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20 Nov

Is her win TAINTED?
Earlier linked to judge Irene Ang, OMG winner is also related to another judge, Tay Ping Hui
By Charlene Chua
November 20, 2010


JUST last month, ousted One Moment Of Glory (OMG) contestants had complained about the ‘unfair advantage’ that may have been accorded to fellow contestant Jill-Marie Thomas.

All because she was allegedly good friends with Irene Ang, resident judge of the local Channel 5 reality talent show.

But Thomas survived the talk and has even emerged winner.

The 28-year-old guitar-strumming songbird beat four other OMG finalists – dance acts Luminiq Crew and CJ Crew, singer Sean Harrison and acrobats IFly Prodigy – at the finale on Wednesday night.

Thomas won the grand prize of $50,000 cash after performing her rendition of Alanis Morissette’s You Learn and Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours.

But even as she is trying to savour her win, she has been linked to yet another OMG judge.

This time, it’s the finale’s celebrity guest judge, local actor Tay Ping Hui.

Thomas is Tay’s brother-in-law’s niece.

Tay had mentioned their relationship on his blog entry a year ago when he had posted a video of Thomas performing Wonder Girls’ Nobody and praised her performance.

He told The New Paper: ‘The blog entry is still there. I didn’t delete it as I have nothing to hide.’

The latest revelation threatens to further taint Thomas’ win.


It also raises the question of why the show producers didn’t simply find another guest judge for the finale.

Ms Jennifer Gwee, MediaCorp TV’s managing executive producer of the Content Creation Division, told The New Paper that Tay was invited back to the finale as guest judge because of his knowledge and ability to comment on the performers’ technical skills.

She said: ‘Jill-Marie Thomas being a distant relative to Tay Ping Hui was not seen as an issue as the judges have always been objective and professional in discharging their roles and responsibilities in the show.

‘Throughout the series, we have not had any reason to doubt the credibility of any of our judges – all of whom are well-known and much respected in our entertainment industry.’

Other contestants: She deserved to win

She added: ‘As the judging format of the show is based 50 per cent on judges’ votes and 50 per cent viewers’ votes, ultimately, it is the quality of the contestants’ on-stage performance and the ability to garner strong public votes that eventually determined the overall winner.’

However, some viewers we spoke to felt that it was ‘unlucky’ that Thomas had both a ‘friend’ and a relative on the judging panel.

Said 52-year-old housewife Stacy Khoo: ‘I think that anyone who has been following the show will agree that Jill is an excellent singer and would have won no matter who the judge was.

‘It’s really an unlucky coincidence that she happens to know Irene Ang and is related by marriage to Tay Ping Hui.

‘For people who don’t watch the show, they will definitely think that there may have been bias in thejudging.’

Tay himself said that he was shocked when he first found out that Thomas was on the show, after he had agreed to be a guest judge on the fourth, fifth and sixth episodes of OMG.

The other guest judges included local artistes Jeanette Aw, Hossan Leong and US singer Debbie Gibson.

Said Tay, 41: ‘When I first saw Jill backstage at the recording of episode 4, I was taken aback. I immediately went to the producers and declared that I was related to her.

‘They asked me if I could be an objective judge and I said I am one. So they said they were fine with it.

‘I’m the sort of person to say it like it is, so for anyone to suggest that I was anything but objective in my judging on OMG, I find that very offensive.’

Tay added that he and Thomas aren’t close and he doesn’t meet her at family gatherings, not even during Chinese New Year.

Tay, who said that he was called back by the OMG producers to reprise his role in the finale, commented during the show that she should write and perform the National Day Parade song next year.

He judged the competition alongside resident judges Ang, Beatrice Chia-Richmond and The Flying Dutchman (Mark van Cuylenburg).

Said Tay: ‘Jill’s the undisputed winner. I would never give her low points when she’s put in a fantastic performance just to prove that I’m not biased.’

Judges’ ranking makes up half of the contestants’ results; public votes make up the other half.


Chia-Richmond and The Flying Dutchman (FD) both said that they did not see any reason that Tay should not have been a guest judge in the finale even though he was related to Thomas.

Said FD, 54: ‘Just because he’s a relative doesn’t mean he can’t be an objective judge. People have got to give us credit for being a panel of adults.

‘Integrity. We all understand what it means.’

Added Chia-Richmond, 35: ‘Ping Hui is not afraid to ruffle feathers and he’s not going to give an opinion that he doesn’t mean. All I can say is lucky him, he has a talented relative.’

The judges’ other favourite to win was Luminiq Crew. The group had wowed them with its stylish dance routine that included breakdancing and beat-boxing.

Actress-comedienne Ang, 41, had said during the finale when asked to predict the winner that she would spilt the prize money and award it to both Thomas and Luminiq Crew.

The New Paper was unable to contact her as she left immediately after the finale and did not answer her mobile phone.

In our previous report, Ang, who owns Fly Entertainment, said that given the small entertainment industry in Singapore and her many years of experience in the business, she has met many local entertainers.

She added: ‘My events arm has engaged many entertainers (including Thomas) throughout the 10 years … As judge of OMG, I maintain my integrity by being fair and just to the best of my ability.’

Fly’s subsidiary event company, Running Into The Sun, is run by Chia-Richmond.

Thomas herself told The New Paper that she and Tay are ‘distantly related’ and she rarely sees him.

‘It’s a novelty when I do because he’s Tay Ping Hui, Channel 8 star, to me. I’m not close to him at all.

‘My performances in every episode are enough to show everyone what I can do. I deserve towin.’

Thomas said that Ang and Tay are professionals and ‘would never risk their reputations’ for her.

She clarified that she and Ang are friends on a ‘professional level’ in that she has been hired by Ang’s entertainment company to perform at events.

Thomas plans to give half of her prize money to her mother and use the rest to record an album, something she had wanted to do for a long time but didn’t have the finances for.

