Single dad's daughter is proud of him joining Manhunt
MR JOHNATHAN ERNEST
The biggest challenge for most teenagers is passing their final-year exams and graduating from secondary school, but Mr Ernest had to deal with an even bigger issue - at 16, he became a single dad to a baby girl.
He and his ex-girlfriend became pregnant by choice, hoping that having a child would prevent her mother from sending her back to England.
Now 27, Mr Ernest told TNP: "We were extremely young and naive, and my ex-girlfriend's mother did not like me.
"Having my daughter was one of the reasons why I dropped out of school, (I had) to provide for her."
He took up a job selling home appliances while caring for his daughter during the weekends with his mother's help.
His ex-girlfriend took over on weekdays, but the relationship did not work out, and the couple have not been in contact since.
Mr Ernest, now a stretch trainer who is completing a diploma in sports and exercise sciences at PSB Academy, said he had a "difficult childhood".
He was put into the Bukit Batok Boys' Hostel at 17 for promoting illegal gambling and then into the reformative training centre for snatch theft.
"That was the lowest point in my life, as I did not know what I was doing," he said.
Mr Ernest realised that he had to change in order to be a better father.
He is currently living with his daughter - now 11 - mother and three younger siblings in a one-room flat in Chinatown, and the family is still struggling financially.
He was scouted on Facebook for Manhunt Singapore, but he was initially not keen on joining.
Mr Ernest, who is 1.8m tall and weighs 75kg, said: "I was not confident as I was not in shape. I was constantly eating unhealthy food. After they told me that Manhunt Singapore is not about bodybuilding but more about personality, I gave in.
"Hopefully by competing, I can break some boundaries for myself. My daughter is also proud of me, sharing links with her friends on Facebook to vote for me.
"I just try to be happy and push myself to be a better person every day. If I could turn back time, I would slap my younger self. Now, I hope that I can continue to learn from my experiences."