Singapore—Dennis Chew, who starred in the advertisement that sparked the recent controversy on race, broke his silence and spoke up about the issue, offering an apology on social media.
In a post on Instagram on Wednesday, August 7, the actor/DJ, who is Chinese, expressed how badly he felt concerning the turn of events after the NETS Pay advertisement was released. Mr Chew, a Mediacorp talent, was featured in the ad with darkened skin portraying a Malay woman and an Indian man.
The ad in itself sparked widespread criticism online, as people found it to be racially charged, especially for this day and age. Ad agency Havas Worldwide had been hired by NETS to do the publicity campaign for its E-Pay app, which in turn had the celebrity management arm, The Celebrity Agency, to engage Mr Chew to take the central role in it.
As the criticism arose, apologies were swiftly issued from all three parties—NETS, Havas, as well as The Celebrity Agency.
However, the controversy only intensified when YouTuber Preeti Nair, known as Preetipls, along with her brother, up and coming rap singer Subhas Nair, released a profanity-laced video in response to the NETS advertisement.
The Nairs’ video, “K Muthusamy”, added fuel to the fire, was widely condemned, forcibly taken down from all social media platforms, and was investigated by the police for its “offensive content.”
It proved to be polarizing as well, with some people defending the Nair siblings in the matter.
The two have taken down the video as well as apologized for it.
And now, Mr Chew has made his feelings known as well. In his post he wrote,
“My role in a recent ad has caused much disappointment.
For many days I held back what I have to say, afraid of making things worse. I feel terrible about how things turned out.
I cannot undo things but I would like to say to everyone, I am deeply sorry.
We live in a harmonious multiracial society and we must never take it for granted. I will set higher expectations of myself. I will do better by my family, friends, colleagues and most importantly, all of you.”
View this post on Instagram
My role in a recent ad has caused much disappointment. For many days I held back what I have to say, afraid of making things worse. I feel terrible about how things turned out. I cannot undo things but I would like to say to everyone, I am deeply sorry. We live in a harmonious multiracial society and we must never take it for granted. I will set higher expectations of myself. I will do better by my family, friends, colleagues and most importantly, all of you.
Mr Chew’s apology on Instagram has been met with goodwill and support, especially from his colleagues in the entertainment industry.
Others defended him as “not having done wrong at all.”
However, at least one commenter expressed the hope that the actor/DJ, as well as all his followers, would learn a lesson from the controversial ad and its backlash.
Commenter bizdevsg wrote, “Thanks for your apology and I do feel it is heartfelt. I do however question all the people here saying it’s not your fault. I don’t deny what some have mentioned hat you are good person and I believe you are. However, you did consciously agree to partake in this ad campaign out of what one might assume as ignorance to the sensitivity with Brownface, and hence you are complicit in this. To say you had no part to play at all shows that we do have a lot of work to educate the majority on racial and religious sensitivities of minority groups in Singapore. I hope that your friends and fans also realise that it was indeed a mistake on your part and a learning lesson for all of us to be more sensitive to the different races and religions in Singapore.”/ TISG