SINGAPORE - At the height of the reality TV singing craze in the early 2000s, local viewers were glued to their television sets watching the popular reality singing contest American Idol.
Singapore's answer to its own reality singing contest for Mandopop singers came in the form of Project SuperStar in 2005. The show had a second season in the following year.
After eight years, the third season is finally here.
A fresh batch of 12 finalists were picked at a showdown held last Saturday.
One of them will emerge as the champion on Oct 26 and win a contract with MediaCorp and a yet-to-be-confirmed amount of cash.
MediaCorp TV's vice-president of branding and promotions Paul Chan says: "Due to the limited talent pool in Singapore, we recognise that holding Project SuperStar frequently will compromise the standard of the competition."
It remains to be seen how far this season's hopefuls will fare in the cut-throat world of entertainment.
The first two seasons of SuperStar launched the singing careers of finalists such as Derrick Hoh, Kelvin Tan Wei Lian and Kelly Poon.
The most successful has to be former contestant Vincy Chan. Though she made it only to the top 24 in the first season, she went on to pursue a successful Cantopop singing career in Hong Kong. She has released 13 albums in Mandarin and Cantonese.
But many other finalists do not become singing stars for various reasons.
Life! tracks down a few of the show's alumni, from a pair who have found love and got hitched to a back-up singer for A-list popstar Wang Leehom.
Touring with stars
Who: Leon Lim, 28, Project SuperStar Season One (2005), top 12 finalist
Now: Freelance back-up singer and freelance property agent
Lim says he will forever remember the moment he sang in front of 80,000 fans at the Shanghai Stadium in 2011 - never mind if they were not his fans. It was the first time he was singing back-up for the touring A-list Mandopop star Wang Leehom (above right, with Lim).
"It was very exciting. I won't forget the date of my first show - Nov 5, 2011. The pressure was all on Wang, we were just supporting him. It was unbelievable. He had the crowd cheering and singing along with him."
Lim went on to be the backing vocalist for all 57 shows on Wang's tour, which included stops in cities such as London and Hong Kong.
Since last July, he has also been booked for an ongoing touring gig with home-grown singer JJ Lin.
Before these tours, he was almost resigned to the fate of getting a regular nine-to-five job and had relegating singing to a hobby. Now with the opportunity to sing for a living, he went from full-time property agent to freelancer as well as singing at bilingual live music venue Switch by Timbre in Bras Basah.
While he has "to work to earn money", singing remains his passion. "In fact, the money I earned from my days as a property agent is helping to fund my EP now," says Lim, who has set aside $20,000 to record his own EP.
In November, he will be fulfilling another of his heart's desires: He will be tying the knot with his long-time girlfriend, a 24-year-old marketing executive.
He says: "She has been with me since my SuperStar days. Fortunately for me, she's a very down-to-earth person. I'm very thankful for her support."