Abby Choi’s Husband Opened Up, Slightly

In an interview with a Hong Kong paper, Chris Tam attempted to quell some rumours about his family and himself as “crown prince” of his now-sold family restaurant business, but he said little about his wife, her wealth, or her serious penchant for haute couture

Chris Tam with Abby Choi. Photo: wujie/Douyin

“I myself is a 內向 (neixiang) introverted person,” Chris Tam, the grieving husband of murdered and mutilated social media star Abby Choi Tin-fung (蔡天凤), said recently in a 专访 (zhuanfang or special/exclusive interview) with Hong Kong’s 星岛日报 (Sing Tao Daily), “I never know how to express my emotions.” It has been more than three months since the shocking death of his wife, and Mr Tam was finally able to go public with the press, sort of. It is not known if he initiated the interview with the paper or if he was contacted by the editors, but Mr Tam’s opening up came just days after the suspects in his wife’s killing appeared in court and their cases were adjourned to 31 July for to give the police more time to complete their investigation. What was he hoping to elucidate? This time, Mr Tam did not leave the speaking to others. As he explained, he, “in times of extreme pain, left to friends to face the media.” The friends have been mainly a mysterious 豹太 (baotai) or Madam Bao, a former insurance agent and known cat lover—now identified as Joey Wong H.W.—and her husband, Bernard Cheng.

Mr Tam, as we have noted before, is not known by his Chinese name. In the Sing Tao Daily report, he continued to be referred to as “谭仔「太子爷」Chris” or (literally) young Tam crown prince Chris. Even confirmed friends Ms Wong and Mr Cheng, who speaks on his behalf, call him Chris, not even 谭仔. While Hong Kong celebrities and stars do use a Western name, they are mostly refered to, in the local media, by their Chinese moniker (Andy Lau is 刘德华 or Lau Tak-wah, for example). In the rather brief article, there was no description of Mr Tam’s physical self or indication of him speaking to the reporter, face to face, and how he sounded. Despite the repeated association of him with his father’s successful and well-known rice noodle chain restaurant 谭仔云南米线 (Tamjai Yunnan Mixian, which was sold in 2017 to Japan’s largest operator of noodle shops Toridoll Holdings), Mr Tam played down his own social standing and importance, describing his life as “低调 (didiao)” or low-key.

He did not directly address the speculation of his family’s supposed wealth either. Rather, he said that he was born into an uncomplicated family (described by the paper as “简单朴素 [or simple and plain]”), not referring to their financial status and avoiding the common expression used to describe the Tams: 豪门 (haomen or rich/powerful families). His father, Mr Tam said, had the foresight to start a business, and preserved despite several failures. After Tamjai Yunnan Mixian was sold, the elder Tam placed the earnings in a trust fund, as well as invested in properties to let. The family’s income, therefore, comes from these investments, “nothing else”. Referring to being called a “富二代 (fuerdai or children of wealthy business folks)”, he said, he, too, needed a job: “I am presently helping my father with the rental of the properties, and the revenue that comes from this rental company, held by my father, is also my sole income.”

Chris Tam and Abby Choi in a wedding video. Screen shot: Douyin

He did he speak at length about his couture-wearing spouse, or how she became as famous as she was, only that he hasn’t been able to forget his “loving wife”, and promised to be “a good person and a good father”. Has he not been either while she was alive? When asked how he met Abby Choi, he said that he, initially, knew his wife’s first husband Alex Kwong Kong-chi (邝港智) when they were in middle school (he did not name the institution, but online chatter suggested that it was possibly Chan Shu Kui Memorial School that Mr Kwong supposedly attended). However, he did say that Mr Kwong “后来转校认识了Abby” or later changed schools and knew Ms Choi. He stated that subsequently he became acquainted with his wife through Mr Kwong, making no mention if, at that time, Mr Kwong and Ms Choi were already lovers, in school uniforms. There was no comment about the subsequent teenage marriage, or if he attended the couple’s wedding.

Neither did he speak of his relationship with Alex Kwong, especially after he married the latter’s ex-wife (did Mr Kwong know that they were dating after his divorce with Ms Choi?). There was not a squeak about the ex-husband’s alleged criminal past either. Or, the extent of their closeness as “one family” when children—four in total—from both fathers were reported to spend considerable time together. Or, what has been described as a “complicated” familial relationship between the Kwongs, the Chois and the Tams. There was no mention of the shocking actions of the alleged murderer of his wife or how she could have come to such a tragic fate. The fleeting mention of Mr Kwong seemed unstirred by anger or the need for justice to be served. Similarly, he did not address his perceived “closeness” to his mother-in-law, Zhang Yanhua (张燕花), also popularly known as 五姐 (wujie) or fifth sister. Numerous photographs of the two shared online showed he and his wife’s mother in poses that many considered “异常亲密 (yichang qinmi or unusually intimate)”.

One of the tattles he wanted to clarify was the speculation that the Tam family was involved in money laundering. Specifically, he pointed to Paomes Charitable Org (also known as 爱豹仕爱心慈善机构; the Facebook page, renamed as Abby & Paomes Charitable Org in memory of the deceased, was later deleted), to dispel the rumour that it is a cover to 洗黑钱 (xiheiqian) or launder money. Rather, he explained, it is a fund-raising body—supposedly co-founded by Ms Choi last October—that the FB introduction claimed to “donate 10 million yuan every year for the care of stray cats and dogs”. The charity is also linked to Joey Wong. She and Ms Choi reportedly shared a love for Asian leopard cats (and likely included Bengal cats), which may explain Ms Wong’s online handle Madam Bao—the bao (豹) in Chinese refers to the spotted carnivore. Chris Tam was emphatic that “our charity has never received any donations from my family [the Tams]”. And the main aim of the organisation was “to improve society’s treatment of the problems of stray animals”, and “it became our activity outside of the family.”

Pals in happier times. From left, Chris Tam, Abby Choi, Joey Wong, and Bernard Cheng. Photo: SCMP

There seemed to be a conscious effort to make clear the financial status of Paomes Charitable Org. Mr Tam pointed out that the organisation’s bank account was opened only in January this year, and just a month later, they had to pay a fall-below fee due to insufficient funds in the account. He claimed that there had not been expenses incurred and salary payouts were never made with 捐款 (juankuan) or contributions, definitely not from his family. There could, therefore, be no suspicion of money laundering or fraud. The application of charity status for the organisation was eventually halted because, after the “创伤(chuangshang)” or trauma, “some members [of the organisation] had to receive treatment for mental problems, and the decision then was to suspend the application.” He did not say why their Facebook page had to be permanently deleted if it was (re)named to honour his wife or to draw attention to the plight of strays, as was the original mission.

It is interesting that he mentioned Madam Bao, as well as Paomes Charitable Org. Was clearing the air about the organisation his wife co-founded also shedding light on the goodness of Madam Bao? And why did she need approval from the Tam family. The two friends of Abby Choi—Joey Wong and Bernard Cheng—have been described as “close” to the fashion influencer, to the extent that Ms Wong was “authorised” to speak on behalf of Chris Tam and Abby Choi, following the latter’s death last February. In fact, HK$1 million (about S$172,000) for information relating to the case was offered by Ms Wong, then only known as Madam Bao, shortly after the gruesome murder was discovered. She was among two other women who offered the same reward money. Other than what was put up monetarily, Ms Wong also provided significant details to the media regarding Ms Choi’s daily routine—who her drivers were (she had “several”) and who among them was tasked to pick the children of her first marriage from school. She also revealed that Ms Choi’s ex-brother-in-law Anthony Kwong Kong-kit (邝港杰), who was also her driver, was hired only during the Lunar New Year season. Her astonishing familiarity with the deceased’s domestic arrangements led many observing the murder case to think that Ms Wong could be helping the Tams and the Chois to conceal something—what that could be has been mostly speculative.

In the final paragraph of the Sing Tao Daily article, the attention was shifted to Joey Wong. She was quoted saying, in response to the termination of the application of the registration of the charity she co-founded with Ms Choi, that the decision was made after she discussed the matter with her husband, Bernard Cheng, and Mr Tam. She spoke of her relationship with Abby Choi and the latter’s in-laws: “My husband and I met Chris and his wife in 2018, and later became 形影不离 (xingying buli) or inseparable-as-form-and-shadow friends,” she said. “When the unfortunate case happened, everyone was heartbroken beyond words. Before Abby met with that tragedy, we did not know Abby and Chris’s parents. After that, to prevent Chris and his family from being harassed, we stood up to assist them in facing the media.” Even if Joey Wong had initially rose to the task as the mysterious Madam Bao. A false front, but a true friend to the end.

