PETALING JAYA: Vincent Chong is still on cloud nine after emerging as the winner of Akademi Fantasia, the talent quest organised by Astro.
I am still in a daze. I am pretty much ignorant about the impact of the contest. Ive no idea that the show was so well-received and that our habits and bloopers were caught and screened on TV every week, the singer said of the talent quest cum reality TV show, which required viewers to vote for their choices via SMS.
For Vince, who collected 31% of the SMS votes, it was another feather in his cap as he was also the first runner-up in the Chinese category in Astros Talent Quest 2002 competition.
With his good looks, strong vocals and an endearing personality, Vince was clearly the viewers favourite.
Besides having to face the reality of being quarantined for nine weeks at the academy, he was literally cut off from the outside world with no contact with family and friends.
We didnt even know that all our movements were being monitored. The reality only sets in when we saw how people reacted when they saw us after the finals, said the 24-year-old, who is the second oldest among six siblings.
Vince, who sang Ferhads Pasrah and an original composition Tak Ingin Kehilanganmu won a Suzuki Vitara worth RM142,000, RM10,000 and a trophy.
He has also secured a recording contract with Astro. In fact, Vince, who had entered Akademi Fantasia to become an accomplished composer, had already received attractive recording offers even before he won the contest.
Vince started singing gospel songs while in school and his talent was nurtured by his English mother Susan Ann Chong, who once aspired to be an actress, and his architect father Chong Chen Kian, who secretly wished to become a professional singer.
Looks like I am the one who has realised their unfulfilled dreams. After being exposed for nine weeks at the academy, I think I just want to cut my own album. That would be the right path for me from now on, he added.
On the success of the show, he said: It has been a phenomenon of sorts. I am so glad to be part of the success.
It was a hit because of the camaraderie that we had as we interacted like one big family.
He added: All the students at the academy are talented, thanks to the trainers and the dedicated production team. What we appreciate most is how they managed to package us and make us a sensation overnight. Thats more than we can ask for.
Vinces first taste of fame began after he was named the winner of Astros Family Day contest. He and the other finalists and students were mobbed by fans, and even a chain of 50 bodyguards found it tough keeping the hysterical fans in check.
They almost ripped off' my hands to take pictures of me, recalled Vince.
All this adulation is so flattering but we were taught at the academy to always keep our feet firmly on the ground and not allow popularity and success get to our heads.
I will always remember that, said Vince, who will embark on a nationwide concert tour with the other students to show their gratitude to Malaysians next month.
All the students of Akademi Fantasia were put up in three bungalows at the Mines Resort City in Seri Kembangan and were taught entertainment skills like singing and dancing during the nine weeks.
Their activities were recorded to enable viewers to judge their personality and talent. The show, which started its run over Astro Ria in June, is based on popular Mexican TV show La Academia.
At the academy, whose principal is Freddie Fernandez, the students were given training on vocals, dance and stage presentation.