Hong Kong performer G.E.M. says she never imagined that she would be a professional singer one day.
"When I was growing up, I always hoped to pursue a music-related career, maybe become a piano teacher," says the breakout star on hit China reality singing contest I Am A Singer 2.
"I never really thought of being a singer because it's such a distant dream."
The 22-year-old has not only achieved her dream, but is also being hailed as a frontrunner in the final of the highly rated television contest.
The show's finale will air on now Mango (StarHub TV Channel 836) on April 4, the same day as the programme's telecast in China.
Named after the acronym for Get Everybody Moving, fresh-faced G.E.M. has been winning over audiences with her powerhouse vocals on the contest that pits professional singers against one another. Every week the audience votes in a winner.
She recently achieved her fourth win on the show, determined by votes from a 500-strong studio audience, with a soulful rendition of American singer Alicia Keys' Fallin' as she played the piano.
Other competitors on the show include Chinese singer Zhou Bichang, 28, and seasoned Taiwanese singer and the show's host Phil Chang, 46.
G.E.M.'s overwhelming popularity has even sparked rumours of veteran Hong Kong singer Sandy Lam, 47, saying that she would join I Am A Singer 2 only if G.E.M were eliminated.
The singer's popularity has skyrocketed, along with the number of followers on her Chinese social media platform Weibo account - from 1.5 million to eight million.
"I was shocked by the explosive increase in the number of followers on my Weibo after the programme aired," wrote G.E.M., whose real name is Gloria Tang, in an e-mail interview.
"I was moved by the supportive messages left by fans on Weibo. It gives me the motivation to work hard and improve myself, so as not to disappoint my fans."
But even before she joined I Am A Singer 2, she was already a household name in Hong Kong.
Making her show business debut at the age of 15, she became the youngest artist, at 19, to perform at the prestigious Hong Kong Coliseum, a coveted concert venue for Mandopop and Cantopop singers.
"There were times when I felt like giving up," she recalls.
"I wanted only to make music. I felt it was such a pain to have to deal with public scrutiny and gossip. I felt frustrated and discouraged. But I simply love music too much to give it up."