Two Of A Kind: Crazy Colours

There is no stopping pigments that are bright and not belonging to nature to go into nail colour and, astonishingly, bread

While influencer Koh Boon Ki is no fan of chemistry and has barely any use for knowledge of the chemical make up and interaction of things, she is happy to wear vivid nail colour that is the result of fairly complex chemical processes. Ms Koh rant-questioned in a now-deleted video on TikTok: “You know, like, how much chemistry knowledge I use in my day-to-day life?” She then replied, stridently, “Not much!” She is a big fan of biology and prefers to be aware of peristalsis that leads to defecation or in her more colourful language: “shit”. We don’t know what goes through her mind when she does her business, but human stool is made up of entities that are both biological and chemical. Even the roughly 75% of water in fecal matter is a chemical compound. Perhaps she was too busy tending to her painted nails, which, given the opaque, matte coating, is chemical composition in itself.

In that video, Ms Koh was seen dabbing the bottom of her eyes, nails visible for all to see. She was highly animated—gesticulating as she went about, at first, speaking against “nun-science stoodents” and then railing against the uselessness of studying chemistry in school. As she disastrously made her case, she was applying makeup on her face. Her pointy (or tear-drop-shaped), colourful nails played a delightful cameo in her tirade against those who do not have the “bio knowledge” like she does. The pastel pink, blue, and green melded as a ‘gradient’, chemical sum that could be inspired by the colours of lollies. (In a follow-up ‘apology’ video, a few of the nails looked painted to depict sky and grass, with flowers in the mix.) They were the most compelling thing to watch while she wielded an applicator to dab something (concealer or highlighter, we couldn’t tell) on certain spots of her expressive face.

Ms Koh’s nails immediately brought to mind a bread we have been seeing sold at a stall that also offers cook-to-order waffles with assorted spreads. The waffles are uncoloured, but the breads, available in loaves that remind us of those hand-cut ones of the distant past, are with swirls or streaks of incredible colours that you would not find even in the most chromatically-blessed fruits. They look like something you might see in a metaverse bakery. Or, roti that is fit for a Vogue SG cover. Surprisingly, these enthusiastically coloured breads have found themselves buyers, including those who love a slice of Wall’s blocked ice cream with it. Perhaps, those bread lovers, like Koh Boon Ki, do not concern themselves with the petroleum-based dyes in them. They are, after all, just chemicals; they can be ignored.

Screen shot: (left) boonkikikiki/TikTok. Photo: (right) Zhao Xiangji

Koh Boon Ki’s Back: “If You Don’t Shit, You’re Constipated”

The TikTok influencer riles social media users again with a post some consider verbal defecation

“I studied science my whole educational life,” declared Koh Boon Ki (许文琪) with boastful pride on Tik Tok* last week. Perhaps that is why she knew with stunning certainty that if you—especially those “nun-science stoodents”—do not void excrement from your bowels, your faeces harden and you will not be able to clear what you need to clear. But, according to her, as she ranted, complete with facial expressions to match: “All my friends from school are science students. And then I meet ‘nun-science stoodents’ and we talk about like healf, like the most simple things, and to them, it’s like, ‘wowwww, how do you know this?’ But for me, it’s like, how do you not know this? This is your body. How can you live your life, like not knowing how your body works?” Ms Koh declaimed against those who are, according to her, unschooled in science and unacquainted with their bodies. “Are you okay with that,” she asked. The influencer then answered her own question: “I’m not okay with that; I need to know how my body works.”

This was not enough for her. She went on to offer an example: “The other day, I was talking to my best friend, and I was telling her, I have this other friend, like don’t (sic) even know what constipation is, like, I like, she was like, I either shit or don’t shit. And then I said, uh, if you don’t shit, you’re constipated.” Charming. Ms Koh then contradicted herself when another friend allegedly asked her why she has “friends like that”: “No, it’s (sic) not my friend; it’s like talking to ‘nun-science stoodents’.” Her best friend supposedly agreed with her. As Ms Koh recounted what her pal said, “Oh, yah. That’s a common experience, like we go tru that.” And then it all made her—eyes wide open—want to “talk about something else, which is, why chemistry is a compulsory subject in school, but not biology?” She claimed that biology is more useful to her than chemistry. “You know, like, how much chemistry knowledge I use in my day-to-day life?” Glaring at the screen, she bark-replied, “not much!” She paused. “But how much bio (biology) knowledge do I use in my day-to-day life? It’s a lot!” However, she admitted that she “can’t think of a specific example right now.” And the peevish rant went on.

“…it’s like talking to ‘nun-science’ students”

Koh Boon Ki

Ms Koh’s disgruntled outburst unfolded animatedly while she was doing her makeup in front of what was likely her smartphone, set to record. Letting the world know that you are good at beautifying your face is no longer restricted to the MRT train. At various points during her fiery oration, she dabbed under her eyes with her third finger, as if to even out a smudge (she was holding a small compact that could be eye colour), showing her pointy, manicured nails in shades between pink, baby blue, and bright green. She wiped the finger with a tissue, and then whipped out what could be concealer, applied some to areas she dabbed on earlier. She then brought the applicator to her nose, spots on the corners of her mouth, her chin, and two more at the bottom of the corner of her nose, on each side of the philtrum. Then she returned to the eyes, dabbed both corners, too. It is disconcerting that she, like many of her ilk, did not consider doing something else while talking to her viewers impolite. The science student had a single hair roller hold her fringe upwards, above her hairline. She wore small hoop earrings and a beaded necklace. A black strapless top was chosen for this two-minute-plus video.

Without completing her makeup, she concluded by saying that it “just puzzles (her) how people go around not knowing any bio knowledge (sic).” She then informed viewers that she studied “a bit of healthcare” and then corrected herself, “I studied healthcare, not a bit of healthcare.” And in case you were not aware, she confirmed: “I have a bit of knowledge of, erm, blood pressure, sugar level,” adding a puzzling declaration: “all these, like, diseases are so common, like do those people with these diseases know, like, what’s going on with their body? I just wonder.” Cut. The end. It left us wondering why the healthcare graduate considered “blood pressure and (blood) sugar level” to be diseases. Unsurprisingly, this seeming contempt of “nun-science stoodents” did not score well with Netizens.

After removing that post, she quickly shared another, supposedly addressing the earlier one. Again, she was putting on makeup while speaking, this time shading her brows. Her reason for discarding the previous post was “because people call (sic) me out for being stuck-up”. She was also grateful: “Thank you for calling me up (sic) cause, honestly, I needed it.” She said she was aware that she could be “stuck-up sometimes”—her easy description for turning up her nose at those who do not have “bio knowledge”, as she clearly does. She claimed that the incident made her “reflect, like, how I’m in my own bubble”, and came to the conclusion that “everybody’s in their own bubble”, except that “people’s bubbles are different from our own bubble”. Bumbling psychobabble aside, she was certain to pretend to ingest humble pie, saying that what she shares on TikTok is “normal” to her, but others may not concur, and she has, therefore, to “watch what I say”, noting as she did with a sly grin. To be sure, an apology this was not.

Koh Boon Ki’s latest controversial post was not her first. Back in October of 2021, she aroused shock and outrage when she proposed on TikTok the start of a “Telegram group with girls from all the dating apps in Singapore and we discuss the guys we’ve talked to and dates we’ve been on.” As we indicated then, this was not an innocuous sharing of notes. This was potentially doxxing, even bordering on cyberbullying. Someone indeed took up her suggestion and shared a spreadsheet of names that the latter found to be best avoided. Ms Koh quickly shut the chat group down, saying “I did not realise that it was also spiralling into a name-and-shame group.” Rather than saying sorry or express remorse for doing what she did, she cleverly turned the incident into a chance for others to be aware of the sexual assault allegedly stated in that shared spreadsheet. She then continued with her bio-knowledge-enabled, day-to-day life on TikTok, not bothered by the controversy she aroused. Now that she has said her peace about “nun-science stoodents”, as she did about the guys she won’t date, she will returned to her self-obsessed life and share it online. Until the next rant. Or, when shit happens.

*Her original post has been deleted

Illustrations: Just So

‘Classicle’ Teaching: Who is Brooke Lim?

