Photos: Tammi Tan
Videos: Tan Shi Qi
When Jermaine Leong was announced the champion of The Final 1 Season 2 last night (October 4), the look that registered on her face seemed to resemble the emotionlessness of someone who had just been given bad news, rather than delight at winning a $100,000 prize.
As it turns out, the 16-year-old was just doing her best not to burst into tears of joy on stage. “When I heard my name, everything went blank,” she told local media at a press conference shortly after being crowned. “In my mind I was happy, but I was also shocked, overwhelmed and trying not to cry.”
In fact, runner-up Charlene Su, 19, appeared to be the more cheerful one. “I’m very happy for Jermaine; she’s a good friend of mine and she deserves it,” she said, without a note of disappointment to be found in her tone. “We both worked really hard and I’m very relieved that this is all over.”
The grand finale, which was broadcast live on Channel 5 from the Capitol Theatre, marked the end of an arduous journey that began with auditions in February. Thousands of hopefuls were then whittled down to the Top 10 in August by judges Ken Lim, Taufik Batisah and Jaclyn Victor, who continued to be responsible for deciding the fate of the contestants all the way until the last two before leaving them at the mercy of public voters.
Jermaine’s victory is sure to silence the doubters who thought she’d be too young to go far. “I’ve been told that my age might be a factor that will hinder me throughout the whole process, but to me, it is only a number and doesn’t define who I am,” she said.
Now, the Temasek Polytechnic student is $50,000 richer and the proud owner of a Hype Records contract of the same value. When we asked what she plans to do with her new earnings, she admitted that she hasn’t thought about it as she never expected to have the money in the first place. “But I’m going to start with saving it and see where I go from there.”
But more than the moolah, Jermaine expressed her thankfulness at finally having “a real, tangible platform” to pursue her singing dreams. So does this mean the Communications & Media Management major will, like Season 1 victor Farisha Ishak, let her studies take a backseat (temporarily or not) in favour of a full-time music career?
“I’m going to have to talk to my family about it,” she said. “We’re looking at all the options and haven’t come to a conclusion, but it’s a possibility. I’d like to think I can do both simultaneously but we’ll see how it goes.”
For now, Jermaine has far simpler things planned: to get some much-needed sleep and to finally get to indulge in fried food, which she had been avoiding in order to keep her vocals intact.
Unfortunately for Charlene, any similar precautions she might have taken to preserve her pipes proved futile when she came down with a throat infection (of all things) during last week’s semi-finals.
Still, the fighter powered on. “(My sickness did affect my performance) but I have no regrets because I gave it my best, and I’m very happy with how I did today,” declared the National University of Singapore Communications undergrad, as Jermaine proclaimed, “I’m super proud of her.”
More on The Final 1 Season 2:
The weird and the wonderful: Jessica Sanchez’s life after American Idol
The Final 1 Top 4: Every elimination was tough for us
Ken Lim: The Final 1 Season 2 has Singapore's best Top 10 ever
Taufik Batisah on the challenges of modern parenting