updated 17 May 2009, 08:08
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Sun, May 17, 2009
The Star/Asia News Network
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The end of innocence

THEY say that hard times help build character. Gillian Chung certainly found out the hard way. The Hong Kong singer/actress was in the limelight in January last year for all the wrong reasons.

When pictures of her (and other Hong Kong actresses) engaging in sex acts with actor Edison Cheng were leaked on the Internet, it left Chung reeling from the backlash. Not only were her lucrative endorsement deals cancelled, the public didn’t appear too sympathetic over her predicament either.

Chung, the other half of the Twins Canto-pop duo, retreated from the public eye and only resurfaced on March 7 this year when she did an interview on the TVB talk show Be My Guest.

 She said on the show that she had reacted differently in 2006 (crying over the Peeping Tom pictures of her changing during her performance in Malaysia) compared to the 2008 scandal because, “there is a big difference between voluntary and involuntary actions.”

As for “Edisongate”, Chung said she had consented to Chen filming their intimate acts because she liked him and did not want to lose him as her beau. Following the sex pictures scandal, Chung said she had contemplated quitting showbiz and committing suicide.

Well, she has done neither. Three days after the interview, Chung appeared at a press conference to announce her comeback as the spokesperson for the Hong Kong-based Bauhaus Tough Jeansmith fashion chain that sells denim-based and streetwear attire, and accessories.
She was appointed brand ambassador for the Asia Pacific region. A promotional tour followed soon after with appearances in Hong Kong, Taipei and Beijing.

Bauhaus International founder and chief executive George Wong told StarTwo via e-mail that the company took the high road in deciding on the campaign theme for the label and the choice of spokesperson.

“Under the current global economic downturn, 2009 is full of hardship and toughness. Not only the people in Hong Kong, but others all over the world are living in hardship and have to face challenges. To boost morale, Tough Jeansmith launched a campaign with the theme ‘Be Tough’ for Spring/Summer 2009 to cheer everyone up and advocate the brand’s mission statements – tenacity and perseverance,” he says.

“We believe Gillian’s willingness to face challenges can bring home the message of ‘unremitting self-improvement’ and ‘enthusiastic toughness’.”

On the risk of Chung’s association with the brand backfiring if the public turns out to be unforgiving, Wong stressed again on tenacity and perseverance.

“I believe we are doing well in Hong Kong as well as other overseas markets, including Malaysia. With the launch of Gillian’s campaign, I hope we will gain more exposure in different markets,” adds Wong.

But a story on the media marketing, PR and advertising trade portal Brand Republic ( takes a different viewpoint. It quoted a PR/advertising head honcho as saying that the Asian market likes its celebrities to be squeaky clean and may not be as forgiving as the West. It also quoted a Hong Kong PR agency head saying that it was a wasted opportunity for both brand and endorser.

“Representing Tough jeans, I expected an edgier, Britney Spears image appealing to an older audience. But it looks as if she may revert to an innocent appeal and we all know now she definitely is not,” said the PR head.

Tough’s spin on the ad campaign has an image of a sullen-looking Chung surrounded by four hunks who depict demons and devils as a reflection of her fighting spirit and toughness amidst adversity.

The question is, has Chung bested the demons of her past and emerged victorious? Is she really tougher and stronger? Other than the TVB interview, Chung has deflected all questions pertaining to her “fallen angel” episode.

In a StarTwo e-mail interview with Chung, her management refused to answer any personal questions or those linked to Chen. The Bauhaus team also said that it was part of her contract that she only answered questions on the campaign. The only thing Chung would say was: “I also want to be to tough and strong, so I think I am quite suitable for this campaign.”

The campaign is all about being tough, but the irony here is that she retreated behind a wall of silence when questions were posed on the sex photos scandal and whether she had been unfairly judged by fans, the public and media.

Coincidentally, her “comeback” happened at a time when the trial of the computer technician who downloaded the images from Chen’s laptop started (he was convicted on April 29). Chen, too, has reappeared in public after vowing to retreat from the entertainment industry.

After appearing in Singapore to promote his movie Sniper, 13 days later on March 12 a gold-coloured bullet with a letter warning him not to show himself in public anymore was sent to a Hong Kong TV station.

Like it or not, the attention on the scandal will not go away so soon. Now that the good-girl image no longer applies, will her comeback as a toughened phoenix rising from the ashes work? -The Star/ANN

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