The GP tutor who steered her tuition centre towards drawing “a six-figure sum in six months” and was recently accused of plagiarism is, like so many others of her generation, an influencer too

TikTok. If only it is just full of bad dancing and inane commentary. But TikTok is, for many of its rabid followers, window to real life, a voyeuristic peak at enviable existences not their own. And, for as long as there are those who make social media an easy platform to draw attention to themselves, if not spawn envy, there would be those who enjoy courting controversial behaviours and practices on it for better visibility. Private tutor Brooke Lim Ke Xin (林可心), founder of the tuition centre Classicle Club, recently made news for questionable practices regarding a self-penned essay about eating disorders and self-esteem on her blog page; she might have received less of a blow when exposed if she is not, at the same time, an influencer, with 183, 300 followers on TikTok (@sugaresque) alone. Between her dancing—which corresponds to the typical TikTok standard—and more dancing, she helpfully shares “study hacks” and “productivity tips” with her followers. An example of such tips that she put out early this year, before the scandal broke, expounded the beauty of emulating another person. Ms Lim said: “one that worked [it no longer did?] really, really well for me was scheduling a block of time where (sic) I would be the one person I really want to be.”

While that may fly in the face of the popular call to just Be Yourself, it is, for her, a tip that “just about changed my life [did it or did it not?].” The General Paper (GP) tutor went on to describe “this one girl in council” during her junior college days (which ended not too long ago) “that I really, really wanted to be like.” The subject of her adoration “worked really hard; she had fantastic grades; she was so humble; she was sweet; she was an absolute dream to be around.” (By now you can tell, Ms Lim really, really likes “really” especially when the adverb comes in pairs.). The said girl was so free of flaws that the impressed admirer-turned-tutor “essentially wanted to emulate her”, before adding “work ethic” to her acknowledgement. She then advised viewers to “think of someone you admire or some character that has some qualities that you want to embody. And you pick a day or just a few hours where (sic) you try to act like that person.” Remember what happened to The Talented Mr Ripley? Ms Lim called her adopting the part of someone else “fixed role therapy”. Only problem is, fixed role therapy, devised by American psychologist George Kelly in the 1950s, is when a patient “enacts a make-believe character drafted by the therapist to portray an alternative identity for a fixed period of time”, according to the Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. In present-day practice, it is largely based on a fictitious identity, not “a girl in council”.

The said girl was so free of flaws that the impressed admirer-turned-tutor “essentially wanted to emulate her”

That Ms Lim was happy to imitate someone else (to match up or surpass the target, it is not clear) does raise the question of how authentic she really is. If she urges her young followers to emulate others, might she, too, do the same, even if momentarily (or “a day”)? If this is her “productivity tip”, as she described it, could it also be a writing tip, to be used creatively and professionally? Ms Lim was called out for plagiarism by anonymous TikToker @sugaresqueessay days earlier. She posted a piece of writing, On Being Afraid Of Eating, on 18 April on her blog Grayscale Copy (was this meant to be telling?), which is now password-protected, that purportedly bore similarities to 13 different authors’ published works that included books and articles. According to a lengthy breakdown of her alleged appropriation, shared as a Google doc and broadcasted on TikTok by @sugaresqueessay, Ms Lim’s writing is an “autobiographical recount” in which “more than half of the original version of her essay was not written by her (the investigators pointed out “over 70%)”. As we are unable to read On Being Afraid Of Eating (the post has been removed), we go with the claim that “the similarities include sentences, whole paragraphs, plot points, and specific details… with no credit whatsoever to the original creators”. Could this be, to her, just another session of emulation, rather than plagiarism?

Following the accusation, Brooke Lim did not immediately remove the blog post. Rather, she edited her writing, hoping to dilute the plagiarism. Before she eventually got rid of the piece, viewers reported seeing a foreword, which apparently stated—rather curiously—that part of the article was penned when she was 14. Whatever she did to salvage the work and the situation, it was too little too late. Soon she password-protected her page and removed all references to the faulted writing in her Telegram channel. Then, she took to TikTok to apologise. With a video that was rotated right, she said—voice clearly less enthusiastic than usual—that in her “long-form essay”, she “made the very serious and regrettable mistake of plagiarising and for that [she is] so sorry.” As an educator, what example did she set? She said she has reached out to her students, “one by one to apologise”. She explained that the words she copied “resonated very deeply” with her, leaving out that it was to the extent that she could claim them as her own. She added that she “should have been more careful throughout the process of crafting the essay”. The skill she employed and the attention to detail—in other words, “crafting”—was, in fact, “just reaching into my past compilation of thoughts and insights that I had lifted from other authors.”

Screen shot of the Google Doc that lists the similarities between Ms Lim’s writing and those published by other authors

It was, for many, a lame pitch. She called her action a “mistake” (like adding salt to your tea instead of sugar?), which suggested that it was unintentional. But as it has been pointed out by Netizens that given the extent of the similarity of her writing to published work, it was deliberate. And we should add, reckless. In one post on Telegram that appeared before the questionable ”long form”, Ms Lim shared that she “desperately want[s] to be taken seriously as an essayist, copywriter, and teacher. I want to be more than just a face on social media.” Was she then desperate enough to adopt desperate measures? In the same post, she added, “I’ve always been drawn to words & essays & for the longest time I’ve wanted to build a career based on my writing ability [the use of the ampersand instead of ‘and’ appears on Classicle Club’s webpage too]. To some extent, I already have (and am so grateful for that!) but I do want to continue exploring the written word + push the boundaries of what I’m already doing.” Nobody knew what she was really already doing. Prior to publishing the piece, she shared it with “a few close friends”. They were impressed. She shared their comments on Telegram: “couldn’t put it down”, one wrote; “it’s a really interesting and well-written work,” said another. The making of a star essayist, even in noviciate, was well on the way.

Brooke Lim was born a Leo in 2004 to an engineer father and a mother whose occupation is unknown. Both parents, according to a now-deleted TikTok video, “are strict”. Social media is burning with curiosity about the way she speaks (as well as the way she writes, which could be mistaken for old Khmer script), that her English has an unusual lilt and her words sometimes come out garbled. She told Rice Media recently that “it has a lot to do with being raised in a family with a parent whose first language isn’t English.” Although she did not say which, it is possible she was referring to her mother. As seen in screen shots of the texting between mother and daughter, shared on Telegram, the tutor-essayist communicates with the older woman in Mandarin. When TikToker Ge Jiabao took to the video-sharing site to also level charges of copying at Ms Lim (that’s another saga altogether), she suddenly spoke in Mandarin after being amazed by how much the former charges for what was alleged as copied material—“你好意思吗 说真的 (you have the nerve, seriously). Ms Ge spoke with an accent that suggests a connection with China, and she sounded like she was talking to someone who would understand her, as if she was addressing a compatriot. Is it possible then that Ms Lim’s mother is from the mainland? In several other TikTok posts, another family member that she has mentioned is an older sister.

Little is known about her younger days or if she had always wanted to be a writer, or a tutor. She made no mention of the primary school she went to. There is scant reference to where she received her secondary education, but in a trio of early Instagram posts, she did tag Raffles Girls School (RGS) and in one IG entry, referred to RGS as “my alma mater”. In one mention of her RGS days, she shared that “very little of secondary school textbook knowledge is transferable”. A video from 2020, which showed her celebrating “the last day of A-levels”, she was seen in the uniform (house shirt with the heraldic symbol of twin eagles and a green pleated skirt) of Raffles Institution (RI), the school that’s mentioned in her social media posts and press interviews. She reportedly achieved “straight As” for her A-levels, which seems to enhance her marketability. In a Life feature, “The Z Factor”, that was published in The Sunday Times on 9 April, just ten days before @sugaresqueessay posted “@sugaresque (brooke) longform essay plagiarism problem” on TikTok, it was revealed that she found her first student in December 2021, after leaving RI. It is not known how she grew the intake, but seven months later, Classicle Club—her tuition centre with a website that many have described as “classy”—was launched. At the end of the year, she reportedly raked in “a six-figure profit”. So popular her classes were that, according to The Sunday Times story, there is “a waiting list of about 150 students for O-level classes that will begin only next year. It is not known if that number has now changed.

