When her name was announced as winner of MediaCorp Channel 5’s reality singing competition The Final 1, Farisha Ishak tried her best to suppress her tears (happy ones, that is) as she powered through her final song, a dance rendition of Ken Lim-penned “Tonight”. In the row behind us, we saw Farisha’s grandmother shedding tears of joy as she watched her granddaughter up on stage singing her victory song.

Farisha’s emotions fell apart after the song was over.

“I asked to go down to see my family because I wanted to hug them. They are the first people I really want to celebrate it with and to thank. When I hugged my family, that’s when the tears came. That’s how much they mean to me. I’m really so thankful for their support,” said Farisha to Popspoken after Wednesday’s finals in a press conference with runner-up Shaun Jensen.

Farisha wins a $50,000 cash prize as well as a two-year recording contract worth $50,000 with Hype Records, a label managed by The Final 1 executive producer and judge Ken Lim.

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With her new recording contract, life will not be as easy as she tries to balance her artiste duties as well as life being a political science undergraduate at National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. However, Farisha endeavours to balance both out and take a wait-and-see approach.

“Because we’re Singaporeans, we have to be practical about everything… studies is definitely that backup plan. Even prior to this competition, because I didn’t think that I would pursue a career in singing, I’ve already had that dream of what I want to do in university and getting my Masters.”

– Farisha Ishak on her backup plans

Farisha said to Popspoken that she was relieved after the competition was over due to the pressure she faced to outperform week after week, especially when in preparation for the finals.

“My lowest point was during the judges’ week because our mentors (Shaun Jensen and herself) were Ken Lim. He was a really good mentor but I always expect myself to do well. With Ken, we expect to do like how Ken would want it. We imagine Ken’s expectations to be really high,” Farisha explained.

Therein lies the struggle between artiste and management: how can an artiste truly reflect himself or herself when faced with the arduous task of trying to fit into what others expect of that artiste? We posed the question back to Farisha, which she answered elegantly.

“What I learnt from this competition is that you have to find that balance between what the public wants and how you want to perceive and stay true to yourself. I wouldn’t say that I’ve already found that balance — it takes a long time to find that. I take in everything that Ken says and I filter out what I feel does not apply to me or would compromise how I want to perceive myself,” said Farisha.

“I’m actually quite sad that the show ended already. Every week, in a very fast pace, we are going for performances. Although it’s tiring, we’re still enjoying it,” Shaun added.

Shaun plans to head back to his marketing job but will still be involved in music — he is the vocalist of the band Supernova and is a graduate of the now-Diploma in Digital Media from Singapore Polytechnic — and plans to “push it all the way, in terms of music”.

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We asked him if he sees himself more of a soloist now that he has had the opportunity to strike out on his own in The Final 1. Shaun was still ambivalent about his prospects as a soloist.

“I don’t know. I suppose I could go either way? I still like playing with the dynamics of a band — that’s what I really enjoy. If I had a choice, I would want (myself) to progress as (part of a) band”

– Shaun Jansen on thoughts about going solo

When we asked what she plans to do with the $50,000 cash prize, Farisha said she wanted to give some to her parents but she also wanted to splurge on some retail therapy.

“I really need to get nicer clothes,” quipped Farisha.

Farisha’s older sister has been instrumental to her look week after week, egging her to try different outfits. Farisha’s mother told us that her brother-in-law Iskandar Abdullah has been helping to watch her diet, while her brother Fadli Ishak has been her vocal coach, training her night after night in the run-up to the next episode’s show.

“This competition is quite difficult — she is not used to singing week after week. We have performed, but she has never been in a singing competition. I tried to push her to practice everyday because she only has three or four days to practice her songs every week. Her voice was not used to it, so we needed to put in a bit of hard work,” said Fadli to Popspoken.

“We also tried not to eat good things in front of her, so that she understands it’s for a better cause. Hopefully, this has really paid off,” added Iskandar.

With Farisha’s family “competing” alongside her — they even skipped festivities on the night before Hari Raya Puasa to join her in a Final 1 taping — it would seem apt that the family were waiting patiently outside The Star Performing Arts Centre as late as 11.30pm for Farisha to finish her duties with the press.

In the words of Gigi Kaeser: Love makes a family.

Our final The Final 1 instalment touches on how Top 11 contestants are doing now that the competition is over. That article, out soon.

Photos: Channel 5

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