SINGAPORE: Tien Chong is one of seven artists on Hunan Television's Singer 2018 - a competition for professional singers, but hardly anyone has heard of her before her debut on the show on Jan 12.
In its sixth season, the show's previous winners include veterans such as Hong Kong stars Coco Lee and Sandy Lam. Singapore's Kit Chan was a contestant in 2015.
Sharing the stage this season with household names like British pop star Jessie J - the show's first contestant from the West, Chinese rock pioneer Wang Feng and Taiwanese crooner Angela Chang, Chong seemed the odd one out.
But the 22-year-old newbie wowed the audience with a feisty mash-up of Lady Marmalade and Dancing Diva in the first episode of the show and was ranked second ahead of more experienced contestants. Jessie J, singing her hit song Dominos, came in first.
Chinese media reports labelled Chong a "dark horse".
"There's no background information about her," a report on Sina Entertainment said.
Chong's inexperience showed in the second episode when a less-than-pleasing rearrangement of Ed Sheeran's Shape of You knocked her down to the last place. She was in tears immediately after leaving the stage.
Chong, whose father is Singaporean and mother is British, released her first single and album in November last year, just two months before she joined the competition.
On her Facebook profile she says: "From Singapore to Hong Kong to the UK, Tien is an international child, having moved around so often she can’t commit to being from just one place. She has settled in Hong Kong to pursue her career as a singer."
In an interview with magazine #legend, she said that she was born in the UK and spent parts of her life in Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand.
"I was born in the UK, in the hospital where my mother was a nurse. My father was a law student there from Singapore; they met and fell in love, and then I came along," she said.
She also said in the interview that she performed at Cuban leader Fidel Castro's 90th birthday celebrations due to a chance meeting with Flamenco guitarist and composer Reynier Marino in 2016.