When told that Tay was related to Thomas, Luminiq Crew member Daniel Hakim Supani, 23, said on behalf of his group that Thomas won fair and square.

He said: ‘We’ve been through this journey with Jill from the start and we have seen the hard work she has put in so, no, there wasn’t bias in the judges’ decision.

‘She’s excellent at doing song mash-ups. That’s her special talent. We’re not disappointed that we didn’t win, just relieved that we can now spend some time with our girlfriends and friends.’

Samantha Mun, a 22-year-old member of CJ Crew, which the judges had ranked third after Thomas and Luminiq Crew, also agreed that the judging had beenfair.

She said: ‘Besides, 50 per cent of the votes are from the public. Jill wouldn’t have won if the public didn’t want her to win.’


The NewPaper

‘Sexiest Man, Take Out The Garbage’

20 Nov

‘Sexiest man, take out the garbage’
Actor Ryan Reynolds jokes about how wife Scarlett Johansson may react to his new Sexiest Man Alive tag:
November 20, 2010

TO SAY life has been good for Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds is an understatement.

After all, the man is married to voluptuous actress Scarlett Johansson (who incidentally is GQ magazine’s 2010 Babe of the Year).

And he will hit the silver screen soon in the much anticipated The Green Lantern.

But it gets even better – Reynolds has now been voted Sexiest Man Alive by People Magazine.

It said the 34-year-old has ‘an eight-pack of abs that makes millions swoon’.

The actor said things are not going to change at home with Johansson just because of the title.

‘You just have to go with the flow,’ he told People.

‘This gives my family entry into teasing me for the rest of my life.’

Reynolds has been married to Johansson for two years.

‘Now it’s going to be, ‘Sexiest man, take out the garbage.’ That does sound better,’ Reynolds said.

‘The most difficult part is going to be organically working this title into a conversation with random strangers.’

He told the magazine that maintaining his physique takes hard work.

‘When I stop training, I turn into a skin-coloured whisper,’ he said.

Actor George Clooney told the magazine that he was pleased to hear about Reynolds’ title.

GOING WITH THE FLOW: Ryan Reynolds takes his new title in his stride while his wife, GQ magazine’s babe of the month Scarlett Johansson, may tease him for it.

‘I’m very happy for him,’ said Clooney who has been given the title twice.

He then added, in jest: ‘I’m also happy that it’s not Brad (Pitt).’

Actor Pitt has also been awarded it twice.

Others who made this year’s list include Mad Men star Jon Hamm, hip-hop impresario Drake, rocker Jon Bon Jovi, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and singer Justin Timberlake.

Reynolds is the 25th holder of the title, following in the footsteps of Australian actor Hugh Jackman, Ireland’s Pierce Brosnan, Scotsman Sean Connery, two-time winner Johnny Depp and many more, including actor Mel Gibson.

His wife will have her own bragging rights after she was named GQ’s Babe of the Year. She willalso grace the cover of the 15th annual Men of the Year issue, which hits newsstands on Tuesday.

‘At 26, she remains fresh-faced, curious, trying on new moods and outlets of expression as easily as she changes her hair colour,’ the magazine gushed about the actress.

Johansson, however, suggested she’s considerably less interesting.

She told GQ: ‘I’m still trying to figure out what to do when I’m not making movies. I just don’t do that many things.’

And if you think there surely can’t be anything to add to an already charmed life for Reynolds, there’s more good news to show you can’t have too much of a good thing.

Some sneak scenes from The Green Lantern were shown this week and it has been getting positive buzz.

Smouldering scene

One scene shows Reynolds and Blake Lively share a smouldering scene, reported the Daily Mail.

The scene, shown on US show Entertainment Tonight, shows Gossip Girl’s Lively, 23, and Reynolds facing off in an aircraft hangar.

The newly-brunette actress stares into his eyes as he unbuckles his belt and declares: ‘Let’s get these pants off and fly some planes.’

While viewers have yet to see the full trailer, which Entertainment Tonight plans to air later, this first glimpse certainly looks promising, reported the Daily Mail.

The NewPaper


19 Nov

By Jason Johnson
November 19, 2010

Harry Potter was an orphan with a lightning bolt scar. He lived with his fat relatives. Some owls came and invited him to study at Hogwarts, a school for wizards and witches.

At Hogwarts, Harry made friends with a very pretty girl named Hermione and a red-haired kid named Ron…or Rob? Though Hermione is way too good for him, they would later ‘snog’.

Harry had many adventures, such as…one time, he rode a dragon.

The headmaster at Hogwarts was Dumbledore, but the actor who played him ended up dying, so they replaced him with actor Ian McKellen. Word has it Dumbledore leads an ‘alternative lifestyle’.

Harry’s rival is Draco Malfoy, who is very snotty and has white hair. One time they had this magic wizard fight. Harry probably won.

Harry finally gets around to fighting his arch enemy, known as The-Man-With-No-Name. But actually he has a name, and it’s…Visigoth? Vodafone? Anyway, he doesn’t have a nose either, and he’s played by Ralph Fiennes.

Harry and his pals are always playing this game called Quidditch that makes even less sense than cricket. They fly around on brooms doing who-knows-what, and somehow we’re supposed to care.

Harry ends up dating an Asian girl, but then she disappears. He should really be going after Hermione, who is way too good for Rob.

After like 10 movies there were too many characters to keep track of. For certain there was Gary Oldman, Helena Bonham Carter and Robert Pattinson. Also, Emma Thompson was probably in it. Judi Dench too?

The Hogwarts gang used to be cute little kids, but they grow older. They still like playing Quidditch and fighting Voldemort, though. And snogging. Someone important died in the last movie. Or maybe not.

The NewPaper

Weddings Make Her Lose Appetite

14 Nov

Weddings make her lose appetite
Taiwan actress-singer Rene Liu has attended one wedding in 10 years
November 14, 2010

IS TAIWANESE actress-singer Rene Liu impulsive enough to ever pull a Barbie Hsu?

