What 'X Factor Australia' contestant Natalie Ong loves about S'pore -- where she was born

18 October 2016 / 1 week 4 min ago

Chew Hui Min, Derek Wong
The Straits Times
Monday, Oct 17, 2016

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.

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.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

Join in the talk