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Tue, Jul 21, 2009
The New Paper
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Miss Crude or Misunderstood?
by Kwok Kar Peng

IT'S not easy being the Queen.

Even before the furore over Zoe Tay's wrinkles has died down, the 41-year-old Queen (or ex-Queen, as some insist) of Caldecott is facing more criticism.

This time, it's for an interview that the actress did more than four months ago.

Actor Chen Hanwei, Zoe's close friend of 21 years, felt it's the price she has to pay for being number one.

At issue were Zoe's comments on the Seven Princesses featured in the March issue of Style magazine. The seven are rising stars Jeanette Aw, Joanne Peh, Jesseca Liu, Rui En, Fiona Xie, Dawn Yeoh and Felicia Chin.

Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao picked up the article earlier this week and ran it with the headline: Zoe Tay slams actresses.

With a file photo of Zoe pointing an accusing finger, the article said that she thought Rui En has a chilly attitude, Felicia looks common, Jesseca is bochap (carefree in Hokkien), Dawn has a baby voice.

And then the clincher: Men love Fiona but women hate her.

Sheesh, I couldn't believe my eyes.

That line is so shocking it would send a lesser celebrity packing her bags to hide in the jungles of East Malaysia. (No, we are not saying that's where Fiona is.)

What she said has certainly got people talking. Comments that appeared on the MediaCorp forum were mostly supportive.

Happinessfr wrote: 'I myself read that interview and it was totally misinterpreted. What Zoe commented was not negative at all, it was very sincere.'

ylikedat2008 wrote: 'It is true that women hate Fiona because most women don't like her sexiness and the fact that their men will drool over her face and body.'

But there was this comment on the blog BaGua TV: 'Zoe mama has to speak up, or else, how to get news. Nowadays, all these over-the-hill artistes are resorting to promo gimmicks.

'But that's a cheapskate promo gimmick at the expense of the Seven Princesses. Did you hear her say any of the princesses got star potential? No.'

And I got a strongly-worded e-mail from Ms Regina Lee of Serangoon Gardens after she read the Lianhe Wanbao article and the subsequent article by The Straits Times.

'What right has she to pass remarks on the younger actresses? Just look at her own acting in the recent drama The Ultimatum, it's so atrocious,' she wrote.

'On Fiona Xie: believe me, Zoe is the one who's very jealous of her and maybe hates her. Tell Zoe to speak for herself and don't pull other women in.'

Others were kinder. Corporate communications officer Yap Geok Hui, 31, also had a 'jaw-drop' moment when she saw the article.

She said: 'It seemed so scandalous. But after I read the article, I found the comments were quite friendly.

'I don't think this is the first time Zoe has been asked to comment on other artistes but why was this blown up? She must be feeling so helpless now.'

Hanwei thought Zoe's analyses of the starlets were accurate and factual.

'Jesseca really is a simple kampung (village) girl. And Dawn was indeed a cute girl with a baby voice,' the 39-year-old actor said.

In Zoe's defence, Hanwei said that she's not someone who would put others down.

'She is a very direct person, even when she talks to me. She could have said those things matter-of-factly, and it's not fair that her intentions have been twisted.

'If negative comments were made with positive intentions, then I think the newbies should take it in their stride.'

Hanwei also believes Zoe is an easy target for critics because 'when you are number one in MediaCorp, people will think of you first, good or bad'.

Nevertheless, he told me adamantly: 'Zoe will never be affected by this.'

The New Paper on Sunday was not able to contact Zoe to comment. Her manager, Ms Carolyn Chong, said she is on leave and has not been responding to media requests for interviews.

She added that Zoe is a 'hands-on' mother and takes care of her two young sons when she isn't working.

Ms Chong, however, told me that she met Zoe at the Harry Potter movie premiere recently and Zoe was bewildered at how the Style interview had turned out.

She said: 'Zoe was more bo bian (helpless) than upset, but she was worried that what she said about Fiona has been misconstrued.

'Zoe said Fiona was 'plain sexy', not 'just sexy' as was translated in the Chinese article. She asked me to help explain it to Fiona when I have the chance.

'Zoe talked about the princesses' strengths as well as flaws, which could be improved. If not, their flaws can work in their favour too.'

What do the princesses themselves think?

I contacted 'Miss Bochap' Jesseca who not only wasn't offended, but also thought that Zoe was spot-on in her descriptions of the princesses.

'People who don't know me really do think I'm self-centric, but that's because I'm rather bochap and wouldn't ha la (slang for making small talk) with people I'm not familiar with,' Jesseca told me.

'It's also good that she was so frank with us because other people would say only the good things. Zoe isn't a superficial person; she'll say only the pertinent things.'

Though they have never worked together on a drama, Jesseca, 30, said they spoke when they were shooting the cover page for a local magazine.


She found Zoe to be a warm and straightforward person.

Jeanette, 29, also believes that Zoe didn't mean her comments in any bad way.

She told me in an SMS while filming the drama Together: 'She said good things about us in the interview too.

'We bumped into each other several times and we talked. I think she's very friendly and she's just like a big sister.'

Though Felicia doesn't agree with Zoe that she has a common-looking face, the 24-year-old said that some things can be lost in translation.

She added: 'I don't take any offence at what she said. For one, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I wouldn't be so rash or biased to comment on what someone said.'

Felicia also believes that headlines do not always tell the full story.

'Headlines entice people to buy the paper and to continue reading. If you want to know the full story, you have to read the entire article.'

As for Fiona, who recently pulled out of Together, she could not be reached as she has gone overseas.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

readers' comments
Looks like we're running out of news and need to keep picking on someone to bash. Or is the standard of journalism heading South?
Posted by laukinkon on Tue, 21 Jul 2009 at 22:00 PM
Zoe was asked her take on the "7 princesses" and she did so in her inimitable manner. Fans or readers who waded in with their comments, positive or otherwise are entitled to their views as such. It is entertainment after all and Zoe's just giving her frank assessment of her colleagues. She has reached the zenith of her career in the reel world locally. That is testimony enough to her strength, focus, commitment, maturity and fineness. I would give her credit for not playing safe, or be diplomatic: We would all be all the poorer for the crap were Zoe to heap mountains of praises on the "7 princesses" instead.
Posted by grandfather on Tue, 21 Jul 2009 at 20:11 PM

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