Said the 41-year-old: ‘I’m not the person concerned and I can’t speak for her…

‘As long as you feel the person is the one for you, it doesn’t matter how long the courtship is.’

Taiwanese singer-actress Hsu recently announced her engagement to Beijing-based restaurant empire heir Wang Xiaofei after a whirlwind courtship.

Liu – who’s filming Jingle Ma’s new movie Dynamic Angel in Shanghai – has had many suitors over the years but has not yet found her Prince Charming.

Is she too cautious when it comes to matters of the heart?

She said: ‘I beg to differ. I can be rash in certain areas too.’

Such as?

There was a moment of silence before Liu replied: ‘Like driving a car. When I get angry with other drivers, I can forget who I am and just rant at other motorists.

‘While there are many grey areas in modern times, you yourself must know what is right and wrong. There must be black and white in your line of thought.’

It has been quiet on the love front for Liu for several years – until a few months ago, when she was rumoured to have caused her good friend, Taiwanese singer-actress Tarcy Su, to split from Taiwanese director Chen Kuo Fu.

Su and Liu denied the reports and have stayed mum on the incident.


Knee surgery kept Rene Liu out of action for a year.

She did not have a serious relationship during her long break.

She said: ‘So this means that romance has nothing to do with whether you’re busy with your career or not.’

Last year, Liu returned to showbiz and immediately had to face the daunting challenge of preparing for a concert.

She kicked off her Take Off Your High Heels concert tour of China in Shanghai and did no fewer than 15 shows.

It was staged like a musical, with dancers doubling up as actors and multiple scene changes.

Take Off Your High Heels featured four emotions that women experience when they are in love.

When asked if her fans understood what she was trying to express, Liu said that her message transcends all cultures.

Liu said: ‘I’m sure my audience understood what I was doing.’

When Liu performed in Chengdu in August, a middle-aged man dressed in a white suit dangled a wedding ring and proposed to her from below the stage.

Liu was caught off-guard by the gesture and appeared distracted for a while.

When asked about the incident, she said: ‘My male fans usually give me ‘face’. And after that incident, I realised that while some male fans may not know me, they feel they know me well.

‘This is because when I’m on stage, I tend to acknowledge my fans because I don’t want a barrier between me and them.’

Appeared uncomfortable

Yet, when Liu performed on home ground in Taipei in August, she appeared uncomfortable because her relatives and friends were among the audience.

She explained: ‘I’m usually dressed like a homebody when my relatives see me and I’m not used to them seeing me on stage, in formal attire.

‘But one of my favourite costumes during the concert was a red wedding dress.’

But in real life, Liu makes it a point to avoid weddings.

She said: ‘In the last 10 years, I’ve only attended one wedding so I’ve not had any problems.

‘I’m afraid of attending weddings because they make me lose my appetite.’

The NewPaper

Working His Magika

12 Nov

working his magika
What’s retired former boy band member Edry Abdul Halim doing?
By Juliana June Rasul
November 12, 2010

Why, making a musical, of course.

Following in the footsteps of his elder brother, Cicakman director Yusry, former KRU member Edry Abdul Halim, 34, has released his directorial debut.

The colourful musical Magika, which opens here today, is chock-a-block with Malaysian stars like Ziana Zain, Diana Danielle, Mawi, Ning Baizura, and even a special appearance by M Nasir.

Taking its cue from the magical worlds of Harry Potter and The Lord Of The Rings, with some Malay folklore thrown into the mix, the story follows a young girl, Ayu (Diana), who stumbles into a fantasy world of warriors and witches when she goes in search of her lost brother.

Speaking to FiRST a week after his movie’s big win at the 23rd Malaysian Film Festival, which included a trophy for Best Film, Edry said he was ‘on cloud nine’.

‘When the film was released, I was a total newcomer to the scene, fighting for my film,’ he said. ‘And now, months later, it’s all been worth it.’

Edry also took home a trophy for Most Promising Director.

Musical format

Despite the big names attached to the film, Edry was concerned that Malay movie audiences, used to horror films and action flicks, would be puzzled by the musical format.

‘Even my actors took some time to get used to it,’ he said, recalling a scene with singers Mawi and Ziana, in which they had to sing while fighting.

‘Mawi asked me, ‘So, I have to sing this line while trying to punch her?’

Make no mistake, Magika is more Andrew Lloyd Webber than Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.

While Bollywood films are a big thing in Malaysia, Edry stressed that the songs in Magika are not just ‘interlude music’, which is the case for most of India’s three-hour film spectacles.

‘Everyone’s used to the Bollywood film, or the P Ramlee film, where people take a break from the scene, jump to some other location, and start singing,’ he said.

‘One of the challenges I had when making this film was wondering if the audience would look at it and ask, ‘Why must they sing during the scene?’

His fears, however, were unfounded.

The film has raked in RM3.4 million (S$1.4 million) at the Malaysian box office so far.

‘When you do something out of the box, you don’t really expect everybody to take to it easily,’ he said.

‘I think the toughest thing was convincing people that I could do it.’

In trying to ease his audience’s transition into this new format for Malaysian cinema, he decided to fill the story with figures from Malaysian history and folklore, like strongman Badang (Mawi), who becomes Ayu’s love interest, and Puteri Gunung Ledang (Ning).

Playing against type

The twist? The characters are played against type – Puteri Gunung Ledang, commonly known as a lovely fairy princess, is fat and depressed.

Ziana’s witch is not an old hag, but a rather sexy kebaya-clad lady.

‘The actors were intrigued because it was a different take on things,’ said Edry.

Assembling such a star-studded cast wasn’t that difficult for Edry, who’s known some of them since his KRU days.

And the group’s mutual friendship made sure things on set were pleasant.

‘It was like hanging out with friends,’ he said, stressing that there was ‘no diva behaviour’.