In 2022, about a month after she took her first student, she started a podcast (“because some of my followers told me it would be fun”) called All the World’s a Talking Stage that discusses anything troubling teens, from “Social Media Feels Increasingly Irrelevant (‘I have a lot of complaints,’ she said)” to “The Psychology of Overthinking Romantic Relationships” (it was AI, she revealed, that wrote the episode’s synopsis. Question is, did it stop there?)). The podcast is available to listen by subscription. She told the Rebound with Resilience YouTube Channel that she really likes the podcast as a medium because “you know, it’s just my voice; you know, nothing to do with my face, and I know that they are not listening to me just because of my face; they’re actually listening to me because of what I have to say.” While she prefers her followers to pay attention to her voice than her looks, she does share social-media posts of come-hither lures and then proclaim it is hard to live up to what’s expected of her. In one TikTok post, she said, “I am so self-conscious and aware of my looks. I feel I have certain expectations to fulfill, and if I fail to meet them, people wouldn’t like or care about me nearly as much any more. So, in the sense, it’s a constant internal battle.”

While she prefers her followers to pay attention to her voice than her looks, she does share social-media posts with come-hither lures

But, at the same time, she said, (also on TikTok), “when people look at me, they see a 19-year-old Asian girl, and they probably only think, ‘oh, you know, she’s a bimbo, she probably only cares about her looks, whether she actually have (sic) that’s valuable to who I am as a student.” Despite fearing others not taking her seriously, she would post videos of herself putting on lip colour—utterly red and glossy—up close and seductively. Or, adopt a flirtatious pose, and tell you, “the difference hair and makeup can make”. And even more doltish “proof that hair is everything”. Like so many of her fellow TikTokers with a message, Ms Lim often delivers hers while doing something—usually putting on makeup—even when she is in keenly telling you about what she learned from a public-speaking coach, who was paid “$300 per hour” to impart his wisdom. In a follow-up, which was about the “productivity tip” mentioned earlier, she was putting on accessories: a ruched hairband that sat on her head like a crown (her hairbands never needed to hold her locks in place) and a pair of earrings hidden by wavy hair that cascaded down both sides of her made-up face. It is difficult to understand that she wants to be taken seriously when she behaves frivolously or tells you that it’s ”time to put on a cute outfit and go to class.”

Apparently when she is not developing content, as many call what she does online, or teaching, she is “devouring self-help books”, which may explain why her constantly empowering tone, if not provoking annoyance, sounds like Rachel Hollis’s (Girl, Wash Your Face). She has “watched every Ah Boys to Men film [even when she cites Quentin Tarantino in one post without really saying anything] just so I would have a clue about what he’s going through [in the army]”, referring to her boyfriend, whose face she has not reveal on social media, even when he is seen alongside her. When not urging her followers to be unnaturally positive, Ms Lim enjoys dabbling in amigurumi—Japanese knitting (or crocheting) of small, stuffed animals, designed to be cute, which is how her fans describe her too. While it is hard to paint a substantial picture of anyone based on a single or two TikTok videos typically of no more than 40 seconds long and a few IG photos, it is possible to paint a discernible personality from even a modest 254 TikTok videos and 185 IG photos of student-life vignettes to date. Whether intentionally or not, Brooke Lim, aware of her looks, posts to be watched. If no one takes her seriously as an essayist, many will fervently regard her as a social media star.

Illustrations: Just So

Some Guys Are Bigger Than Others

Fashion photographer, occasional actor, and “Instagram sensation” Tan Chuan Do is releasing his first book soon. How much more huge can he become?

We admit that while we were writing this, we were listening to The Smiths’ Some Girls are Bigger than Others. We do not use big in a small way, or how Morrissey employed it. Tan Chuan Do (陈传多), also known by his initials CD, may not have been massive (although he was known) as a model back in the day, but he is, as The Straits Time’s Sumiko Tan wrote in a lightweight 2022 profile of the fellow in her benign column ‘Lunch with Sumiko’, “the man whose youthful good looks and washboard abs have made him an Internet sensation.” It has been about his stature—physical, social, and professional. And now it looks like Mr Tan, 56, is going to get even bigger: He shall be releasing an autobiography this day, next week. The renowned photographer and just-one-movie-under-his-belt actor shared on Instagram two hours ago that the book, in (traditional) Chinese, 人生,不需要每一次都贏 (In life, one does not need to win every time), will “convey [his] philosophy of life and the secrets of fitness and taking care of oneself”. In addition, he wrote that he “hopes everyone is able to absorb [his idea of] the meaning of life.” Serious stuff.

It looks like the book will first only be available in Taiwan. It is published by the Taiwanese imprint of the Japanese manga publisher Kadokawa (台湾角川, taiwan jiaochuan), known in the capital for their inaugural magazine Taipei Walker. Apart from periodicals, Kadokawa puts out mainly graphic novels, photo books (some are categorised “情欲”, [qingyu] or lust) and “轻小说” or light novels, including BL (boy love) comics. Where Mr Tan’s autobiographical debut fits in, it isn’t clear, yet. Kadokawa describes Mr Tan as a “冻龄男神 (male god frozen in age)”. His book, comprising 20 chapters with instructional titles, “analyses in detail his unknown inner world, philosophy of life, and his ways of keeping ageing at bay”, according to the publisher. The pages include photographs shot in Bali and the Maldives, presumably with beach scenes in which to better display his Herculean build. It seems that Mr Tan’s first printed work of non-fiction could be a photobook, not unlike those of Japanese aidoru (idols) or something akin to the numerous photobooks of Godfrey Gao (高以翔), published before his death in 2019.

On the admittedly striking black-and-white cover of 人生,不需要每一次都贏, Mr Tan is shot, eyes not meeting the viewer, emerging purposefully from the sea, with neoprene suit stripped to mere centimetres south of his bellybutton to deliberately reveal his hard, compact waist that spreads upwards to join what might be described as heaving chest. This could be the male version of Halle Berry in a similar appearance in the 2002 James Bond flick Die Another Day. In her ST interview, Sumiko Tan made sure to note her subject’s enviable specs: 1.85m in height and 78kg in weight (at the time of the story). In the books’s cover shot, Tan Chuan Do, who, in the introduction, describes himself as “害臊 (haisao)” or shy, looks self-assured, more than comfortable with his body, and possibly bigger. This could be more than what the cover blurb calls “养生之道” or the way of maintaining good health. Interestingly, chapter 16 of the book is titled, “由于我曾当过多年的专业模特儿,在镜头前展现身体并不会让我感到不自在”. As I had been a professional model for many years, I am not uncomfortable revealing my body in front of a camera. Show and tell: to his fans or the 1.2 million followers on Instagram he has garnered, this might be a book to buy and to cherish. But if it’s just the pictures they desire, would they pay when they could view to their heart’s content for free on social media?

We hope to get a copy of the book. If we do, a review won’t be far off. Photo: Kadokawa Taiwan

The Making Of Abby Choi

As more information emerges about the slain model/influencer, a web of intrigue is beginning to be apparent. Who was the mysterious, couture-wearing woman, really?

Abby Choi, wearing Georges Hobeika, for a L’Officiel shoot. Photo: xxabbyc/Instagram

With police investigating and Netizens digging deep concurrently, a rather different picture of the murdered and mutilated model has surfaced. Abby Choi Tin-fung (蔡天凤), whose violent death more than three weeks ago aroused the curiosity of the international fashion set, now appears to be a character shrouded in mystery and as layered as the tulle dresses she favoured. There are suggestions that she was somehow connected to the Hong Kong world of organised crime, in particular, money laundering, although how so, it is not immediately clear. This does not, however, say that her brutal and gruesome death is justifiable. But observers of this slaying are beginning to wonder who, in fact, is the real Abby Choi. Even the Hong Kong press are not able—or willing—to clearly delineate this “socialite” with considerable social media presence. It is the same with the people who allegedly know her. The very few who spoke gave conflicting accounts of her back story. More of those following the developments are, therefore, conceding that this case is increasingly “扑朔迷离 (pushuo mili)”, impossible to unravel.

Abby Choi was depicted as a social fixture, but that did not point to an actual job. When her murder was reported, she was mostly referred to as a celebrity. In mainland Chinese media, she is called a mingyuan (名媛) or a young lady of note, even the Chinese version of the debutante. As self-proclaimed to Vogue China last November, she’s a “高级定制收藏家” or collector of haute couture, although on her Instagram page, she did not don that many. The prevalent argument is that a mingyuan, especially one who buys high fashion, usually comes from an extremely wealthy family of stellar reputation. Not much is known about the Chois. Or, if they are indeed immensely rich. The central character in that family so far has been the matriarch Zhang Yanhua (张燕花), also known as 五姐 (wujie) or fifth sister in the mainland, where she reportedly spends part of her time, minding an unknown money-making business. Following the murder, she has spoken about her daughter, but little is revealed. Recently, another character related to that family has emerged. According to what has been circulating online, there was another person at the site where Ms Choi was dismembered: A masked man, whose identity is not confirmed; a lookout at the crime scene. It has been speculated that the person could be Ms Choi’s hitherto unseen brother, even step-brother. If that is true, there is more than meets the eye to this murder mystery. Strangely, the Hong Kong press has been rather silent this past week in their follow-up to the sensational homicide.

