Single mum, electrician win top spots at talent contest

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Single mum, electrician win top spots at talent contest

Dubai - Unique talent show aimed to bring out the hidden talents of the blue-collar workers in the country.

By Saman Haziq

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Published: Sat 11 May 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sat 11 May 2019, 12:44 PM

The UAE witnessed the talents of the blue-collar community as workers got their time to shine at this year's SmartIdol. More than 1,000 contestants of different nationalities turned up for the auditions, dancing and singing their hearts out to grab the top three spots of the talent hunt.
Organised by non-profit organisation SmartLife, the competition - which was spread over four months and covered more than 30 labour accommodations - recently crowned the winners and awarded them Dh5,000 cheques each.
Sri Lankan expat Nimalka Sandarenu, who works at the airport and is the breadwinner of her family back home, won the first prize in the dance category.
Sandarenu, who has been in the UAE for three years now, said: "I am a single mother and the only earning member of my family. My father is also a cancer patient. I have not gone home for the last three years due to financial issues and, now, I cannot wait to use my prize money to book my ticket to Sri Lanka. I have two children whom I have not seen in those three long years, but the fact that I am earning for them and funding their education keeps me going."
Sandarenu said she has always been fond of dancing but never got the chance to pursue it, due to financial constraints.
"This talent show came into my life as a blessing. Not only did I get to display my talent, but they also honed it by giving us a chance to be trained by professionals. And, of course, Dh5,000 is a big amount for me and will definitely help."
The unique talent show aimed to bring out the hidden talents of the blue-collar workers in the country. There were Nepalis, Filipinos, Indians, Pakistanis, Africans and Sri Lankans who all tried to win the competition. SmartIdol became the platform that allowed them to share their skills with the world.
Indian electrician MD Shahid Ansari, for example, never imagined that he would ever get the chance to sing in front of a crowd - and yet, he ended up getting the first prize for the singing category of Smart Idol.
"I have always looked at stage performers in awe, and I've never imagined I would have my turn to be on that stage. This show helped me realise my talent and gave me amazing professional teachers who trained me on weekends.
"It certainly boosted my morale and Dh5,000 is a good amount for me. I will invest it in the business of my brother, who is struggling to set it up in India," Ansari said.
Rodel Theodoro Francisco Jr. from the Philippines and Binita Pariyar from India were runners-up in the singing and dancing categories, respectively.
The winners, as well as some selected finalists, have also been invited to become part of SmartBand, which gives them the opportunity to perform at corporate events.
The talent show was launched in January. Out of more than a thousand aspiring idols, 30 male and female workers were chosen and 15 qualified for the quarter finals.
Finalists were trained at the Galaxy Centre for Performing Arts every Friday for two hours. They rehearsed for a month during the sessions, before they took the stage at the grand finale, which was held at the Sheikh Rashid auditorium.
Speaking about how SmartIdol was different from other talent shows, Manjula Ramakrishnan, president of SmartLife said: "SmartIdol is our hugely popular annual event. The kind of spectacular talent that resides in labour accommodations and in our blue-collar friends never ceases to amaze us. What makes this show different from other talent hunts is the professional training we give to the workers. Also, in line with the Year of Tolerance, SmartIdol 2019 was designed to encompass as many nationalities, and our dances and songs were performed in different languages, representing the different cultures of the world." 

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