The actors probably took the lead from their humble director, who, despite his own musical past, was reluctant to go in front of the camera.

His only concession was to appear as part of a trio of singing trees – backed up, of course, by his two KRU brothers Yusry and Norman – who try to placate the protagonists with a song about family values.

‘For (Yusry) and I, our policy is, if you’re casting something, you don’t need to be on the screen. We were active, like, 18 years ago!’ he said with a laugh.

‘I think now, we’re more comfortable behind the camera, and being credited for the art.’

He dreams of doing a ‘full musical’ one day, with little to no dialogue.

‘With Magika, it’s still 60:40 – there’s still more talking. Hopefully, with the success of the film, I can explore pushing more boundaries,’ he said.


The NewPaper

UPSET At Not Getting Young Stars To Groom

10 Nov

Celebrity hairstylist David Gan claims rising stars stopped from going to him because of his ‘mothering ways’
UPSET at not getting young stars to groom
By Charlene Chua
November 10, 2010

HE BELIEVES he’s a star-maker.

FRUSTRATED: David Gan with a photo portrait of his star client Christopher Lee in his salon.

That’s why he doesn’t understand why he hasn’t been given the chance to make young talent shine.

David Gan, owner of Passion Hair Salon and ‘mother’ to some of MediaCorp’s biggest stars like Fann Wong and Zoe Tay, is upset that artiste managers are no longer sending their young MediaCorp charges to him for hair styling services.

The celebrity hairstylist’s theory?

That they are not doing so perhaps because they don’t like his ‘mothering ways’, constantly fussing over them and giving them advice.

Gan, 49, is known to be a fairy godmother of sorts who dishes out home-brewed birds’ nest backstage at the annual Star Awards and diamond jewellery as wedding gifts to his fiercely loyal stable of favourites.

He also takes it upon himself to act as their fashion stylist, image consultant, career adviser and all-round mentor, cheerleader and confidante.

It’s his all-pervasive approach that has apparently got some artiste managers worried, it seemed.

A MediaCorp artiste who has her hair done by Gan and who declined to be named, admitted that she would at times take Gan’s advice over her manager’s as he was more fashion-forward.

This occasional ‘slighting’ of her manager in Gan’s favour, she said, was her guess as to Gan’s current plight.

Celebrity hairstylist Shunji Matsuo also revealed that two years ago, some artiste managers had told him that they would ‘give’ the newer artistes to him as they didn’t like Gan’s gift-giving antics.

Said Matsuo, 60: ‘The MediaCorp managers said that they will put the young artistes at my salon and these artistes will eventually become veterans.’

A spokesman for MediaCorp told The New Paper in an e-mail: ‘There is no such ban on David Gan. In fact, our make-up unit is working with him on his salon’s sponsorship of services for (new TV drama) Love In Two Cities which is currently in production.’

Gan, however, said that what he wants is the chance to sponsor all of a star’s hair services and not only for ad hoc shows.

He said: ‘What I do is cultivate a star’s confidence by always being there for them so they have this sense of comfort and security.

‘When I’m with them, I make myself a zero. I pamper them too because in order for them to become (bona fide) stars, you have to treat them like one in the first place.’

He added: ‘I won’t say that I groom stars but I do give them a good environment for them to become stars.

Chris Lee, Joanne Peh fought to stay with me

‘Yes, I’m upset because guiding talent is what I do best. If these young artistes were to be styled by me, I’m confident of producing the next Christopher and Fann.’

One actor who’s not styled by Gan is Elvin Ng, 30.

When asked, Ng said he had been approached by Gan two years ago but his hair services at that time were already sponsored by Matsuo.

After talks with his manager and Matsuo, they decided that the timing wasn’t right to switch salons.

But that may not be the case now.

Said Ng: ‘My salon is very good to me and I’ve been with them for four years. The boss was also very understanding then and said he would respect whatever decision I make. I have no contract with them. I stuck with them out of loyalty.

‘But now, my manager has changed so I may consider a switch. I’m of course very flattered that David wants to work with me and the truth is I may need advice on fashion and the like as I’m going it on my own right now.’

When told of this, Matsuo, who was in Paris, said: ‘I respect David Gan as he has been doing hair in Singapore for a long time. I would say we are different as my main clientele (comprises) professionals and executives.

‘If David were to approach Elvin (Ng), I certainly hope Elvin stays with us. We have had a very good working relationship thus far.’


Another young actor, Dai Yang Tian, also said he has heard from friends that Gan was interested in working with him.

Said Dai, 26: ‘As a guy I don’t really care about things like hair. My management arranged for Kim Robinson to take care of my hair and so far I’m happy with their services.

‘I’ve heard good things about David from Fann Wong and Felicia Chin. If he were to approach me now, I would still leave that decision to my management.’

Celebrity hairstylist Addy Lee, who counts Michelle Chia and Quan Yifeng as his clients, said MediaCorp managers used to direct new artistes to his salon but haven’t done so in recent times.

Lee, 39, said: ‘What happens now is that we do hair for artistes like for a certain show and if they like it then we will sponsor them.

‘I don’t have the practice of going up to artistes and asking them to join me. If you are good, they will come to you naturally.’

He declined to comment on Gan’s supposed star-making abilities.

Gan himself admitted that some artistes had told him that they wouldn’t ‘follow’ him, lest he gets to ride on their coat-tails.

But he also said that there were two artistes who had fought to stick with him – Christopher Lee and Joanne Peh.

Lee, 39, told The New Paper: ‘Hair is best done by one person. That’s why if I’m asked to change hairstylist, I’ll say no. I’ve had my hair done by David since 1996.’

He added that Gan has the chops to build up a celebrity’s image as he ‘knows his fashion’.

Nag non-stop

Gan is also a stickler for discipline and would nag him non-stop to get him to lose any extra weight he had put on.

Peh, 27, who switched from Matsuo to Gan, said that she and Gan have a strong mutual desire to better the local entertainment industry.