From left, Abby Choi, her mother Zhang Yanhua, and two step-sisters. Photo: Weibo

Abby Choi, as it’s currently known, was born in 1994, the child of Zhang Yanhua and another unidentified man from a previous marriage. A Hong Kong Netizen with the handle Poey Cheung shared online that Ms Choi was originally surnamed Wan (云 or Yun in Mandarin). No information is available about her father. Ms Zhang divorced her husband (some reports say because he gambles too much) and later re-married, in Hong Kong, to a local with the family name Choi. With this man, she gave birth to two daughters (and possibly a son?). Ms Cheung also shared that the murdered influencer grew up and lived with her grandparents in To Kwa Wan (土瓜湾), a neighbourhood on the eastern shore of the Kowloon Peninsula, not far from the old Kai Tak Airport. It is not an exceptional area, unlike, say, the swanky Kadoori Hill, where Ms Choi bought an apartment for her ex-husband and his family to live in. Ms Zhang has stated that her “precious daughter” went to an unnamed “international school”. But, according to Ms Cheung, Ms Choi attended the aided, co-ed Oblate Primarily School in To Kwa Wan. A Catholic institution founded in 1975, the school’s medium of instruction was Chinese. She later went to the private 60-year-old Kowloon Tong Secondary School, where teachers used Chinese in classes, too. It is not known if Ms Choi completed her secondary education or furthered her studies. Or, if early marriage, in fact, impeded her academic pursuits.

Initial reports claimed that Abby Choi met her first husband in the same secondary school. Her mother announced that her “daughter and son-in-law were [same-school] childhood sweethearts.” Poey Cheung said that the lovers were acquainted while both were schooling, but not in the same institution. Alex Kwong Kong-chi (邝港智) apparently attended Chan Shu Kui Memorial School. Formerly known by other names until 1974, the 50-year-old CSKMS was situated in Kowloon Tong before they moved to their present location in Sham Shui Po. As Ms Cheung described it, Kowloon Tong Secondary School, Abby Choi’s alma mater, was just opposite CSKMS, divided by a Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) track. Beneath this track, was a pedestrian underpass known among the students who used it as “桃花隧道 (taohua suidao)” or lovers’ tunnel. Those aware of this conduit knew that both schools were separated by a distance of a “two-minute walk”. Ms Choi reportedly knew her future first husband when she was 15. It is possible then that both met and fell in love here, beneath the passing of a KCR train. Yet, it is also said that both schools were not in such close proximity. How their romance blossomed to the point that it could lead to teenaged marriage is thus not clear, yet.

Although surrounded by books at a Chanel event last February, Abby Choi was not known to be academically inclined. It is not known if she completed her secondary education. Photo: Abby Choi/Facebook

It was also shared online by self-proclaimed former schoolmates that although Ms Choi was said to be “善良 (shanliang)” or kindhearted, as well as sweet and demure (as proclaimed online by those who had been in her recent clique), she was purportedly not nearly the good girl that she had projected herself to be, at least as seen on social media. The revealer claimed that Ms Choi was prone to “搬弄是非(bannong shifei)” or tell tales, sew discord, even creating mischief. She reportedly got herself into fights with schoolmates, too. With misdemeanors piled up, she eventually had to pulled out of school and register in another, which has not been identified. It was in secondary school that Ms Choi took her step-father’s surname. Concurrently, she began to morph into a wealthy daughter, and was sent to and picked up from school in a chauffeur-driven car. Her step-father initially opened a restaurant called Ying Heung Fan Dim (盈香饭店) in To Kwa Wan, but after undisclosed business dealings in China (reportedly in Hainan), became extremely wealthy. Despite rewarding her with material edge, Ms Choi’s parents apparently paid scant attention to her schooling. Even more inexplicable was how unaffected they were when Ms Choi announced that she wanted to marry Alex Kwong when both were merely 18 years of age.

The Chinese have a common saying: 门当户对 (mendang hudui) or a fitting marital match when both families are of similar social status. Popular understanding in Hong Kong suggests that the aided Kowloon Tong Secondary School that Abby Choi went to was, at that time, a better institution than Chan Shu Kui Memorial School that Alex Kwong attended. Additionally, the Kwongs, in comparison, were not even considered borderline affluent. Patriarch Kwong Kau (邝球) was a disgraced former policeman (an accusation of rape when he was with the force was never resolved). His elder son, Alex Kwong, was not known to be academically successful or gainfully employed (the other son, Anthony Kwong Kong-kit (邝港杰), later served as Ms Choi’s personal driver and, puzzlingly, event companion). Although the Choi family was not in the league of Hong Kong’s 名门望族 (mingmen wangzu) or prestigious families, they were, at least on the surface, economically better off than the Kwongs. Yet the coming together of two disparate families by marriage took place (exactly when is unknown although 2012 is thought to be the year). The unanswered question on so many lips: Why would any parent (the mother Zhang Yanhua, in particular) agree to a teenaged daughter marrying another teen who had no certain future? And not discouraging them from having children so soon after?

Screen shot of Abby Choi with her second husband Chris Tam in an undated video shared on Sina News

The adolescents’ marriage bore them two children, but the union did not last. The divorce came, as did the wedding, at an undisclosed date, but online speculation placed it at around 2015. If that is correct, Ms Choi remarried rather quickly—only a year later. The groom is a man thought to be of considerable wealth—the son of Tam Chuk-kwan (谭泽均), co-founder of the chain eatery TamJai Yunnan Mixian (rice noodles). Tam junior is known only as Chris Tam. He is not addressed by his Chinese name, even in the Chinese media. According to current knowledge and chatter, Chris Tam was acquainted with Abby Choi during their school days, just as Mr Kwong was. Ms Zhang claimed, in fact, that they knew each other when her daughter was ten. When they tied the knot, it was reported that both went through traditional Chinese nuptial rites that included betrothal gifts of immense gold jewellery (one photo showed boxes of chunky gold bangles, another of her wearing them as a necklace). Their wedding dinner was a lavish affair, held in what looked like a luxury hotel ballroom. The event was hosted by renowned TVB variety show host 林盛斌 (Lin Shengbin), popularly known as Bob, who reportedly earns a six-figure sum (HKD) for each appearance, including weddings.

A video of the nuptials, inexplicably shot in a studio in the Philippines, emerged (after the murder, the company removed it from their social media account, but not before it was downloaded by Netizens and shared online). In the video, Chris Tam claimed that he met Ms Choi on some street, where his future wife was with a friend. This contradicted Ms Zhang’s version of the matter. Even more peculiar, the marriage was never registered. There was no certificate to prove that they officially tied the knot, just that shot-in-the-Philipines video and testimonies of whoever attended the ceremony that was reportedly witnessed by“nearly 100 tables” of guests. Was this a more modern arrangement that was a tad better than straight-to-cohabitation? As with her first husband, Ms Choi had two children with her second, and, again this time, a boy and a girl. By most accounts, life with her new man was at least good, if not blissful. Ms Choi had expressed on IG more than once her gratefulness towards an unnamed fellow, presumed to be Chris Tam. In one photo shared online, he was seen with her in Paris last January during Couture Week. A month later, back in Hong Kong, the Tam family reported to the police that Abby Choi was missing.

Screen shot of Abby Choi’s betrothal gifts from the Tam family, shared on Sina News

As the weeks passed, a more vivid picture of Chris Tam emerged. He seems like an extremely understanding—some say outstanding—spouse; he’s on more than friendly terms with Ms Choi’s ex-husband, welcomed the two kids from his wife’s previous marriage to play with his own two, had no objections to the hiring of Ms Choi’s former brother-in-law Anthony Kwong as her personal driver and chaperone to fashion events, and has been extremely/unusually chummy with his mother-in-law, wujie Zhang Yanhua, arousing the curiosity as to what was the true nature of their relationship. Additionally, Chris Tam’s parents and the Kwongs are reported to enjoy mutually amicable rapport. Even Ms Zhang was full of praise of how the two families had been affectionate towards her daughter. At the same time, it isn’t clear why a man known as the 太子爷 (taiziye) or crown prince of his family’s relatively large business would take as a first wife a woman from not a particularly distinguished family and who was a divorcée, with two children in tow. Despite the all-over love fest, dispute and displeasure later surfaced. After the Kwongs were arrested, a family member supposedly contacted the Tams and asked, “你为什么报警不提前告诉我 (why did you not inform me in advance before contacting the police?)”. Kwong Kau, too, allegedly said to Chris Tam before the murder, “如果谭家食言,下场就是一起死 (if the Tam family will not keep to their word, the consequence is death to us all)”.

