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Will love triumph over star power?
by Gwendolyn Ng


Chinese rocker Wang Feng, 43, faced online ridicule when he failed to propose to his internationally famous girlfriend Zhang Ziyi, 35, on Chinese Valentine's Day on Aug 2.

Speculations were fuelled when Letv, the Chinese site that streamed a live webcast of the show, hinted to the media that something special would take place.

From the get-go, netizens were already sceptical about Wang's relationship with Zhang since they are separated by such a huge gulf in status.

The twice-divorced Wang, who is a father of two, may be popular in China and is also enjoying a revival of his career as a coach on the popular reality singing show The Voice Of China, but all that pales in comparison to Zhang, whom Time magazine calls "China's gift to Hollywood".

Such seemingly unequal romantic pairings where the woman is the bigger star by far, are not new to show business and always raise the questions: Can the male ego weather the jibes that could come his way or will love triumph?

Regardless of the answer in each situation, fans such as Republic Polytechnic student Samantha Nelson, 19, are all for girl power in such unions.

She says: "Looking at singer Mariah Carey and her husband Nick Cannon, it shows that women don't have to depend on men to survive financially."

Matilda Tao, 44 (TV host) and Li Li-Ren, 40 (actor) 

Tao is among Taiwanese showbiz's creme de la creme. Li is not.

He did not do anything to quell sniggers of "Mr Matilda Tao" when he became a stay-at-home dad six years ago to look after their daughter, who was then two. They also have a five-year-old son.

He has returned to work, snagging leading man roles in local Taiwanese drama Once Upon A Time In Beitou (2014) and went to China to film The Empress Of China this year. He even won the Best Supporting Actor nod at the Golden Bell Awards (2013) for war drama Home (2012).

Still, it is hard to top the accomplishments of an over-achieving wife. The motormouth Tao has won the hosting gig for the Golden Melody Awards for 12 consecutive years. This is on top of her variety show gigs, most notably, seven seasons of reality singing contest One Million Star, for which she won a Best Variety Show Host award at the Golden Bell Awards (2007).

Staying power: Tao is the envy of women for marrying a devoted husband. Not only did he stay home to look after their kids, he also underwent a vasectomy in 2009 after seeing how tough it was for his wife during her pregnancy. No wonder the pair, who wed in 2005, have been called a model couple by the Chinese media.

Zhou Xun, 39 (actress) and Archie Kao, 44(actor)

Until he experienced a burst of fame after tying the knot with China A-list actress Zhou Xun in a surprise wedding at a charity concert last month, Chinese-American actor Kao was struggling to make a name for himself in the United States, with a small, recurring role in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation being his best-known part.

Although he is in Asian movies such as Love Speaks (2014) and Snow Flower And The Secret Fan (2011), his resume is nowhere as impressive as that of his wife, who has won multiple Best Actress awards including at the Golden Horse Awards.

Staying power: It is too early to tell how this couple would end up, but female fans of the handsome Kao, one of People magazine's hottest bachelors in 2006, say it is Zhou who has the better catch.

Tina Fey, 44 (writer-actress) and Jeff Richmond, 53 (musician-director)

Comic genius Fey created and starred in Emmy-winning sitcom 30 Rock and the hit movie Mean Girls (2004). Richmond, who is a head shorter than her, works for her - he produced and composed music for 30 Rock and Mean Girls.

Staying power: The couple go way back to a time when famous and fabulous Fey was a frumpy theatre actress in Chicago in the 1990s. The now svelte Fey and the still stout Richmond may appear incompatible but they seem to be on the same intellectual wavelength. Together for 14 years, including a seven-year courtship, they have two daughters, aged two and eight. Bet on this union to last.

Mariah Carey, 44 (singer) and Nick Cannon, 33 (actor-host)

The pop singer first locked eyes with Cannon during the music video shoot for her single Bye Bye in 2008. It did not matter that he was a lesser known actor-host while she is a household name with Grammy awards and platinum album sales.

After a one-month whirlwind romance, the May-December pair tied the knot - but not without signing a prenuptial agreement. The couple have twin children, Monroe and Moroccan, now three.

Staying power: It looks like the pre-nup may come in handy for Carey, who performs at the National Stadium on Oct 24. Divorce rumours have been plaguing the couple, fuelled by tabloids reporting of Cannon's frustration with his wife's diva attitude, not to mention his alleged romps with women. Carey's representative has reportedly denied divorce claims, though.

Ada Choi, 40 (actress) and Max Zhang, 40 (actor)

Unlike many Hong Kong actresses before her, Choi did not marry a rich businessman. There was an uproar in the Chinese media over the fact that she was marrying down when she tied the knot in 2008 with Zhang, a former martial artist who started out in showbiz as a stunt double in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).

At the time of their nuptials, she was one of TVB's major stars whose acting credits include hit dramas such as Healing Hands (1998) and The Gem Of Life (2008). They now have two daughters, aged three and one.

Staying power: After being called Mr Ada Choi for years, Zhang is finally making a name for himself - he won the Best Supporting Male Actor at this year's Hong Kong Film Awards for his role in Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster (2013).

In a moving acceptance speech, he said: "My wife is Ada Choi. Some people say I have to depend on her for my whole life. That's right.

I depend on her for my lifetime of happiness." Listening to this among the audience, Choi blubbered in sheer joy. Their marriage looks set to last a lifetime.

Julia Roberts, 46 (actress) and Danny Moder, 45 (cameraman)

The couple invited unsuspecting guests to an Independence Day party at her New Mexico ranch in 2002. It turned out to be a celebration of their marital union.

The nuptials also surprised fans, who wondered if the marriage would last with their disparity in status.

She was the romcom darling of the 1990s, with hits such as Notting Hill (1999) and Pretty Woman (1990). He is a camera operator on blockbuster films such as Spider-Man 3 (2007) and Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005).

Roberts may be seen in fewer films these days, but the odds are that she still takes home a bigger pay cheque - she made US$11 million (S$13.7 million) in 2013, according to Forbes.

Staying power: Many were sceptical of their union since it allegedly started as an affair when Moder was married to another woman. It has been 12 years (with three kids) and counting. It is hard to say if the couple are headed for splitsville.

There are mixed signals on the grapevine, with divorce rumours alternating with happy sightings of family outings.

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This article was first published on August 10, 2014.
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