Image: Screengrab from The X Factor Australia/Youtube
After home-grown crooner Nathan Hartono shone abroad in TV singing competition Sing! China, another singer from Singapore is taking a reality TV competition by storm with her powerhouse vocals.
Enter Natalie Ong, the 15-year-old born in Singapore and based in Melbourne who has wowed the audience and judges with her performances on Season 8 of The X Factor Australia.
Having made it past the audition round, Natalie impressed judges again in the "Three Seat Challenge" stage which was aired on Sunday (Oct 16) night.
At this stage, performers are grouped into Unders, Overs and Group categories. Natalie and 11 other singers were in the Unders group as they are under 22 years old. Out of the 12, judge Adam Lambert could only pick three to advance to the next stage.
After an astounding range of performances by the show's youngest contestants, Natalie secured her place in the top three in a tense episode.
As the last performer of the night, her role was to oust one of the three performers already occupying the three seats.
With her powerful cover of Etta James' I'd Rather Go Blind, Natalie earned plaudits from the judging panel, consisting of first Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian, Australian rapper Iggy Azalea and American Idol runner-up Lambert.
Lambert was so taken in by her performance that he rewarded it with a fling of his shoe - an indication of his utmost approval. He explained that shoe throwing was an unconventional way he and his friends expressed appreciation for one another's performances.
— Kathy Katz (@katzolicious) October 16, 2016
This led Sebastian to join in the shoe-throwing act, while Azalea chimed in: "If I wasn't a diva myself wearing a pair of thigh high boots I would have thrown my shoe right at you."
Lambert expressed his dilemma in selecting just three of the 12 performers to advance to the live shows. Before Natalie, the final performer, he had already made tentative selections for the three seats.
"This is hard, because I'm really happy with these three - I would have been totally satisfied just calling it a night," he revealed to her.
"But I think you can tell I was moved by your performance, because I'm missing a boot."
Natalie ousted crowd favourites such as 17-year-old Vlado Saric and Maddison Milewski.
Lambert eventually took Isaiah Firebrace, 15, Amalia Foy, 14, and Natalie to the next round.
Natalie told the The Straits Times after her progress to the live shows of The X Factor Australia: "I feel very overwhelmed and ecstatic, feeling very blessed to have amazing support from friends, family and fans. I would love to come to Singapore and perform if there's a chance!"
Natalie had earlier impressed with her audition for the show, which is based on the original United Kingdom series.
Natalie's rendition of Christina Aguilera's The Voice Within was aired on Oct 3 on Australian television, and her video on the official X Factor Australia YouTube channel has since drawn more than 165,000 views.
Before her performance, she introduced herself and her family who were backstage - including her grandmother who had flown from Singapore just to support her.
When Natalie told judges that she was singing Aguilera's hit song, the audience drew an audible gasp, while Lambert exclaimed "Whew! Tall order!" and Sebastian said "it is one hell of a song, (a) big song".
Natalie then proceeds to execute a flawless performance of the song, leaving the judges blown away.
Sebastian called her "amazing" and that her family must be "high-fiving and jumping around".
Azalea said Natalie could win the competition and that people would be watching the audition again after she made it big.
Lambert added that she nailed the song "99.99 per cent", but she needed to make something her own next time.
The judges then called Natalie's beaming grandmother out on stage before they unanimously gave their seal of approval.
After listening to her performance, some have hailed Natalie as the next Marlisa Punzalan, the singer of Filipino heritage who won the sixth season of the show in 2014 - and who was also 15 at the time.
Singaporean netizens also picked up on her Singaporean links. One user, Shaun Chew, wrote "Singapore pride!" on her X Factor Australia YouTube video.
The Merlion Club Melbourne, a networking community for Singaporeans in the Australian city, posted Natalie's videos on its page, urging members to "support our own Singapore singing sensation".
In an interview on the show before the audition, Natalie said her hobbies are swimming and honing her make-up skills. She shared that she practises her make-up techniques on her friends - and even on her father once, joking that he "wasn't really happy" about it.
She also revealed that she likes spending time with her family - but rarely sees her father "because of how hard he works - he holds extra jobs to provide for me and the family".
She shared that her father "does bits and pieces, whatever that comes". On top of his full-time work as a hairstylist, he is also an Uber driver and does deliveries, she added.
In the same interview, her father voiced his whole-hearted support for her. "I'll do anything for her and totally believe in her," he said as she smiled and gave a thumbs-up.
A version of this story was originally published in The Straits Times on October 16, 2016. For more stories like this, head to www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle.