With his "man bun" hairstyle and piercings, The Final 1 finalist Isaac Ong is not your typical contestant on the reality TV singing competition.
But his earnest performances have won over the judges - Hype Records head honcho Ken Lim, first Singapore Idol winner Taufik Batisah and first Malaysian Idol winner Jaclyn Victor - and earned him a coveted spot among the competition's top four.
In this second season, 27-year-old Ong is vying for the winning prize of $100,000 cash and a recording contract together with three other hopefuls: Jermaine Leong, Charlene Su and Odelle Sabrin Masil.
The semi-finals of the second season of The Final 1 will take place this coming Sunday at 8pm (part one) and 9.30pm (part two) at the Capitol Theatre. Both parts will be broadcast live on Channel 5.
Among his fellow competitors, Ong, who made it to the top-60 stage in the first season, is affectionately known as the "Mother Teresa" for having a heart of gold.
The third-year communications student at the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) is no stranger to humanitarian work and volunteering for numerous causes.
In 2011, Ong made headlines for offering free rides, together with a friend, to strangers in response to the taxi fare hike that year.
The next year, he appeared in the papers again for giving out roses and goodie bags with his friends to sex workers on Valentine's Day to "show that they are loved", a deed he repeated in 2013.
The founder of humanitarian organisation Colours Global then rounded up a group of 70 youth volunteers who distributed some 2,000 sticks of potong ice-cream (a traditional type of ice cream) to workers in Little India following the riot there in 2013.
Ong says he is passionate about spreading messages of hope, love and joy and raising awareness of social injustice in the world.
He told The New Paper: "When you focus so much on yourself, you become unhappy because you always want more. Giving keeps me alive."
Ong also sees his stint in The Final 1 as a stepping stone for him to marry his passion for music and helping others.
The theatre enthusiast, who hopes to break into the media industry, said: "I'm a freak, a weirdo who likes to do many things. I feel that music is that one thing that is going to tie everything together and enable me to reach out to the hurt and broken and to raise awareness.
"Ideally, I dream of becoming an artist and influencer and I hope to one day, invite kids in the less-developed parts of the world to see my shows or even have them sing as part of my concerts. Through the music or concert sales, part of the proceeds will go to charity. Singing is also about giving."
Despite his sunshine nature, Ong admitted that there was a turning point in his life when he was forced to "wake up".
"Believe it or not, there was that 'bad' side of me when I was about 16 and would get drunk and wasted at Clarke Quay. It was only when I went to a refugee camp at the border of Thailand and Myanmar that I started to question what I was doing with my life. It hit me that I was being selfish and I needed to get my act together," he said.
Ong hopes his journey in the competition will further inspire him to help even more people in the world.
"My friend advised me to step back and focus on what I love so that I can be inspired and do even more for others. I think that's so true," he said.
This article was first published on September 21, 2015.
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