Singapore-born X Factor Australia contestant Natalie Ong loves bak kwa and chicken rice

PHOTO: YouTube screengrab

You can take the girl out of Singapore but you can't take Singapore food away from her, and bak kwa is what Natalie Ong craves.

Singapore-born Natalie, who has wowed judges in The X Factor Australia, has lived in Australia since she was 2½, but returns to Singapore to visit family here.

"The number one top favourite food that I eat in Singapore is bak kwa," the chirpy 15-year-old enthused. "Because bak kwa is so good, when you give me bak kwa, I'm just so happy."

She thanked Singaporeans for their support in a video message she recorded on Monday.

"I wanted to say thank you so much to everyone who is supporting me all the way from Singapore," she said. "I'm really really surprised by how much support I'm getting."

She also said she loves eating at hawker centres, and would like to visit Singapore more often.

"I don't go as often as my parents have to work hard for us. I love to eat... chicken rice, any type of soup and congee with you char kway (you tiao)," she told The Straits Times.

15-year-old Singapore-born singer wows X Factor Australia

  • Natalie Ong, a 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lambert said: "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."
  • 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!"
  • 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.
  • According to the Christian Schools Australia website, Natalie is a Year 10 student at Waverley Christian College in Victoria. She had performed as a featured soloist for the school at the Christian Schools National Policy Forum Celebration Dinner, in the Great Hall of Parliament House Canberra earlier in May.

Natalie became one of three singers under 22 years old to advance to the next stage after the "Three Seat Challenge" which was aired on Sunday (Oct 16) night.

She earned the approval of judges Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert and first Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian with a powerful version of Etta James' I'd Rather Go Blind.

Lambert was so excited by her performance , he threw a shoe at her.

"But I think you can tell I was moved by your performance, because I'm missing a boot," he said, explaining that it was an unconventional way he and his friends express appreciation for each other's performances.

Natalie, who has been a student at the David Jaanz School of Singing since she was 12, said that her parents gave up their catering business so she could pursue her dream.

Mum, Ms Serina Tan, 45, left the business to support Natalie on her singing career. Her father, Mr Tom Ong, also 45, is now a full-time hairstylist.

Her mother accompanies her for X Factor and travels with her, she said.

"My parents are so supportive of my dream... They simply encourage me to do what I love. My grandma is so supportive too," she said.

The support extends across generations. Grandmother Madam Toh Mua, who lives in Jurong West, flew to Australia to watch her sing live.

"No I don't feel nervous when my grandma is watching! I feel even happier, and making me fight harder!"

The fiesty teenager, who has set her sights on being an "international singer", is confident she can take the pressure of competition.

"Definitely this year is a hard competition with so much talent. The pressure is fine, I can handle it," she said. "I just take it one step at a time. My dream is to be an international singer who travels around the world."

For dad Tom, the sacrifice has been "worth it".

He said: "I gave up everything in Singapore to start anew in Australia. It was very tough with no friends, no relatives but we are very happy as a family and we stick together as a family. Seeing her achievement today is really a miracle. It is all worth it."

This article was first published on October 17, 2016.
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