In several close looks at Ms Choi’s social media pages to better learn about her fashionable past with French luxury houses, what stood out was not the lack of influencer-worthy clothes, but posts of a more personal nature (other than shots of birthday celebrations). There is, for example, not a single photo on Instagram (her username was, as recorded, changed twice) that shows Ms Choi with either of her husbands. Stranger still are nil images of her when she was pregnant, pre-natal or post-natal, or with her children (even just one) as babies or toddlers. There are no photos of her with her immediate family. Or, in-laws, past or present, except—remarkably—those of her with her brother-in-law Anthony Kwong, who shared seven shots (excluding group pictures) on his IG page, with the somewhat careful hashtags, #family and #BroAndSisLove. She joined IG in 2012, which would be the year she married Alex Kwong, yet there are no photos of her wedding or even a bridal gown (perhaps the event was a very simple affair). Ditto her second wedding, which is curious for someone who was by 2017, after she married Chris Tam, lauded as a fashion star. What we did find was the Facebook page Abby and Paomes Charitable Org, which was supposed to be started by the murder victim and a mysterious friend, who goes by the handle 豹太 (baotai) or Madam Bao and had, in the early days of the investigation into the Abby Choi homicide, offered HK$1 million for information relating to the case. Her relationship with Madam Bao is unclear, unlike that with Aaron Kwok’s also-influencer wife Moka Fang (方媛), frequently described as a 闺蜜 (guimi) or bestie.

Abby Choi during a couture fitting at Dior. Screen shot: xxabbyc/Instagram

It is not clear when Ms Choi began enjoying fashion to the extent that she did. Most of her posts on IG (and repeated on Facebook, which she joined only in 2017) featured identifiable, ultra-feminine styles from the usual brands that influencers tend to be drawn to: Louis Vuitton, Valentino and Gucci, with extreme love for Chanel and, especially, Dior. Interestingly, her first show, according to her posts, was Dolce & Gabbana in February 2017, just two months after she married Alex Tam. It was during this time, according to media reports, that she really played the part of the rich fashionista. Was she, perhaps, finally able to be a wealthy daughter-in-law? She was active and traveled through the pandemic years. It is not certain when she became a couture customer. In the beginning, she appeared to be wearing RTW, but in February 2020, she was videotaped at a Dior couture fitting, in a grey-blue silk chiffon gown. It is not known how big a Dior customer she really was (or if that was the first and only couture purchase). A source at a luxury house confirmed that such information is never disclosed. It is not certain either if all those fashion week trips were out-of-pocket expenses or if she enjoyed a fully-paid invitation by the brands—they are known to request the presence of potential or existing couture customers, all on the house. According to a Forbes report in 2020, a Dior couture full-length dress would cost “US$100,000 upwards”. Perhaps, most baffling among the unknowns about Ms Choi was the source of her seemingly immense wealth.

The popular proposition now is that Ms Choi “是被包装出来的伪豪门女”; she was packaged as a rich and powerful woman. This usually indicates that such a person is groomed to be a diversion from a hidden malefaction. Ms Choi is reported to be 1.55m tall and weighed about 40 kg. She was not considered typical of the influencers—in size and stature—that dominate social media, such as “天王嫂 (tianwangsai)” or heavenly king’s wife Moka Fang or the eighth suspect in this case Irene Pun (潘巧贤, Pan Qiaoxian). Some who knew Ms Choi, former schoolmates among them, pointed out that she had had cosmetic enhancement at an unknown time, and before that, she looked “很一般 (henyiban)” or ordinary. Yet, she was able to work towards the status from which to launch herself in the world of not just fashion, but haute couture. Furthermore, Ms Choi had never held a job that could be considered regular employment (while financially supporting her former in-laws). Maintaining the high profile she did required a team, which she had acknowledged to exist. These individuals, from those in hair and makeup to videography, were unlikely to have volunteered their services. The pursuit of influencing is a cost-intensive enterprise. How was she able to finance it all? How did a To Kwa Wan lass of indeterminate means propel herself without apparent connections to the hallowed grounds of the couture salons of Paris? Was there something illegal/illicit involved? Were there more than the rapacious Kwongs behind her brutal downfall and grisly end?

In Chanel, in 2021. Occasion and location unknown. Photo: xxabbyc/Instagram

Interestingly, Vogue China had not put Ms Choi on their cover (nor Vogue Hong Kong) despite her ascent. In an IG post last November, Ms Choi shared that she had a “对话 (duihua)” or dialogue with the fashion bible. Vogue China revealed nothing much except how she appreciated couture. Last month, she did receive a magazine cover—for the digital edition of L’Officiel. Ms Choi shared it on IG, with the comment, “From Hong Kong to the cover of L’Officiel Monaco, my journey as a style icon continues.” Who calls herself a style icon? In the oddly banal editorial that accompanied the cover, the magazine described her as a ”fashion star” who “has taken the world by storm with her impeccable sense of style and her unbridled passion for fashion.” They marveled at her “keen eye for style and her ability to mix and match pieces in unexpected ways” although they showed not evidence of that. “I am a person who keeps absorbing inspiration and always tries new styles. Sometimes I also try to dress up more extravagant, by mixing and combining different looks,” she was quoted saying, and again that innate flair was not seen, even on her IG page. The question was, why L’Officiel Monaco? Who reads it? Why not L’Officiel China?

L’Officiel was first published in France in 1921. Now, it has more than two dozen international editions in the current line-up. Last year, the title was acquired by Hong Kong-based AMTD International, whose founder is Dr Calvin Choi Chi-kin (蔡志堅), dubbed by as “Hong Kong’s Most Controversial Banker”. Dr Choi, with links to mainland Chinese banks, chairs AMTD Group whose AMTD Digital, according to Forbes, made a startling turn last August: “Less than a month after the 43-year-old listed his AMTD Digital on the New York Stock Exchange, his stake in the digital financial services firm has skyrocketed 14,000% for reasons his firm can’t explain.” That brief period made him “worth nearly US$37 billion, more than Li Ka-shing (李嘉诚).” Early this year, the “auditing pioneer” and whizz was banned by Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) “over conflicts of interest while he was a UBS banker in 2014 and 2015”, as informed. Dr Choi’s colourful history in auditing and banking is too long to be described here. While there is no immediately discernible link between the two unrelated Chois, it is interesting that the couture-loving influencer could somehow draw big names into her glittery orbit, whether directly or not. Was the L’Officiel cover of Ms Choi an independent editorial decision? And why did it happen only after AMTD International’s acquisition of the title?

Deeply curious journalists and individuals are playing online detectives and putting out different back stories and details to Ms Choy’s murder. Local names and those across the mainland—from Hong Kong’s “tianwangsao” to Macau’s jailed “Little Gambling King”—were dredged up to effect better brush strokes in creating the still incomplete picture. The speculations oftentimes point to something more nefarious than the familial dispute over a luxury apartment that was initially posited. Why would a whole family kill a girl whose first two kids are their children and grandchildren just over a flat? Was Ms Choi a victim from the start? The police have for weeks not shared with the public developments in their investigation. And things are increasingly not what them seem. A Chinese saying could be the best guide in following the truth behind the homicide of Abby Choi: “眼见不定为真,耳闻不定为是”. What the eyes see may not be real, what the ears hear may not be true.

Update (8 May 2023, 5pm): Six defendants charged with the murder of Abby Choi appeared in court today. The case was adjourned to 31 July as police require more time to look into 30 items related to the crime. Blood found in the vehicle believed to have transported Ms Choi to the site of her hacking is confirmed to be the murder victim’s

This is a developing story

Influencer Implicated

A China-born Hong Kong Instagram “goddess” was arrested in connection with the murder of fellow influencer Abby Choi. Who is Irene Pun?

