Gan Wan Chean, who is noted for her androgynous dressing and inclination to render songs originally sung by male singers, has emerged as the Astro Star Quest 2008 champion.
WHEN Gan Wan Chean was named winner of Astro Star Quest (ASQ) 2008 at Genting’s Arena of Stars on July 26, there was more reason to celebrate. Not since Winnie Ho emerged champion in 2000 has there been a female winner of the annual star search TV show.
Since its debut in 1996 as Astro Talent Quest (ATQ), the popular singing competition has unearthed many new talents, mostly male. The most successful to date are regionally acclaimed singers like Taiwan’s 19th Golden Melody Awards 2008 Best Male Mandarin Singer Gary Chaw (ATQ 1999 finalist) and MTV Asia Awards 2008 Favourite Artiste Malaysia Nicholas Teo (ATQ 2002 winner), who are both based in Taiwan.
Gan Wan Chean, winner of Astro Star Quest 2008, is the competition’s first female champion in eight years.
The 18-year-old from Seremban impressed judges with her talent at re-interpreting songs and won the attention of Lin Qionglong, the managing director of recording label Mainstream Music Beijing. This led to the label’s Malaysian arm signing her as a recording artiste during a press conference held the day before the finals of Astro Star Quest 2008.
Gan said although her performance at the finals was her best yet, she had not expected to win. “I was quite shocked as I never thought I’d even be in the top two, much less win. But, I feel very happy that the judges chose me so all my hard work has paid off.”
Gan was grateful to her parents for their support. “They had never even heard me sing before I entered the competition. It was after my SPM, so they thought I’d just go and try out at the open auditions for fun. My father first heard me sing during round three of the competition.”
The tomboyish singer with short-cropped hair quickly became known as much for her often androgynous dressing as for her inclination to render songs originally sung by male singers.
Her transgender appeal is reminiscent of mainland Chinese singing competition Supergirl 2005 champion Chris Li Yuchun, who was recently named MTV Asia Awards 2008 Favourite Artiste China.
During the final round of competition, Gan warded off stiff competition from hot favourite Debbie Lim and eventually overtook her by one vote as the two competed in the free song, unplugged and duet segments.
What gave Gan the extra boost to edge out her strongest competitor and clinch the ASQ 2008 title? “I’d say it’s probably because I was not as nervous and had less to think about. She (Lim) was under a lot of pressure.”
Lim, whose brother Eric (winner of Astro Talent Quest 2001) was also a special guest artiste, was under tremendous pressure to perform well as she had won a singing challenge at One Million Star in Taiwan last month. Gan, who was also sent to take part said that the trip was a very good learning experience.
“It changed everything for me. I was nervous there but I learnt a very important lesson from the contestants. Their focus was on giving a good show rather than competing with their rivals. So, they really enjoyed their performances.”
Her song choices in the ASQ final included her EP song Hao Bu Hao and Harlem Yu’s upbeat tune Xiao Mi Feng (Little Honey Bee). “I heard one of the participants sing the fast number at One Million Star and I really liked it the first time I heard it. It’s fun and quite my kind of song so I picked it.”
The ASQ 2008 champion walked away with cash and prizes amounting to about RM180,000.
Gan, who developed an interest in music and the arts since young, says she was glad she could do what she enjoyed best.
She will be performing at MY FM’s 10th Anniversary celebration show tomorrow and Sichuan Schools and Families Rebuilding Fund Charity Concert (Aug 15), both of which will be held at Genting’s Arena of Stars.