‘With him, you are always working to be better at your craft,’ she said.

Other MediaCorp celebs like Tay Ping Hui, Kym Ng and Ann Kok who have had their tresses coiffed by Gan for more than a decade, said they have never been asked by their managers to jump ship.

They also said there is good reason for them having stuck with Gan till now.

Ng, who’s in her 40s, told The New Paper: ‘For the young artistes, not getting to know David, they will know one fewer person who has had vast experience in this entertainment industry and can share that experience in terms of giving good advice. This could perhaps make or break your career.’

Agreed Kok, 37: ‘If it’s nothing against the company, the young artistes should speak up if they want their hair to be done by David.’

But Tay, 39, couldn’t say if the new generation of talents will definitely be at a loss if they don’t get to associate with Gan.

Hype Records boss Ken Lim, who signed popular MediaCorp princesses Jeanette Aw and Rui En, said he believes hard work is what contributed to both their successes – and that should be what young artistes should focus on.

He said: ‘Rui En and Jeanette’s success did not come overnight. Between them, there’s been 20 years of hard work.

‘Whether a star makes it or not depends on more than just a hairstyle or looks as looks are subjective.

‘It’s all about their attitude and commitment to their work. You can have the best managers and stylists but there’ll be no point if you don’t work hard yourself.’

So who’s doing whose hair? Here’s a list of local celebs and their crimpers of choice

Passion Hair Salon
Haircut by David: $339
Fann Wong
Christopher Lee
Zoe Tay
Tay Ping Hui
Jacelyn Tay
Fiona Xie
Joanne Peh
Qi Yuwu
Felicia Chin
Dawn Yeoh
Kym Ng
Ann Kok
Apple Hong
Eelyn Kok
Chen Hanwei
Ivy Lee
Phyllis Quek

Haircut by Kim: $2,580
Haircut by stylists that do artistes’ hair: $238 – $700
Dai Yang Tian
Jeanette Aw
Rui En
Andrea Fonseka

Shunji Matsuo Hair Studio
Haircut by Shunji: $80
Elvin Ng
Jesseca Liu
Michelle Chong
Kola Zhou
Zzen Chong
Zhang Zhenhuan
May Phua

Monsoon Group
Haircut by Addy: $289
Michelle Chia
Vivian Lai
Mark Lee
Quan Yifeng
Dasmond Koh
Lynn Poh
Bryan Wong
Guo Liang
Ericia Lee
Priscelia Chan
Lee Teng

The NewPaper


8 Nov

So many S’poreans are getting hooked on this Taiwanese soap on Ch 8 that some restaurants see a drop in business
By Tan Kee Yun
November 08, 2010

RETIREE Yeo Zhong Li wouldn’t normally miss the live getai performances near his HDB estate in the Commonwealth area.

POPULAR: Love actor Ni Qi Min (in a scene with another cast member) has received rave reviews for his portrayal as a bad guy turned good guy.

But over the past year, the 74-year-old grandfather of two has foregone such pleasures to make sure he is home every evening to plonk himself in front of the television set by 7pm.

His pop culture obsession? The intriguing melodramatic 787-episode Taiwanese soap opera Love (or Ai in Mandarin).

It revolves around the trials and tribulations of two sisters, Lin Chunhua (played by veteran Chen Meifeng) and Shuhua (Fang Xin) and is full of power struggles, bitter quarrels and family feuds.

Weekdays & weekends

Love was originally in Hokkien but a version dubbed in Mandarin is shown here. It airs daily on Channel 8 – an hour on weeknights and three hours each on Saturdays and Sundays.

According to statistics provided by MediaCorp, Love ‘attracts an average of 864,000 viewers per episode and on some days, a million viewers’.

Its ratings come close to the two top local dramas, New Beginnings (939,000 viewers per episode), aired in April and Unriddle (891,000 viewers per episode), aired in August.

Love beat September’s The Family Court (which averaged only 805,000 viewers per episode), starring heartthrobs Tay Ping Hui and Qi Yuwu.

‘It is a very good drama series,’ Mr Yeo told The New Paper on Sunday.

‘I don’t have a (video) recorder, so I try not to miss any episode.

‘All the aunties at the kopitiam I go to follow it too. So we discuss the storyline whenever we meet.’

He is not the only one in his family to be bitten by the Love bug.

Love, with its central theme of family harmony and reconciliation, brings the Yeo family’s three generations together, a rare feat for a television programme.

Mr Yeo’s wife, Madam Tan Lor Beng, 68, is a huge fan. She points out without hesitation that Love ‘beats other Taiwanese dramas such as The Unforgettable Memory and Taiwan Tornado hands down’ in terms of addictiveness.

Mr Yeo’s granddaughters, Winona, 12, and Dione, 10, are glued to the gogglebox as they finish their dinner. Dione can rattle off the names of a string of characters in Love.

‘I watch Love because Ah Gong and Ah Ma (referring to her grandparents) watch,’ she said with a shrug, when quizzed about her immense knowledge of the show.

The girls’ mum, 37-year-old human resources executive Doris Yeo, is an ‘accidental viewer’ too, as she swings by her parents’ place to pick up the kids after work.

While Ms Yeo identifies herself more as a fan of all-things Korean, she does not deny the allure and mass appeal of Love.

‘The acting is pretty solid, also the song really does have a powerful hook…everyone seems to know and like it,’ she said.

Indeed, Love’s catchy Hokkien theme song I Ask The Sky (or Wo Wen Tian in Mandarin) has reached dizzying heights of success.

Even English speakers & non-Chinese watch show

Getai artiste-host Hao Hao, 29, said that I Ask The Sky has become ‘the must-sing song’ on the getai circuit.

At several outlets of family karaoke chain K Box, it stays on the Most Popular Song Selection chart for weeks on end.

And don’t be surprised if you hear the song buzzing from mobile phones of your fellow bus and MRT passengers.

