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Wed, Mar 23, 2011
The New Paper
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You don't have to sleep your way up
by Tan Kee Yun

AN offer to sleep one's way up to success and fame - you can't stop it from coming, but you can choose to walk away from it.

That's the stand of veteran Taiwanese artiste Chen Meifeng, who has more than 30 years of experience in showbiz.

In a phone interview with The New Paper ahead of her concert here, the 54-year-old actress-host, described by the media in Taiwan as the "Most Beautiful Obasan (Japanese for aunty)" there, was candid and upfront on the sensitive topic.

Two weeks ago, South Korea was rocked by explosive details in the late actress Jang Ja Yeon's letters, in which she claimed her management company had forced her to give sexual favours to more than 31 men.

Jang, best known for her role in idol drama Boys Over Flowers, committed suicide in December 2009.

Said Chen: "You simply can't avoid it... in Taiwan."

Young, pretty female celebrities inevitably receive offers to give sexual favours, in exchange for riches and a smoother career path.

"It often starts out as a casual invitation to dinner, but you'll soon realise that the other party's intentions aren't so innocent."

Chen, who will be performing with veteran singer Sakura and child sensation Xiao Xiao Bin in the Super Hits Concert this Sunday, has her own experience to share.

She was approached during her younger years with illicit offers. Chen said she flatly declined all of them, but "didn't feel angry or insulted".

She added: "Right from the start, I knew it wasn't in me to accept something like that."

After a slight pause, she said: "When it comes to work, you have to believe Lady Luck will find you someday.

"I got my big break late in my career. In my younger days, I didn't earn a lot.

"Nevertheless, I was very happy as I got to indulge in my passion (for acting and compering). That was good enough."

Today, Chen is hot property, hosting her popular cooking show A Date With Meifeng, being the ambassador of lifestyle brand Osim and taking on lead roles in Hokkien soap operas such as Love and Night Market Life.

The family-themed Night Market Life, which sees her playing a selfless mother of two, is showing over Channel 8 on weekends at 7pm.

Chen, who has had a boyfriend for 10 years, laughed when we asked if she feels flattered by her "Most Beautiful Obasan" moniker.

"Of course I love it, it's warm and friendly," she said jovially.

"Besides, there are many beautiful female celebrities in Taiwan, but not many are my age."

She takes the "obasan" label in stride, despite its reference to a middle-aged woman.

"There was one time when I bumped into a few young fans on the street," recalled Chen.

"They instantly blurted out: 'Meifeng-Jie (meaning sister in Mandarin), you are the most beautiful...' and suddenly stopped mid-sentence.

"They looked a bit shy to say 'obasan', fearing that I didn't like to be called old.

"But I really did not mind it one bit, I even completed the sentence for them!"

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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