Every time a door opened, I just kept walking through: Joanna Dong on her Sing! China journey

Fresh from placing third at Sing! China, Singaporean singer Joanna Dong talks about facing her own insecurities, the greatest lesson from mentor Jay Chou and life after the popular singing contest.
Joanna Dong, who placed third in Sunday's Sing! China reality singing contest in Beijing, at an exclusive interview with The Straits Times.
Joanna Dong, who placed third in Sunday's Sing! China reality singing contest in Beijing, at an exclusive interview with The Straits Times.ST PHOTO LIM YAN LIANG

BEIJING - When a door opens, walk through it – and all the ones after.

That is Singaporean singer Joanna Dong’s description of the eight-month journey which led to her being placed third in the finals of Sing! China at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing on Sunday (Oct 8).

“Sometimes that’s the best thing to do: don’t fight what life is trying to offer you,” said the 35-year-old.

“Every time a door opened, I just kept walking through, and then I arrived here.”

Speaking to The Straits Times at her hotel, Dong was clearly still coming down from the high of the contest. She is the second Singaporean to have made the finals of the popular singing competition, after Nathan Hartono who was runner-up last year.

Performing on the biggest stage of her career so far happened because she “decided not to fight life so much”, said Dong.

“I used to be a bit more afraid, I used to say no to a lot of things... In some ways I was spoiled because I had options,” said Dong, dressed in an elegant burgundy dress with frilly sleeves.

“But as the years went by, I started to realise that most of that comes from my own insecurity and my own cynicism, and the moment I started to become more open-minded, the world also started to receive me with open arms. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learnt from this whole journey.”

Her next destination will be a much smaller stage: live venues across China. A jazz singer at heart, Dong said a tour “on a more intimate scale” is in the works.

“I don’t think I’ll be doing Bird’s Nest-sized performances for awhile, and I’m actually really happy about that,” she said, laughing. “I think jazz is better experienced in a more intimate setting, and personally I prefer to be able to see the faces of my audiences.”

But fans at home need not worry, as Dong will be splitting her time between Singapore and China.


A “fairly experimental” theatre production at The Esplanade is being planned for early next year, as is a personal concert.

“I received a partial National Arts Council grant to put up a personal concert before I participated in this competition, but we had to put that on hold because of all that has happened, and I definitely need to make good on that,” she said.

Dong is unfazed by all the shuttling about, saying two years of hosting travel documentaries have primed her for this.

“It is incredibly difficult to get your foot in the door in China, she said.

“So having arrived here, I’m not going to give this opportunity up so easily.”