The ringtone of I Ask The Sky is ‘on the list of Top Downloads at StarHub’s Music Store’, a spokesman for StarHub told The New Paper on Sunday.

Still, much of the show’s success still lies in the strength of its story, said Mr Paul Chan, Channel 8’s vice-president of branding and promotions.

‘In Love, the roles of the good and bad characters are always well-defined and presented in a balanced perspective,’ said Mr Chan.


‘It resonates with viewers precisely because they are able to root for the good folks and jeer at the villains when the villains get their just desserts.

‘Also, the lead protagonists embody positive values such as filial piety and respect for elders, especially in the face of adversity.’

Echoing similar sentiments were Love’s increasing pool of English-speaking and even non-Chinese viewers.

And unlike previous Taiwanese soap operas that had an uncool reputation of pandering to the tastes of homemakers and heartlanders, Love has proven itself to have a more cosmopolitan appeal.

Locally based Indonesian Umy Sokilah, a tour agent in her late 20s, understands only a smattering of Mandarin but adores Love for its characters.

‘The acting is perfect…the evil characters like Hong Zhi Zhong (played by actor Huang Ying-Xun) and Xie Mingming (actress Jiang Zu-Ping) are so convincing that they make me really hate them,’ she said.

‘I don’t think any Singaporean star can act like that.’

English-educated retiree Gabriel Tan, 70, praised the scriptwriters ‘for being able to tie so many families together in one storyline’.

‘Some of the actors did really well in their roles, especially the guy who played the crook Guo Congmin (veteran actor Ni Qi Min). A lot of credit must be given to him for the show’s success,’ he said.

Ms Sherry Ng, 28, who works in marketing, enjoys Love though she considers Chinese her second language.

‘Thank goodness for the English subtitles,’ she said.

‘The characters are so appealing…I have to watch the show every day.’

She even set up a Facebook fan page for Love earlier this year.

‘If only I could find the DVD of Love, that would be a bonus,’ she said.

The New Paper on Sunday checked with local video stores and found that the DVD version of the series is not licensed to be sold or made available for rental here.

Perhaps, the only people who are a little upset by Love’s rapid conquest of Singapore’s TV-watching population are employees in the F&B industry.

In the last six months, business at some popular Chinese restaurants and tze char outlets has been affected, apparently because people have been choosing to stay home to catch Love.

A manager at Zi Yean Restaurant in Bukit Merah, who gave her name only as Ms Chin, told us that the number of customers in their non-airconditioned section has ‘dropped by 10 to 15 per cent’.

‘Our aircon section is largely unaffected, as there are three TV sets there showing Love every day, so most of our customers can still watch the show while they eat,’ said Ms Chin, who is in her 30s.

‘But the non-aircon area has only one TV set and some customers will not be able to see the screen.’

Tze char outlet Zion Fishhead Beehoon at Toa Payoh has also witnessed a slight dip in its number of patrons at night, said one of the helpers there, who gave her name only as Ms Chua.

But things are beginning to look up.

‘The television screen at our kopitiam used to show a sports channel, but one month ago, they switched to showing Channel 8 in the evenings,’ said Ms Chua, who is in her 50s.

7 ways that Love is loved

1 Love is the first Taiwanese long-form drama series to be given the primetime slot on MediaCorp Channel 8.

2 Viewership statistics from MediaCorp reveal that about 50 per cent of local students and working adults prefer Love to any other television shows screened previously in the same time slot.

3 Love is almost twice as popular as other Hong Kong or Taiwanese dramas in terms of viewership ratings.

4 Love’s theme song I Ask The Sky (Wo Wen Tian) has become the ‘must-sing song’ on the local getai circuit. It is also constantly on the Most Popular Song Selection chart for consecutive weeks at family karaoke chain K Box.

5 The official music video of I Ask The Sky (sung by Hokkien crooner Weng Li-You) has received more than 1.3million views to date on YouTube.

6 Ringtone of I Ask The Sky is on the list of Top Downloads at StarHub’s Music Store.

7 Popularity of the cast members of Love has sky-rocketed. Lead actress Fang Xin’s official page on social networking website Facebook has nearly 15,000 fans, supporting actress Jiang Zu-Ping – who plays scheming villain Xie Mingming – is close behind with nearly 10,000 fans. Veteran actress Chen Meifeng has more than 7,000.


The NewPaper


5 Nov

Villainous misfits, outcasts and losers like the blue-skinned, bobble-headed Megamind are the new heroes. And it’s about time
By Jason Johnson
November 05, 2010

Imagine you were blue. We don’t mean sad blue, but blue blue, like the colour of a Subaru.

Though chances are if you were blue blue, you’d be sad blue too, like Megamind, the titular villain – more accurately, the anti-hero – of DreamWorks’ latest animated superhero comedy which opens here today.

A refugee from a dead planet, Megamind – voiced by Will Ferrell – is rejected by his peers as a young boy owing not just to his peculiar looks, but to his brainy eccentricity.

In addition to his unique skin tone, he has a head the size of a party balloon.

‘Because he is an alien to our world, people judged him differently,’ said Megamind director Tom McGrath.

‘They looked at the way he looked, and they put him in a category as the oddball. You know, the black sheep, the bad boy. So he embraced this role, and thought if I’m going to be the bad boy, I’m going to be the baddest boy of them all. And it launched him into a lifelong career of fighting his nemesis.’

His nemesis is Metro Man.

Handsome, athletic and charismatic, Metro Man (voiced by uber-star Brad Pitt) was not only the most popular kid in school, but raised with every advantage.

‘Metro Man has had it too easy his whole life,’ said Tina Fey, who voices Megamind’s love interest, TV reporter Roxanne Ritchi.

‘You can tell he’s a guy who’s been everyone’s favourite person since he was a baby, and he carries a bit of that cockiness with him.’

In a nutshell, Megamind is the geek, and Metro Man is the jock.

