The MY Challenge grand finals wasn’t meant to be a competition, but a challenge, for the secondary school students in the Klang Valley to show everyone what kind of talent they’ve got.

In the end, it was neither a competition nor a challenge, but a celebration.

The talents were so outstanding that all the contestants seemed to completely forget they were competing against each other, instead cheering one another on as they put on one jaw-dropping performance after another.

Many young talents were given the chance to shine at the MY Challenge grand finals, including the band from SM Sri KDU.

While the Drama, Short Film and Photography category winners had already been decided during the preliminary weeks, the finalists from the other categories were still performing at the grand finals for the top prize.

One of the stars of the night was Kevin Lim, 17, whose team from SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3), Selangor, had already won gold in the Drama category finals two weeks before, but was giving a repeat performance for the crowd at the finals.

Kevin’s assured and hilarious portrayal of female lead character “Susan” showing a tourist friend the many cultures of Malaysia, also won him the Best Actor and coveted Best Performer special awards.

The hilarious Kevin Lim and Ian Raj, the two leads in the MY Challenge gold medal-winning drama by SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3).

The hilarious Kevin Lim and Ian Raj, the two leads in the MY Challenge gold medal-winning drama by SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3).

“I’ve been inspired a lot by MY Challenge. It gave me an opportunity to express myself, gain some confidence, and overcome stage fright. It’s been a great experience,” he said.

In fact, Kevin has been so inspired, he’s thinking about pursuing acting in the future.
“I might join some drama societies after secondary school, but I’ll probably have to work on a stable career at the same time.

“During the rehearsals and performances, I did feel like ‘hey, this (acting) could be my thing’, but I still have a lot to consider. I’ll just do this for fun for now,” he noted.

Another outstanding young talent who performed at the grand finals was Christine Nah, 18, leader of the Modern Dancing group from SMK Kepong Baru in Kuala Lumpur.

Christine has already taken part in various competitions before, and has even been teaching dance part-time at a dance studio and a fitness centre, but for her, winning gold with her teammates at MY Challenge was bigger than all that.

The girls were all in tears after collecting their medals on stage, even though their jaw-dropping dance routine had left little doubt among most of the audience that they would be the winners.

The Modern Dancing team from SMK Kepong Baru bagged gold at the MY Challenge grand finals.

When asked what made her decide to sign up for MY Challenge, she said: “My students (schoolmates from SMK Kepong Baru) wanted to try it, and it’s my last year to take part in a secondary school competition. Plus it’s (a competition by) The Star! It was a very big opportunity for us, and we’re so happy to have won.”

Christine was also encouraged by how well the other schools had done in the competition, especially in the Modern Dancing category.

“What a lot of people don’t realise is that Malaysian students are very creative. They might not have the same skills as young people from other countries yet, but they have very special ideas. Like the dance choreography today – they all had a very unique Malaysian flavour,” she said.

More important than the performances, however, was the celebratory spirit in which the competition was held.

One of the judges, vocal consultant Juliza Adzlizan, who has worked with reality-TV competitions like Akademi Fantasia and Mentor, said the vibes she was getting from the audience had left a bigger impression on her than the performances.

She said the atmosphere was different from anything she had experienced before in all the other competitions she’s judged, and that it “felt like one big family”.

“The support was fantastic, with everyone cheering for each other. That atmosphere encourages the students to improve – you could see the singers throwing their voices more. They were opening up.

“It’s good that the students are getting used to this kind of positive atmosphere, because they will grow up and pass on that positivity to the next generation,” she said.

The MY Challenge 2011 stage.

Another thing that impressed a lot of people in the audience was the amount of effort the students put in.

Clinique brand general manager Sharyn Wong, who was in the audience representing the brand and helped to give out some of the medals, noted: “These participants produced absolutely high-quality performances throughout the competition. The amount of time and effort they put into this is really impressive.

“It really is an awesome show. All these young people are so talented and full of energy!”

Juliza pointed out that unlike the other productions she’d been involved with, there wasn’t a hair and makeup team for the MY Challenge finalists, and all their costumes had been prepared themselves.

Canon Marketing (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd Imaging Communication Product Division director Simon Wong was deeply impressed by the “hidden talent” he saw at the grand finals, adding that the brand would continue to support the event.

“We should encourage the youth to showcase their talent from a young age,” said Simon. “This is an ideal platform for them, not only providing the youth a learning experience but also instilling positive value amongst the teens.”

He also had this message of encouragement to the aspiring artists and performers in the secondary schools of Malaysia: “Dare to try. Be bold. Be creative.”

In the end, SM Sri KDU, Selangor, emerged as the MY Challenge Champion School, amassing the highest points total and earning the school a cool RM20,000.

(from left) Star Publications (M) Bhd group business director and Canon Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd imaging communications product division director Simon Wong handing over the MY Challenge champion school award to SM Sri KDU Parent Teacher Association president Nik Ariza Ariffin, while MY Challenge organiser Zachary Wong looks on.

But nobody in the crowd seemed to be keeping score, as everyone simply celebrated the opportunity to express themselves and showcase their talents.

MY Challenge organiser Zachary Wong promises that the competition will be back next year, and it will be bigger and better.

“Next year, we will have more schools,” he said. “A lot didn’t join this year because we started the registration a little late. But next year, we will be better prepared.”

And when asked if he expects there to be the same level of talent next year, he confidently said: “I know there are talents out there. That’s why we’re doing this.”

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