From The Straits Times    |

Photo: The Straits Times 

While it has been nine years since the last time Singapore had a Singapore Idol winner, the recent arrest of singer and second season winner Hady Mirza for drug offences has at least temporarily jogged everyone’s memory about the reality singing competition.

The show, a home-grown version of popular United States series American Idol, ran for three seasons (2004, 2006 and in 2009) on local television – in the process making a dozen or so contestants household names.

But where are they now almost a decade after the end of the show?

While most of the contestants are now out of the limelight, a sizeable number – especially those who made the Top 5 in each season – have gone on to carve out careers in the entertainment industry.

Taufik Batisah, the first winner, is arguably the most successful of the lot and has consistently been in the public eye since he was crowned in 2004.

Singapore Idol opened up many doors for him in an entertainment career that has spanned 14 years, he tells The Straits Times.

“It created platforms that allowed me and my music to travel to places that I never imagine to be in and most importantly, I am able to continue to do what I love – music,” said the 36-year-old.

Music industry veteran Ken Lim, the acerbic judge on all three seasons of the show, believes that the show has made a lasting impact in the local music and entertainment industry.

“Singapore Idol has been a credible platform that provided opportunities for our singers, actors, hosts, deejays and theatre performers. If not for the three seasons, Singapore wouldn’t have had the likes of numerous successful local personalities.”

We look at some of the show’s most prominent contestants and finds out what they have been up to.


Taufik Batisah

Season 1, winner 


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The first Singapore Idol winner, Taufik Batisah, currently stars as a barber in Gunting The Series, a Malay television drama airing on Mediacorp channel Suria. The show’s music is written by him.

He is also a recurring character in long-running English drama Tanglin.

The 36-year-old last released an album – his fifth – called Fique in 2014. A hit song from that album, #AwakKatMane (Where Are You),earned the most royalties for a local Malay composition at last year’s Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (Compass) Awards. He is currently working on a new single with Malaysian rapper Altimet.

He has won multiple awards at regional Malay music awards show Anugerah Planet Muzik (APM), and is nominated in the best collaboration category for his duet with Indonesian singer Rossa, Bukan Maksudku, at the upcoming 2018 edition.

He has also acted in Malaysian movies, starring in comedies Dukun Dr. Dani (2016) and Soulmate Hingga Jannah (2017).

He also co-owns a business called Chix Hot Chicken, which serves Nashville-style fried chicken. It opened recently in Jalan Pisang, Kampong Glam.


Sylvester Sim 

Season 1, runner-up

Photo: The Straits Times 

Rocker Sylvester Sim, also known as Sly, lost to eventual winner Taufik Batisah in the inaugural Singapore Idol in 2004.

Sim is the managing director of SGEE Events & Entertainment, an events, exhibition and talent management company.

Last year, Sim, 35, was in the news after bodybuilder Pradip Subramanian died in a celebrity bout at the Asia Fighting Championship (AFC) at Marina Bay Sands.

Pradip had replaced Sim, who was supposed to fight against YouTube personality Steven Lim.

Post-Singapore Idol, Sim released a Mandarin album, Take Flight, in 2005 and performed at clubs such as Dragonfly and Neverland. He auditioned in 2014 for Sing! China, then known as The Voice Of China, but did not get through. He released a Mandarin single, A New Hope, in 2016.


Olinda Cho

Season 1, third place 


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More than a decade after taking the third spot in the first season of Singapore Idol, Olinda Cho made the news again for another reality singing competition – the massively popular regional contest Sing! China last year.

Together with fellow home-grown singer Joanna Dong, Cho was picked by Mandopop superstar Jay Chou to be part of his team. However, only Dong, who unsuccessfully auditioned for the first Singapore Idol, made it to the finals.

Cho, now 38, actually won the chance to represent Singapore in the 2016 edition of the contest but was not picked to appear in the show.

She has also dabbled in acting, playing a weightlifter in sports comedy telemovie Uplift last year, and runs her own entertainment company Oli Mgmt and YouTube channel, Oliginaltv. She is working on a new album set to be released later this year.

Being on Singapore Idol kicked off her career in entertainment, she says.

“(Singapore Idol) had been an awesome ride,” she says. “To have this opportunity to do what I love and continue to do to this day makes me feel extremely blessed and thankful. And not to mention the friends I have made along the way. I have made a lot of memories along the way and I will continue to make more.”


Daphne Khoo

Season 1, fourth place


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Singer Daphne Khoo was 16 years old when she placed fourth on the first Singapore Idol.

She has been based in Los Angeles, United States since 2016 where she sings under the moniker Haneri. Under this name, she has released singles like Feel Alright and collaborated with British dance act Dasco on a track, Whatever You Like.

The 31-year-old has been consistently releasing music since Singapore Idol, putting out one album, Desperate (2007), an EP, Wonderland (2014), and a number of singles including Greatest, one of the official theme songs of the 28th Southeast Asian Games in 2015.

Last year, she was named Young Songwriter of the Year at the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (Compass) Awards.

She is also an activist for cancer-related causes after having survived ovarian cancer.

“Singapore Idol was a great platform to help me realise that the thing I wanted to do was worth pursuing, she says. “It taught me that while very few people believed there was any musical talent on our little island, the public was listening and interacting with us, encouraging and cheering us on with votes and coming out to the road shows.”


Tabitha Nauser 

Season 3, third place


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The second runner-up in the third Singapore Idol, Tabitha Nauser is currently making her name as a dance-pop singer. The 26-year-old’s debut single in 2016 – Bulletproof – topped Spotify’s Singapore Viral 50 chart. She put out her most recent single, Rules, in May.

After Singapore Idol, she sang for events like the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and the 28th SEA Games. She also had a stint as a radio deejay and has performed in theatre productions like the musical Rent in 2016.

Like Sezairi, she is also signed to Sony Music and her full EP is expected to be released later this year.


Sezairi Sezali 

Season 3, winner


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The third Singapore Idol champ, who now performs under just one name, Sezairi, is still gigging and putting out new music. He is set to release his latest single, Mirage, with a show at the Apple Orchard Road store on Thursday.

The Sony Music artist is working on a new album, part of which was recorded in December last year.

He released his debut album, Take Two, in 2010, a year after he won Singapore Idol, and an eponymous EP in 2016. His single, Fire To The Floor, was named Song Of The Year 2016 by Apple Music Singapore.

The 30-year-old has also taken on acting roles, playing a police constable in historical movie 1965 and a tailor in Wild Rice’s 2015 theatre production, The Emperor’s New Clothes.


Other idol alumni 


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Other Singapore Idol alumni still in the public eye include Joakim Gomez, 29, who emerged fifth in the second season of the show.

He is currently a radio deejay on Mediacorp’s 987FM and hosts television programmes as well as live events.

This year, he will be one of the hosts of the National Day Parade.

MJ Kuok, 28, who made it to the Top 13 of the third season, is now MMXJ, an electronic dance music artist, while Beverly Lim Morata, who was in the Top 10 in the first season, is a contestant on the ongoing season of Sing! China.

Singer-actor Nat Ho (above), 34, did not make it to the final rounds of the show – he exited during the Top 30 round of the first season – but has still found success in the music industry.


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His 2014 Mandarin single, Lonely Detective, charted in Taiwan, and he acts in the long-running Mediacorp drama Tanglin.

He released his latest single, Battleship, last Wednesday.

This article was first published on The Straits Times.