As in most superhero stories – from the old Flash Gordon serials up to more recent flicks such as Unbreakable, Sky High and The Incredibles – brains cause all the trouble and brawn is used to put things right.

Classic match-up

Megamind, then, is a classic good versus evil match-up, very much in the tradition of Superman and Lex Luthor.

But at the same time, it’s not, because in this case, the bad guy is a fine fellow.

Certainly, Megamind isn’t the only film in recent months to explore the idea that villains are people too.

Despicable Me, the animated box office hit which just managed to beat Megamind to the firsties punch, tells the story of a cynical old villain named Gru (Steve Carell) whose heart awakens after he adopts three little girls to use in his nefarious plot to steal the moon.

Like Megamind, poor Gru also had a troubled childhood, though in his case it was his cruelly indifferent mother who set him on the path to villainy.

‘We got the idea that villains really are the ultimate underdog,’ said Megamind writer Brent Simons in an interview with the website SuperHero Tooniverse.

‘In every movie you see, they never win. And there was something there, … a story about a villain who kind of redeems himself.’

It’s a sentiment that could be applied equally well to both Megamind and Gru, or to a growing number of ostensible baddies.

Think of the character arc of Darth Vader – the most obvious example – who evolves from a genius emo kid into a dark lord, and finally saves his soul by killing the evil emperor.

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen the rise of many atypical heroes.

Nerdy ones like Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim. Morally ambiguous ones like those from Watchmen.

All of these films have been hinting at the idea that the traditional idea of a superhero – a man’s man in tights – is somehow bogus, and that it’s the smarter, nicer guys who deserve to be put on that pedestal.

Megamind takes the Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth idea and makes it explicit.

‘Megamind, as a villain, he really is kind of a sweet guy,’ Ferrell said.

‘He’s trying his best to be tough and evil… he thinks of some pretty cool stuff, but at the end of the day no one is really that afraid of him.

‘I think he just wants some kind words thrown his way. But when you’re the bad guy, no one will ever give that to you.’

Strangely enough, The Social Network, a film which at first glance would appear to have much less in common with Megamind than Despicable Me, seems an even closer relation.

Emotionally vulnerable and socially insecure, yet possessing a powerful mind capable of concocting all manner of devilish schemes, Mark Zuckerberg – the founder of Facebook and the subject of The Social Network – could be Megamind’s twin.

Unidentical twin, obviously; he’s a paler shade of blue.

There’s a beautiful scene in the film that might have been lifted right out of Megamind in which a sympathetic female lawyer says to Zuckerberg: ‘You’re not an a”hole, Mark. You’re just trying so hard to be.’

Both Megamind and Zuckerberg are sensitive outsiders whose outsized schemes are nothing more than desperate attempts to fit in, get noticed, be cool.

Sometimes, just sometimes, those crazy plans actually work. Even better, every once in a while, the misfits, outcasts and losers really do get the girl.

Said Fey during the Megamind press conference in Los Angeles: ‘I think I would go for Megamind because he’s very smart and I really do find the purple undertone of this blue skin very attractive. I really do. I think he has beautiful, beautiful skin.’

Hear that, little boys blue?

Come blow your horn.


The battle between good and evil has never been so much fun.

Just ask film-maker Tom McGrath who, along with 60 animators, devoted the last two years of their lives to bring Megamind, a hilarious and affectionate take on the superhero genre, to the big screen.

McGrath is vastly experienced in the world of animation.

He has worked as an animator, storyboard artist and layout artist on numerous TV and film projects, and co-directed Madagascar (2005) and its sequel Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) with Eric Darnell.

The 45-year-old American also knows a thing or two about voicing animated characters, having performed the voices of Skipper the penguin in the Madagascar series and Artist the rat in Flushed Away (2006).

You’ve got some of the very best comedians working today in Megamind.

Not only are they great comedians but they are also great actors.

There is a heart to this film and a love story within it. Will (Ferrell) really played it so well. It’s nice to have them being funny yet have the acting chops, which are fantastic for the story.

For me, it’s a pleasure to be able to work with them – and Brad (Pitt) as well, he was just great.

How did Brad Pitt’s casting come about?

He has a great voice and he is very funny. We pitched the idea of him playing Elvis Presley to Will’s Alice Cooper…in a ‘battle of the bands’ superhero world, and he just had a lot of fun with it and brought a lot to it.

Who is your favourite villain of all time?

There are so many. Some of the Disney villains are so memorable. I think it was Sleeping Beauty where the Queen turns into a dragon at the end and there’s a line about the ‘powers of hell’, which for a kid’s movie is really frightening.

But I also love the Star Wars villains, because there is an aesthetic appeal to them.

I wanted to let the characters in this movie define themselves through their look and appearance, particularly for Megamind with his high collar and studs.

It’s really for appearance’s sake and when he takes over the city, he blasts AC/DC (music). It’s all about the showmanship of being a villain.

Why AC/DC?

Because it intimidates parents (laughs). I remember when I grew up in the 70s it was like ‘don’t listen to that devil music!’ So for me it would make sense that he would play that devil music to evoke fear.

How much improvisation is there in the film?

A lot. What’s great is that you can have a direction for a scene and an objective for a character, but then the words used in how you get from A to B can be played with.

For example, with the character Space Dad, Will came up with the whole Marlon Brando riff.

We were laughing so hard when we were recording it that I decided I wanted to put that in the movie.

So we went back and re-designed the character and added more scenes with Space Dad so we could play around with that character. How we develop is pretty malleable.

The great secret about animation is that you can see the film before you make it, with the storyboards and the voices, and you can change it for the better.


The NewPaper


5 Nov

November 05, 2010

The year 2011 will belong to superheroes like Thor, Green Lantern, the X-Men and the much-anticipated Captain America.

These early photos show us a super-buff Chris Evans bearing the Cap’s iconic shield and Hugo Weaving as the villainous Johann Schmidt aka The Red Skull.

