SINGAPORE — Last week we polled you, our readers, to choose who were the local celebrities and personalities making the biggest headlines of 2019.
174 of you voted, and the results were illuminating. The death of 28-year-old local actor Aloysius Pang during a military training incident was voted the top celebrity headline of the year, with 29% of the total votes.
The next two headlines were related stories. 25% of respondents thought the biggest controversy went to the racially charged rap music video by Preetipls and her brother Subhas Nair, in which they called out Singaporean Chinese for perceived racism against minorities.
11% of the votes went to the controversy that led to the Nair siblings’ video in the first place – actor Dennis Chew wearing brownface in an advertising campaign for NETS’s cashless payment system, E-Pay. Chew’s skin was darkened in advertisements to portray an Indian man. The backlash stemmed from the perceived offensiveness of the brownface portrayal towards minority ethnic groups. Broadcaster Mediacorp and advertising firm Havas, which had managed the ad campaign, were primarily blamed for the racially insensitive move.
The next biggest controversy involved Channel 8 actors Carrie Wong and Ian Fang – 6% of those polled voted for this scandal. An anonymous person leaked sexually explicit text messages exchanged between the two young actors, who were already said to be dating other people – Wong’s boyfriend was Boris Lin, and Fang was rumoured to be seeing actress Rebecca Lim. Wong and Fang eventually apologised to the public for what they called their “vulgar”, “coarse” and “inappropriate” private conversation.
Two other controversial personalities were tied, with each getting 5% of the votes. Actor Aliff Aziz had been running afoul of the law, including being charged for allegedly stealing money and cigarettes, and getting arrested after a drunken outburst in public.
Irvin Gunawan, CEO of popular snack brand Irvins Salted Egg, also received 5% of the votes. Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore was first to report that Gunawan was aware of multiple dead lizards appearing in the company’s products as early as August last year, months before he apologised publicly for only one case in January this year. The Agri-food and Veterinary Authority investigated the company but did not find irregularities in its hygiene practices. Gunawan eventually promised that the company would improve its food safety processes.
One last celebrity deserves an honourable mention: actress Joanne Peh for daring to go nude in a sex scene with co-star Jeff Chou for the drama series Last Madame. Peh received 3% of the total votes for her naked professionalism. The sex scene that was later aired was, however, tamer and less revealing than expected.