Irene Pun, another arrestee in the murder of Abby Choi. Photo: punhuayin/Instagram

There are more plot twists than a homicide thriller, many following the Abby Choi Tin-fung (蔡天凤) murder/mutilation have said. Even if Miss Moorthy Investigates, she’d be stumped. In the latest development of the brutal slaying of Ms Choi, Hong Kong police have arrested an “influencer”, Irene Pun Hau-yin (潘巧贤 or Pan Qiaoxian ), in connection with the gruesome case. Ms Choi’s torso and hands are reportedly still not found, but more suspects have been apprehended. Earlier in the week, a yacht rental agent, Henry Lam (林舜 or Lin Shun) was arraigned and charged with aiding Ms Choi’s ex-husband Alex Kwong Kong-chi (邝港智) to abscond. Ms Pun (pronounced poon), identified as Mr Kwong’s “friend”, had later tried to flee Hong Kong, but was napped in her tracks across the border in Shenzhen (深圳) on 7 March and handed over to Hong Kong police at the Shenzhen Bay checkpoint. The 29-year-old was charged yesterday and released after HK$50,000 (or about S$8,620) bail was posted. When she was in court to hear her indictment, she was, it was enthusiastically reported, shod in Chanel.

That another influencer was in the news has brought the Hong Kong KOL community to a tizzy. Even the entertainment world was abuzz when Ms Pun—her followers consider her to be an “IG天后 (goddess)”—was linked to some of the SAR’s noted stars, including Louis Koo Tin-lok (古天乐, Gu Tianle), Owen Cheung Chun-long (张振朗, Zhang Zhenlang) and singer Kelvin Kwan Chor-yiu (关楚耀, Guan Chuyao), when she posted wefies of the stars and herself on Instagram. Mr Kwan, appearing on her IG page with considerable regularity, is believed to be an old friend. Raised in Canada, he is the son of record producer William Kwan Wai-leun (关维麟, Guan Weilin), who is a close friend of Alan Tam Wing-lun (谭咏麟, Tan Yonglin), also the younger Kwan’s godfather. In 2009, he was arrested in Tokyo for the possession of marijuana together with his then girlfriend, the Korean/Filipino singer Jill Vidal (衛詩, Weisi). Ironically, both had appeared in Hong Kong’s Say No to Drugs campaign of that year. His career did not recover. Last year, the disgraced singer was reported to be reduced to performing in a food court in the resort island of Hainan. After Ms Pun’s arrest, her younger sister Zoe, also considered an influencer, posted a cryptic handwritten message in Chinese that seemed to suggest that her sibling is innocent or that it might be the company she kept that has led to her downfall. None of her famous friends have stood up for her.

Although it is not known how they met, Irene Pun and Henry Lam do not appear to be mere acquaintances. On her IG page, she shared photos of both of them attending various social events, one of them was her birthday party. It is speculated that she knows Mr Lam well and trusted the forty-one-year-old, at least sufficiently to ask him to arrange for her friend, the murder suspect, to flee to Macau. According to Hong Kong’s Mingbao News (明报新闻), on 24 February, after Ms Pun came to know that Mr Kwang had murdered his former wife, she introduced him to Mr Lam, who, as Mingpao stated, is an employee of Air Yacht (优游海洋), a company in Shueng Wan (上环) that charters luxury yachts. Curiously, in a post on Air Yacht’s IG page, which showed a TVB interview from 2020, Mr Lam was introduced as a “共享游艇船主 (literally, ‘shared yacht owner’)”. Ms Pun had posted images on IG of herself aboard boats, enjoying the sea or sunbathing (one, “boating w my gals” in Posatino, Italy) although it is not known if her marine escapades had anything to do with Air Yacht or if she had even met Mr Lam through the company.

Irene Pun outside BV in Ginza, Tokyo last October. Photo: punhuayin/Instagram

After the meeting between Alex Kwong and Henry Lam, a sum of HK$300,000 (according to The Straits Times, HK$100,000) was paid to the latter. It is not known if this was Mr Kwong’s own money. Mr Lam had, by then, worked out the get-away to Macau. The plan was for the escapee to be brought to open seas by speedboat (some reports say yacht) and then transfer him to another vessel before sailing the fellow to the gambling hub of southern China. Ms Pun herself would then find her way across to the mainland, whether to join Mr Kwong, it is not yet known. As Macau is in the picture, there is now speculation that the involvement of Mr Lam is somehow linked to convicted Macau “小赌王, little gambling king” Alvin Chau (周焯华, Zhou Zhuohua), protégé of the famed gangster (尹国驹, Yin Guoju), who Time magazine called “the last godfather of Macau”. In January, Mr Chau was sentenced to 18 years in jail for over 100 charges, according to the BBC (Chinese media reported more than 280). The founder of Suncity Group (太阳集团), he ran what was described as Macau’s largest operator of junkets—trips for mainland Chinese high rollers to the MSAR’s casinos. Online rumours are rife that although Mr Chau is in jail, his organisation behind many criminal activities has not entirely ceased operations. And, somehow, through it, Mr Kwong’s escape would be possible.

Alvin Chau has links to Hong Kong too, especially in entertainment. In the Fragrant Harbour, he had set up Sun Entertainment Culture (太阳娱乐文化), a record label, film company, and management agency, which was once run by Paco Wong Pak-ko (黃柏高 or Huang Bogau), one of the most renowned artiste managers of Hong Kong, a name behind such major Cantopop successes as the late Danny Chan Pak-keung (陈百强) and Sammi Cheng Sau-man (郑秀文). Henry Lam had reportedly called Mr Wong his “入行恩师 (ruhang enshi or mentor)”. He was, therefore, in the entertainment business and had, apparently, been assistant to the singer Ronald Cheng Chung-kei (郑中基), also managed—unsurprisingly—by Paco Wong. According to the news site Singtao (星岛网), he too was once Kelvin Kwan’s assistant at Universal Music (环球唱片). These connections in the Hong Kong entertainment circle led to the speculation that Mr Lam possibly became acquainted with Alvin Chau through Paco Wong, and that he had kept in contact with the gambling king, and was why he wanted to arrange for Alex Kwong to seek refuge in Macau.

As with Henry Lam, how Irene Pun came to know Alex Kwong is not known. There is suggestion that both of them were dating before the murder, but that is yet to be verified. Some reports refer to her as Mr Kwong’s “女朋友 (nupengyou or girlfriend)”. Hong Kong police offered no insight to the nature of their relationship. She has posted on IG images of her and Mr Lam in Macau, often in the gambling hub’s expensive playgrounds. These photographs suggest that both of them are not unfamiliar with Macau. Her fondness for the MSAR (even hashtagging the city when her IG photos are not obvious) may explain her involvement in sending Mr Kwong there. According to the Hong Kong media, she had “claimed [that] she is unemployed”, but Netizens consider keeping oneself visible through social media “a job” and that Mr Kwong was not likely to date a woman of unimpressive means. This would be the second allegedly wealthy IG star that is linked to Mr Kwong. Like Abby Choi, Ms Pun showed herself to be living it up, attending events with celebrities, wearing expensive luxury labels, often shot in different parts of the world. Curiously, both women’s IG posts do not offer images of either of them with Mr Kwong.

Henry Lam and Irene Pun celebrating the latter’s birthday in 2019. Photo: punhauyin/Instagram

Irene Pun was born on 19 September 1993, supposedly in China—exactly where, it is not known. Virtually no information is available about her family or her childhood. Some Hong Kong media reports describe her as a “new immigrant”. But according to her Facebook page, she went to St Margaret’s Co-educational English Secondary Primary School in Kowloon, one of the few institutions that uses English as medium of instruction. After that, she went to Maryknoll Convent, a girl’s school, also in Kowloon, with both primary and secondary education. It is possible that Ms Pun completed her primary school at St Margaret and secondary at Maryknoll, which would suggest that she had arrived in Hong Kong before she was six. Unlike Abby Choi, Ms Pun furthered her studies. First, at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, a public university in California, but it is not know what she read or if she graduated. Then, she was in the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, the same school that winner of the inaugural Singapore Stories competition, Carol Chen (陈慧敏) went to. It is not ascertained if she received her degree. There is no reference on social media of her graduation show or such, except for a post on April 2015, when she shared a photo of a mood board and three pieces of (presumably) her fashion illustrations, with the comment “做project做死 (doing project till death)”. Whether she took a job in fashion after finishing school is not known either.

