dance number Ek Do Theen from Anjaan (2014).
8 How would you like to be remembered?
As a Melody Queen. I'd like my songs to be a reflection of who I am.