Simon Cowell calls local performer the 'tiger of Singapore'
Local performer, believed to be first S'porean on The X Factor UK, eliminated despite praise from judge Simon Cowell
Mr Benjamin John is 63, but age was just a number when it came to impressing British TV personality Simon Cowell.
The local performer-musician, who is believed to be the first Singaporean to take part in long-running British reality TV singing series The X Factor UK, managed to charm the infamously snarky critic on the current season of the show.
Mr John beat thousands of hopefuls to crack the top 130 of the 13th season, but was eliminated after the boot camp round, which aired two weekends ago.
The X Factor UK season 13 is currently showing on RTL CBS Entertainment (StarHub Ch 509/Singtel TV Ch 318) on Sundays and Mondays at 10.30am with repeat telecasts at 9pm.
Unfortunately, Mr John's journey was not televised as his scenes did not make the final cut.
Back in June, Mr John was among hundreds of contestants shortlisted after three preliminary auditions performed in front of Cowell and fellow celebrity judges Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne and Nicole Scherzinger for the televised stage of the competition in London.
He fondly recalled how Cowell called him the "tiger of Singapore" after his audition, in which he earned three out of four votes to allow him on to the next stage.
Mr John, who also works as a freelance videographer and web designer, wore a colourful outfit with a matching fedora hat and sang 1950s classic The Great Pretender by US group The Platters.
He told The New Paper: "As I entered the room, the judges asked me about my costume, and I told them that costumes interpret a song in different ways. Simon cut in and said that it also makes one stand out in the crowd."
Mr John added that when he mentioned he was from Singapore, Cowell remarked, "Wow, that is 13 hours of flying."
"They were impressed because I had come all the way," Mr John said.
"The judges generally were nice and I didn't receive any negative comments.
"Simon said when I first walked in, I looked like a pussycat. But when I started singing, I was the 'tiger from Singapore'. He said I have got something in me.
"Louis said he liked it and found me very entertaining, while Sharon said she was sorry and said no. Nicole told me to be more flamboyant and bring out the fire through my eyes, and she said yes."
Mr John progressed to the show's boot camp the following month, where contestants are further whittled down after undergoing additional training and various challenges over two stages - the choreography round and group round.
He ended up partnering two teenage boys, a 16-year-old Italian and 19-year-old Irish, for a performance of Simon & Garfunkel's The Sound Of Silence.
Mr John said: "I get along with everyone. No one mocked or dismissed me just because of my age. There was no generation gap - I was having a ball of a time."
He went for his first The X Factor UK audition alone on May 1in London, and was selected by a panel of record producers and executives from thousands of hopefuls to proceed to the next stage.
"I decided to join because London is the best place for an artist to make a name for himself.
"I have been in the business for more than 30 years so I just decided to give it a go. I had nothing to lose anyway," said Mr John, who has performed with local bands Tribe, Blackjacks and Culture Shock.
STILL CHEERFUL: Mr Benjamin John. TNP PHOTOS: MOHD ISHAK
He admitted that the entire competition was a "very tough ordeal" for him.
"If you are not strong and committed, you will not even get through the very first audition.
"The weather is cold, damp and very dry, which is not ideal for singing. I was very tired throughout because of the long hours of waiting and enormous pressure.
"I was also on a roller coaster of emotions. Some days I was very confident, some days I wasn't sure if I was going to make it. Some days I was so tired of waiting I just had no energy to give my best. It is really not for the faint-hearted."
When the judges delivered the bad news to his room of contestants, others fell on the floor and wailed in despair, but Mr John said he was "smiling".
"I wasn't worried because I am sure of my abilities. This is only a competition but I am an artist. I went there just for the exposure," he said.
He then took the chance to grab Cowell for a selfie, and even took a quick video in which Cowell said to him: "You are one of the best. Next year will be your year."
Ultimately, Mr John views his The X Factor UK journey as an "adventure".
"Win or lose, it doesn't matter to me. I am happy I got this far," he said.