Star Awards (2023): Sparkle Not

The stars were out last night at a shopping mall. SG celebrity glamour’s high point.

Zoe Tay’s entrance with younger man Qi Yuwu.

By Ray Zhang

From a Changi Airport tarmac to the Event Plaza of The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, MediaCorp’s beloved Star Awards red carpet, also known as the Walk of Fame, certainly moved up. Curiously, the event must, on and off, be staged in the presence of the landmarks of our island. But, as usual, the red carpet was laid out on a passageway not normally used for fashion displays—a pop-up catwalk. This time, it framed the Plaza’s touristy Rain Oculus, the aquatic feature that on an active day would see water swirl down its shallow dish like waste flushed down a toilet bowl. But on this late afternoon, Mediacorp stars walked pass it like devotees at the (sunken) alter of fame, all in finery they did not own, worn with the confidence they did not have. The Star Awards, as I have noted with regret before, is not a presentation aligned with glamour, made worse by stars sharing on social media photos of them looking all done up against startlingly unglamorous backgrounds. Clothes overwhelmed the wearers, I kept seeing; fashion superseded moments.

By now, you’d think MediaCorp stars would have gotten used to getting all dressed up and going to the sole glamour-driven event of their social and professional year. But, it did not seem to be. This was, of course, an SG red carpet, incomparable with those in Cannes, Hollywood, or even Taipei. Yet, after 28 years of Star Awards and 23 (or so) for the red carpet display, it still amazed me that many stars carried themselves, overwhelmed by the clothes and not advantaged by style. It was, of course, understandably hard for those who, in the past year and all this while, played your neighbourhood types with ear-piercing shrill or sold “good quality products” on The Wonder Shop to suddenly become the height of the fashion season, convincingly. How many of them indeed look vastly differently from the roles they played when compared to their daily lives? On the Walk of Fame, too large a number appeared as the once-a-year gown wearer, not a red-carpet rabble-rouser. And as long as it looked ‘fashion’, it was good enough. Get-a-headline approach to dressing was preferred. It might work on Hollywood Boulevard, but I doubt, outside MBS, in the muggy weather, it registered in the annals of SG celebrity style.

Informally dressed Chantalle Ng and Xu Bin.

Chantalle Ng (黄暄婷), daughter of Lin Mejiao (林梅娇), stood out and possibly set the tone for the night: you might glimmer, but that did not mean you were scintillating. Dressed by local brand Denise Chong Adornments (whose namesake designer is a “beadwork artist”), Ms Ng wore a skimpy number strung together with silver beads and finished to look like a ferocious predator beat her to it before it was sent to the changing rooms at MBS. The need for cut-outs on the hips (even when there was one high slit on the right side of the skirt) to show skin and to suggest that Ms Ng was possibly without underwear straddled questionable taste and the desperation to 炫耀 (xuanyao or flaunt). I find it extremely hard to resist describing the get-up as tacky. How she went from last year’s Bottega Veneta gown to this year’s metallic mess was hard to comprehend. Some of the younger stars without acting/hosting chops to lean on just had to adopt risky risqué styles to feel that they had arrived on the grandest red carpet they’ll ever walk on.

Or, stylists who thought that they were the next Law Roach, cravenly promoting to their clueless charges that barely is plenty. Bombshell wannabe He Ying Yong (何盈莹) wore a strip of red sequinned fabric by LaQuan Smith to cover her breasts. What I saw was a mere piece of cloth. She was unsurprisingly touted as “性感撩人 (xinggan liaoren or titillatingly sexy)”. Regard not that her turnout was akin to Zendaya’s Vera Wang tube top and skirt that the American actress wore to the Council for Fashion Designers of America awards in 2021. Sexiness was all that mattered. Ms He told the show’s backstage host Jeremy Chan (田铭耀), “是我的造型师想的 (it was thought up by my stylist).” I had no doubt that many stars allowed their stylists to decide their sartorial fate. Or, left it in the hands of Mediacorp’s glamour guru Annie Chua, who has been delighting in Huang Biren’s best actress win online. Ms Chua’s “styled by me” declarations on Instagram confirmed that it was she who was involved in the dress that just happened to look like one created by Elie Saab.

