Meet the Top 11 of The Final One

Channel 5's talent reality show The Final One has been plagued with controversy from the start, with criticisms that it is a "poor imitation of Singapore Idol" and provoking an online squabble after fans of eliminated contestants dismissed it as a "popularity contest".

Whatever the allegations, the competition's presence on social media has been quite explosive by local standards - with over 5,000 likes on Facebook and 2,900 followers on Twitter just for its official handles alone. Individually, the contestants have also developed fan followings who loyally re-tweet every photo or comment they put up, within seconds.

After several elimination rounds, the Top 11 (including one Wild Card contestant) have finally been selected as the creme de la creme, and in the past week underwent an intensive "boot camp" at the posh W Hotel before emerging as highly-styled, madeover versions of their previous selves.

Yahoo! Singapore finds out for you what these young (their median age is 18) fresh faces are all about and if they live up to all that hype, negative or not.

Group One:

From left: Debbi Koh, 16, Farisha Ishak, 18, Gail Belmonte, 17, Faith Ng, 17. (Yahoo! Photos / Elizabeth Soh)
From left: Debbi Koh, 16, Farisha Ishak, 18, Gail Belmonte, 17, Faith Ng, 17. (Yahoo! Photos / Elizabeth Soh)

From left:

Debbi Koh "The Baby", 16

With her clear-eyed gaze and mellow voice, Debbi displays a outspoken attitude that belies her dainty appearance.

Debbi has been accused by judge Ken Lim as not being "hungry" enough for the competition.

Moving fast, she ditched her preferred music style of Pop Rock, which Lim told her did not suit her voice, and experimented with new genres like R&B and Indie instead, a move which won her new fans.

Other contestants describe Debbi, who is a self-confessed shopaholic, as being obsessed with smelling good.

"I have to smell nice, I'm very worried about not smelling nice," deadpanned Koh.

Farisha Ishak, "The Complain Queen", 18

With her girly post-makeover look of soft ashy bangs and curled in hair, one could hardly tell that Farisha counts powerhouse girl-power singers Beyonce and Adele as her inspirations.

But her inner steel is apparent in her honesty when asked what she would do if she had to choose between her studies and her music.

"It depends on the opportunities. It has to be worth it," said Farisha, who added that her parents want her to take the traditional route of going to school and university instead of an alternative path in the music industry.

Gail Belmonte, "The Powerhouse", 17.

With her blonde and purple hair and green contacts, Gail underwent one of the most drastic makeovers in The Final One, going from Pocahontas to Katy Perry.

With the most experience - she's been trained musically and vocally since she was a child, Gail also exuded maturity beyond her years in some of her answers.

"Everything is a popularity contest in our lives. How well you present yourselves, likeability is very important. But without talent, you don't have credibility. So while talent is more important than popularity, you need popularity to sell albums," said Gail when asked about The Final One being a "popularity contest".

Faith Ng, "The Impersonator", 17.

Bubbly, spunky and full of jokes and laughter, the pink-haired Faith instantly put the more self conscious contestants at ease during the interview rounds.

For instance, she gamely performed her imitation of (now-defunct) Noose character Lulu from Szechuan when asked to, and immediately burst out in "The Guys!" when asked who took the longest to get ready in the mornings.

"Producers have to go knock down their doors," she said, "They take up to half an hour longer than us to get ready when they just need to put on clothes!"

Group Two:

From left: Shaun Jansen, 27, Hashy Yusof, 18, Louisa Kan, 17, Glen Wee, 19 (Yahoo! Photos/ Elizabeth Soh)
From left: Shaun Jansen, 27, Hashy Yusof, 18, Louisa Kan, 17, Glen Wee, 19 (Yahoo! Photos/ Elizabeth Soh)

From left:

Shaun Jansen "The Hunk", 27

Tall, suave and charming - Shaun, who has been compared to Taiwan pop singer Wang Lee Hom, is undeniably the resident heart-throb of the Top 11, and despite being significantly older at 27, when put next to his teenaged fellow contestants, there was clearly no generation gap.