Captain America: The First Avenger (opening next Aug 4) is the story of how a scrawny arts student named Steve Rogers (Evans) becomes the star-spangled hero and eventual living symbol of freedom, thanks to the experimental ‘super soldier serum’.

Directed by Joe Johnston, the World War II film also stars Samuel L Jackson, Stanley Tucci, Dominic Cooper and Hayley Atwell.


The NewPaper

Everybody SALSA!

4 Nov

Everybody SALSA!
The fifth annual S’pore International Salsa Festival starts next week as more S’poreans move to the Latin beat
By Germaine Lim
November 04, 2010

LATINO passion is firing up in tropical Singapore. Since July, there has been at least one festival celebrating South American culture and dance every month – and Singaporeans seem to be lapping them up.

NTUC Club will be holding its fifth annual Singapore International Salsa Festival (SISF) from Nov 12 to 14 at Downtown East.

Highlights include San Francisco brother-and-sister duo Junior and Emily Alabi, who are 10-time dance champions.

Renowned salsa pairs Ricardo Murillo and Viviana Vargas, and Russians Serge and Polina will also be at the event.

The festival director, Mr Mark Koh, thinks that this year’s event will attract at least 1,500 people, up from an average of 1,100 over the last four years.

Expatriates make up about a fifth of attendees, he said.

Mr Koh, 29, told The New Paper: ‘This year, we are expecting an increase in the participation numbers due to stronger support from our sponsoring local dance studios.

‘The strong performance line-up is also attracting salsa enthusiasts due to more performances by famed champions.’

He added: ‘Besides being a festival for the local salsa enthusiasts to get together and let their hair down, SISF is also an opportunity for the local salsa community to interact and learn from some of the world’s best.’

The cost of organising SISF was not available at press time.

Flamenco too

Two weeks ago, Chijmes hosted the inaugural Laberinto Flamenco Festival (LFF), which was organised by local dance studio Los Tarantos.

In early September, the Brazilian Carnavaltroupe Beija Flor – one of the most influential samba schools of the annual Rio Carnaval parade – performed at the Esplanade.

Famed for its flamboyant costumes and percussion segment, Beija Flor counts Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and former Brazilian soccer star Zico among its fans.

Between July and September, Clarke Quay held its first Latino Salsa Thursday music series, with live music and free salsa dance workshops and performances.

In July, the library@esplanade hosted a Latin American and Spanish guitar concert by Argentine guitarist Sebastian Pompilio and British guitarist Justin Hyer, who performed works by Spanish and Latin American composers.

Dr Daphne Huang, the LFF’s organiser, said the surge of interest was because Singaporeans are more widely travelled and more exposed to the culture.

Salsa dancing at Clarke Quay.

The LFF, which cost about $175,000 to organise, attracted about 2,000 people.

Half of them were locals, said Dr Huang, a 38-year-old medical doctor by profession.

Tickets were priced at $68 and $88.

On flamenco’s popularity, DrHuang said: ‘Singaporeans have become increasingly receptive as an audience and as participants.

Also, these festivals give homesick Latino and Hispanic expatriates and tourists ‘something to look forward to’, Dr Huang said.

Sales has become more popular in Singapore as the dance itself is a big draw, said Mr Adrian Khi, NTUC Club’s divisional manager.

Mr Khi, who is in his 40s, oversees NTUC Club’s Union Square clubhouse, which was established in2000.

He said that it attracts more than 100 salsa enthusiasts every Tuesday, when dance instructors guide beginners for free.

On salsa’s rise, Mr Khi said: ‘It’s a sensual dance, the beat to the music is pulsating, and the percussion sounds differentiate it from other genres.’

Dance studios also play a ‘big role in promoting salsa to beginners’.

He added: ‘They organise social nights, which is a good chance for people to widen their social circle and make new friends who share the same interest in salsa. It is also perfectly normal for strangers to dance with each other.’

Clarke Quay could not provide the number of attendees as Central Square, where Latino Salsa Thursday’s free dance workshops were held. The square is an open area, and it was difficult to do a headcount, its spokesman said.

But the venue’s photos showed that Central Square was packed.

Clarke Quay’s spokesman added that the free dance workshops were meant to ‘encourage more people to take the first step in learning the dance’.

Clarke Quay is keen to hold the event again next year.

Some Singaporeans who had attended these events told The New Paper that they were a good way to learn about other cultures.

Good experience

Ms Rachel Chia, for example, had always been intrigued by salsa, but never felt compelled to pick it up.

The 33-year-old IT specialist said: ‘I happened to be at Clarke Quay one Thursday and joined the crowd during the dance workshop. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and have signed up for salsa classes.’

She also plans to attend SISF.

Arts specialist Herman Mahn, who is in his 30s, jumped at the chance of attending Beija Flor because he had ‘really wanted to experience a samba procession by a real Brazilian ensemble’.

But it’s never quite the same as the real thing, MrMahn said.

‘It was a good performance with bateria (percussions) and passistas (dances). However, it fell short of the ‘carnival experience’ as it was not performed on the streets.

‘I would go to more of these events if it was held on the streets or any huge parks and if there is a good line-up of artistes.’


WHAT: Singapore International Salsa Festival 2010
WHEN: Nov 12 to 14
WHERE: Downtown East
TICKETS: From $32 to $352 ( or call 6296 2929)

Tickets to be won

WIN tickets to the Singapore International Salsa Festival.

The New Paper is giving away a pair of tickets to the Festival on Nov 12, courtesy of NTUC Club.

To stand a chance at winning, e-mail and answer this simple question:

Where will the Singapore International Salsa Festival be held?
1. Downtown East
2. Esplanade
3. Chijmes

The contest ends on Nov 10 at midnight.

Please include your name, e-mail address, IC number and contact number. The winner will be notified, with details of ticket collection, via e-mail.


The NewPaper