The back must be bared: (left) Jessica Liu and (right) Rebecca Lim

Annie Chua told another backstage host Zhu Zheliang (朱泽亮) that the theme of the night “就是要 (has to be) glamorous”. But sexy threatened to overwhelm what she hoped to achieve. Out of her work area—on the red carpet, the looks that purportedly entranced were those that totttered daringly close to the edge of impropriety: let them have skin. Glam up was to strip down. It was once the sole domain of Ann Kok, but now more stars were crossing over (conversely, Ms Kok was very conservatively dressed this year). Baring skin on the red carpet became as natural as showing teeth. That seemed to be the message of the braless-is-better brigade. There was Rebecca Lim (林慧玲) in a silk apron-dress by Valentino and Jesseca Liu (刘子绚) in a 100% polyester gown from the Spanish label Isabel Sanchis, with a bow in the rear that was so big and billowy, I thought it was a bad case of flatulence trapped within, and Malaysian actress Bonnie Loo looking somewhat desperate in a viscose-blend cut-out, one-shoulder dress that exposed the right bra-top by Lebanese designer Eli Mizrahi’s label Mônot from spring 2021. There was Fann Wang (范文芳) too, who avoided the red carpet, but appeared on stage in Valentino to accept her husband’s win for best programme host, totally backless to the waist. Amazing it was that so many girls believed that if you don’t show skin, you won’t look glamorous.

It was surprising that no one thought that the blatant sexiness diminished what was once family entertainment. But there was a limit to the number of times one could describe the looks as 性感 (xinggan or sexy) without sounding repetitive and insincere. When Walk of Fame hosts Dennis Chew (周崇庆) and Hazelle Teo (张颖双) had really nothing better to ask the stars regarding what they wore, they requested that their interviewees, Romeo Tan (陈罗密欧), Denise Camillia Tan (陈楚寰), Koh Yah Hwee or Ya Hui (雅慧), and Desmond Tan (陈泂江), perform something painfully banal: strike a “cute pose”. Ms Koh, who revealed earlier that she starved for two days to get into her Norma Kamali bra-incompatible, halter dress, received a second chance to be cute, possibly to turn down the heat her revealing outfit was generating. Some sexiness just fell flat. Quan Yifeng (权怡凤) wore a black frock by Australian designer Toni Maticevski, with a slit that went all the way to her rump—and exposed it, but she strutted in such a clunky manner that it was hard to make out if the opening on the left side of the skirt did anything for her that might be considered xinggan.

The guys did not fare better: Herman Keh and Tyler Ten, flanking Ye Jia Yun

Sexy, too, was what the guys were going for, which inevitably meant going shirtless. Ayden Sng (孙政) and Desmond Ng (黄振隆) were the earliest two to emerge sans shirts under their non-black suits, but they were a year late. In the last Star Awards, Desmond Tan and others belatedly adopted Timothée Chalamet’s red carpet look. Perhaps of the popularity of suit jacket on bare skin then and the dread of embracing the late afternoon heat now in more than one layer, many others too, jumped on the bandwagon this year, such as Zong Zijie (宗子杰) and Joel Choo (朱哲伟), and Tyler Ten (邓伟德) and Herman Keh (郭坤耀), both so determined to appear near-identical that it truly illustrated what Mr Keh meant when, last year, he repeatedly referred to 制服 (zhifu or uniforms) in his descriptions of what he and others wore. Then, there was the other ridiculous extreme: mock turtleneck under the suit jacket. In fact, that could be another trend, as many actors were dressed this modestly: Qi Yuwu (戚玉武), James Seah (谢俊峰), Bryan Wong (王禄江), and another twinning, Pierre Png (方展发) and Shaun Chen (陈泓宇).

The need to cover the neck affected Zoe Tay (郑惠玉) too. Always the star to watch for uncontroversial glamour, she did not disappoint with vintage Oscar de la Renta from Vestiaire Collective that comprised a mock-turtle top embroidered with roses and a red pouf/tiered skirt. Her choice from the luxury resale store (bought or borrowed, I was not able to determine) possibly made her the first on the Star Awards red carpet to wear pre-loved ensemble as expression of her conviction to sustainability. As she said to Dennis Chew, what attracted her to the outfit when she went to the fitting was the “环保的感觉 (feeling of environmental friendliness)”, adding that “fashion, if well designed, could be everlasting.” To which Hazelle Teo rejoined with “timeless”. Curious comment: Did she know what that meant when she was wearing a black and white dress with an absurd one ruffled shoulder that was larger than her face by Olimpia Sanchis (a “younger line” of Isabel Sanchis. It was a good night for Pois, the stockist that provided many of the stars’ gowns for the night)? On the red carpet, as in life, sometimes less is indeed a lot more. Not to mention, enduring.

Updated: 12 April 2023, 21:00

Photos: MediaCorp/YouTube

One thought on “Star Awards (2023): Sparkle Not

  1. Pingback: Holey Moley: The Tom Daley Effect | Style On The Dot

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