When the team behind the show you are on tells you that you need to bleach your hair four times for a makeover in the hopes that one will look more camera-ready, would you take the plunge or would you hold on to what you think works for you?

The Final 1 top 11 contestant Gail Belmonte dived in head-first (get the pun?) and was excited to be able to transform her look, although she thought she was going to get her hair dyed brown instead.

“The bleach went through my brain,” joked Gail, egged on by her gal pals that have accompanied her throughout the competition.

The bond between Louisa Kan, Faith Ng and Gail is strong — the girls overlap each other’s sentences enthusiastically and break into giggles and knowing looks throughout the interview with Popspoken. Gail recalls how they met: when they were lined up on stage with contestant Debbi Koh and Final 1 champ Farisha Ishak in the Top 60 round.

“I had no idea that we would be so close… I just thought that (Faith) was really intimidating and I didn’t want to talk to her but in the top 40, we sat next to each other and it was hilarious. The three of us are pretty much alike — that’s why we are best friends,” Gail opined.

So close and exuberant are these girls that they have coined themselves as the Kardashians of the competition: Farisha, Faith and Gail make up the sisters whereas Louisa is Mama Jenner.

Beneath the giggles and snippy off-the-cuff remarks, the ladies have their heads screwed on tight. Gail reasons her drastic makeover, “You realise that the performance is not everything that make a show. It takes a lot of effort from all of us to make the people remember us because there are so many singers (in the competition) — the only thing that sets you apart is your personality.”

While Faith is continuing on with her events management diploma in Republic Polytechnic, Louisa and Gail are persevering with their music education in LaSalle. Given the tough Singapore music market, we asked Louisa and Gail if they are ready for the trials and tribulations of pursuing a music career here. The girls were pragmatic but hopeful.

“This is Singapore — it is hard. Let’s face it: the reality is (that) making music in Singapore is a tough job,” said Gail.

“For us, we never put the fame before the music. If you get recognised on the streets, you get recognised — it’s a bonus,” added Faith.

“We do music for the love of it,” Louisa agreed.

“If you do music just to show off, you are not going to produce good music,” Faith jumped in.

For former contestants Debbi Koh and Glen Wee, their learning curve in the competition is finding out what type of genres they are not suited for. While Debbi is now veering towards indie music, Glen is realising his alternative-folk inclinations; he has formed the band stillsunrise with Final 1 alum Yuresh and two other bandmates, Winston and Johnson.

Maybe seeing Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” at the top of the song selection list for one week’s episode gave Debbi and Glen the chills.

“It was Carly at the top of the list, followed by Justin Bieber. We looked at each other and said, “How are we going to do this?”” Debbi intoned.

Nevertheless, Debbi and Glen both say they have learnt a lot about what it takes to be in the music industry throughout the various lessons they took during the competition such as video-making, personal grooming and social media management. Both agree that the music is important, but the peripherals are gaining increasing importance in an age where many artists are managing their own presence in the public eye.

As for Faith, she believes being adaptable and open to criticism is the biggest lesson she learnt while being on The Final 1. “You receive a lot of opinions from people and you have to know how to filter what works for you. For me, if people tell me to venture somewhere, I will not go for it because I’m not into that genre,” she said.

More than producing a winner for your standard singing competition, The Final 1 has taken steps towards nurturing artistes instead of singers with the competition’s holistic approach towards artiste-building. Hopefully, this Top 11 will be wiser and savvier than finalists from previous reality singing competitions.

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