He's also the wild-card - brought in at literally the eleventh hour by the judges, something he says made him feel "very lucky".

And despite looking like a K-pop star with his newly dyed and permed hair, the one song the Adam Levine fan would never perform is.. Psy's Gangnam Style.

Hashy (as in Hash-brown) Yusof "The Babe", 18

With over 800 likes on her Facebook page, Hashy is one of the most popular contestants - social media wise, on The Final One.

The slim, swan-like student revealed that during their extreme makeovers, the producers nearly gave her a heart attack when they said her stylist was seriously considering giving her a blonde mop with shaved sides a la Rihanna.

"In the end, she said keep it sleek, thank god," said Hashy, looking visibly relieved as she smoothed her mid-length locks. "My hair feels like a Pantene (ad)."

Louisa Kan "Miss Popular", 17

Shedding her previously more va-va voom image, complete with long hair and dramatic fake lashes, for a younger, more girly bangs-and-curls look was a big change for Louisa, who, at 1,842 fans on Facebook, is the only contestant with her very own "stalkers".

"I'm not scared (of the stalkers), I'm actually quite grateful, it's kind of exciting," said Louisa, who said they were more like "intense fans" than stalkers.

"They catch up faster about The Final One than we do, retweet all my tweets, it kind of helps us gain confidence."

Glen Wee "The Quirky One", 19

The IT student, described by other contestants as the hardest guy to wake up in the mornings in the group, is slightly bashful but very thoughtful.

"It would have to be my Top 16 performance, I really thought I had wasted my time," said Glen when asked when his lowest point of the competition was.

He had performed "Too Close" by Alex Clare, and was told by judges that it was one of the worst performances of the night, but eventually still made it through.

While he readily admits to having two left feet and incapable of dancing, if he could dance, he would like to dance like Justin Timberlake.

Group 3:

From left: Yuresh Balakrishnan, 20, Jean Kyaw, 19, Meryl Lee, 24 (Yahoo! Photo / Elizabeth Soh)
From left: Yuresh Balakrishnan, 20, Jean Kyaw, 19, Meryl Lee, 24 (Yahoo! Photo / Elizabeth Soh)

From left:

Yuresh Balakrishnan "The Sensitive New Age Guy", 20

He hates K-pop, especially 2NE1's "I'm the Best". Not a popular opinion to have, but it's not one he's backing down from.

"What I dislike about it is that a lot of it is about following trends, and what's in fashion, about writing songs to fit what the audience wants. As a musician, that mentality isn't what I believe in," said the soulful crooner.

"No offence to K-pop fans, it's their call. I don't judge (South) Koreans."

While he has no stalkers yet, he says he wishes he did - and she should be hot, and crazy.

"I like crazy girls."

Jean Kyaw "The Shy One", 19

Jean received some of the most painful criticism in The Final One so far when judge Ken Lim told her that her performance of Maroon 5's "Moves like Jagger" was full of "outdated, erotic dance moves."

But she resilient student says she has since bounced right back, and in the process, also built up her self esteem.

"I've learned to appreciate myself a little bit more," said the health nut, who counts Whitney Houston and Filipino singer Charice among her idols.

Meryl Lee "The Veteran", 24

The ex-Singapore Idol contestant has chalked up the most reality TV experience out of the Top 11 and has also honed her skills acting, dancing, hosting and songwriting.

In her opinion, The Final One and Singapore Idol, despite sharing judge Ken Lim and Taufik Batisah, are completely different.

"It's very, very different behind the scenes. In Singapore Idol, you don't get to talk to the judges, but on The Final One, backstage you can ask the judges, producers for pointers. Holistically, the show grooms talent, not popularity," said Meryl.

The Final One airs on Channel 5 on Wednesdays at 8 pm for the Live Show and at 10 pm with the results.

Related links:
Singapore musicians are "so full of themselves": Ken Lim
Kit Chan, Taufik and Ken Lim named as judges for The Final One