Apart from her love of dressing up, Ms Pun enjoys cooking and dining in fancy restaurants. She has a separate IG page to (mostly) show off her culinary skill and the places she dined in. Despite being an active social media user, with two accounts on IG alone, she shared almost nothing about her family: less than a handful of her mother (her sister is a tad better: one indistinct photo of her day, a pair of her parents, and some of her mother), with one, posted in 2013, that was an old snapshot of her mom, an undeniably attractive younger self. (As with Abby Choi, she offered no shots with her father.) But online Hong Kong sleuths linked a key figure of the city’s triad and his wife to the influencer, suggesting that the city’s notorious gangster of the ’90s Pan Luanbin (潘銮彬), twice jailed, and spouse Fang Lixia (方丽雯) are Ms Pun’s parents. This has not been verified by the authorities, but the premise of this connection is based on her surname and, the year of her birth, which reportedly coincided with the year that Ms Fang gave birth to her first child (a daughter, no less): 1993. Moreover, she is one of two daughters. Pan Luanbin has two girls, too. Could this be mere happenstance? If this is true, then Ms Pun was born in Hong Kong. But, more pertinent to this girl’s backstory is the source of her income. As with Abby Choi’s real worth, no one can say for sure.

A week before Abby Choi’s murder, Irene Pun was in Seoul with her younger sister Zoe, having a good time, as reflected in the IG posts of both women. It is not reported when she returned to Hong Kong or when she was in touch with Alex Kwong following that. After she was handed to the Hong Kong police on 8 March, Ms Pun was brought back to the apartment she shares with her sister in West Kowloon for the gathering of evidence. Like Abby Choi, she lived in a swanky residential development: The Cullinan (天玺). Hong Kong media describes it as a “luxury private estate”. Only those with deep pockets would be able to afford the sea-view flats that rise above Kowloon Station, a stop on the Airport Express. Real estate websites showed that units here have been selling between HK$20.6 million and HK$57 million. Early reports claimed that Ms Pun’s father runs a bar. That alone, many expressed, would not be able to sustain his daughter’s lavish expenditure, unless, as it has been pointed out, “the father is money-laundering”. As with Abby Choi, those who know Ms Pun has claimed that the latter “只是太善良 (is just too kind)”. But kindness alone cannot explain her criminal actions, however impulsive, or how a woman, not yet 30, could amass the wealth that had fueled her life of extravagance. Even as more suspects were hauled to court, it seems that the can of worms is only being pried open and just the surface is given a peek.

Update (16 March 2023, 10:30): According to Hong Kong media, there is now an eighth suspect. After the police interviewed residents of the flat in Lung Mei Tsuen, where the mutilation or Abby Choi took place, another man is believed to have been on the look out while the hacking of the model’s body took place. Police have not identified the suspect, but Netizens are speculating that it could be Abby Choi’s step brother (born to Ms Choi’s mother the “Fifth Sister” and her second husband). The plot thickens, again.

Update (17 April 2023, 18:12):

Part of a screen grab of Irene Pun’s Instagram Stories

Two days ago, Irene Pun suddenly shared a fairly lengthy post on Instagram Stories (that has since been removed), declaring her innocence in the case involving the murder and mutilation of Abby Choi. Why now, more than a month after she was arraigned, isn’t clear or explained. In her post, written in Cantonese and addressed to those who “诬蔑” or slandered her and those who “给我写故事” or wrote stories about her (including, presumably, us), Ms Pun proclaimed that she does not know either side of the Kwong family. Curiously, she added that “perhaps even saying this is against the law.” Could not knowing any of the Kwongs mean she is unacquainted with Abby Choi too? She then added another character to the plot; she hoped an unidentified “一哥 (yige, first or one brother)” would come out and speak for her. Is someone else aware of the truth or her situation? But if she is truly innocent and unconnected to the case, why did the authorities bother to arrest her in Shenzhen and hand her over to the Hong Kong police; why did they see that it was necessary to waste public resources?

Ms Pun did not answer those questions or say what she considered “slander” or “stories” in her staccato-like post. She did not address her links with the yacht rental agent Henry Lam, believed to have facilitated Alex Kwong’s escape to Macau. Or, why, as alleged by the Hong Kong media, she put both men in touch. Rather, she wrote about “[how] the wronged [was] unable to speak” and “how terrible she felt [as a result]”. She said “she has cooperated responsibly, shared all content of her phone, and made clear the truth.” As such, “even if the matter has not concluded, it shouldn’t be like this.” Ms Pun, who described herself as “but a small city resident”, continued to suggest that she was victimised: “being misunderstood by the world, [I ] feel you would 还清白 (huan qing bai or return [her] innocence). I am human; I have feelings.” She even compared herself to a “chess piece”, which prompted the question, who has been making the moves? Despite saying how aggrieved she claimed she was, she did not once declare that she was guiltless or totally uninvolved, only that she is “of no help” to the case. She concluded: “网上的流言蜚语,谁顶得住,你可以吗? The online rumours and slanders, who can bear them? Can you?”

Another Scammer, Another Thai Girl

And she has fled from Thailand purportedly to Malaysia, like someone familiar. Who is this nasty Nutty?

In her social media posts, she looks rather natty, but she goes by Nutty. Like most Thais, her nickname—rather unfortunate, this one—identifies her. She is an influencer and she is on the run for alleged scams involving a mind-boggling two billion baht (or about S$77 million). That is even more than what our island’s infamous fraudster-duo cheated and then escaped—a whopping S$45 million more. Thai media reports do not indicate that her passport was impounded. The current speculation in Thailand is that she (and allegedly her mother) has escaped to Malaysia, as Thai fugitives are inclined to, and vice versa. At the border (assuming she entered legally), the immigration officers would have been able to read the name Natthamon Kongchak (นัทธมณ คงจักร์) on her passport, aged 29 (there are reports that state 27, even 30). Some news outlets spell her popular name as Natty, but on social media, she uses Nutty (her YouTube channel is called Nutty’s Dairy and a K-pop EP she released in 2014 was titled The Power of Nutty). It is probably a play on the first syllable of her first name Natthanon, pronounce naht. But, as it turns out, she has more than one name (more on that later).

Thai media has speculated that Ms Kongchak is acquainted with Siriwipa Pansuk, the other half of the married swindlers who were arrested on 11 August in Johor Bahru after hiding there for 37 days. According to Phaisal Ruangrit, a lawyer representing some 30 of Ms Kongchak’s victims, the two women were in cahoots—one dealing with luxury bags and the other in “investments”, as Shin Min Daily News reported yesterday. Today, Thailand’s Criminal Court issued a warrant for her arrest, concurrently asserting that her case is linked to Ms Pansuk and her husband Pi Jiapeng. How so, it did not elaborate. The Nation shared yesterday that, according to Mr Ruangrit, she has “defrauded over 6,000 victims”. Shin Min Daily News spoke to one Singaporean duped by Pi Jiapeng/Siriwipa Pansuk, a Mr Tan: He fears that if Ms Pansuk and Ms Kongchak were scheming together, he is unlikely going to see his money returned, as it would have been channeled to the latter.

Ms Kongchak, in her last video post on IG, explaining her actions and charges levelled at her. Screen shot: nutty.suchataa/Instagram

Ms Kongchak’s massive scams involved no luxury watches or handbags (although she did flaunt them). According to Thai reports, and the many complaints against her, she ran a “Forex Ponzi scheme” about five months ago. On social media, especially YouTube, she made herself out to be a successful “Forex trader” and encouraged her followers to invest with her as she acted as conduit to their new wealth. The lawyer Mr Ruangrit told Thai media that “the YouTuber had used her popularity to lure victims with the promise of high returns in a short time.” One of them purportedly deposited a boggling 18 million baht (about S$688,646) straight into Ms Kongchak’s account. In fact, she often coaxed potential investors to transfer the money directly to her personal a/c. And, curiously, they did. As social media chatter went, she had promised 25% returns for a three-month “contract”, 30% for six, and 35% for 12, with the agreement that payouts would be made monthly. In April, things didn’t seem right when she failed to meet her obligations, with some of her payees saying that they had not received anything for their investments. The online rumble grew increasingly palpable.

On 25 May, Ms Kongchak posted a simple video on IG—where she identifies as “trader, singer, dancer, YouTuber, CEO”—to explain her predicament, even cleverly including hashtags, such as #นัตตี้โกงเทรดพันล้าน (or #nutty cheated billions in trading) so that her post could be seen as a negation. There is even #ถ้าคนจะหนีหนีไปแล้ว (or #if people are going to flee), as if to allay the victims’ fears. Speaking in a somewhat girlish voice, she said she made a “big mistake” and had lost all the money, claiming that the error was in “trading with just one broker.” She admitted that everything was her own doing; she was “sorry for causing trouble to many people and making them disappointed in her.” Hoping to shift the anger towards her to sympathy, she added: “There has not been a day that was not stressful. There is no day I do not stop thinking of getting a refund.” But she was certain she would pay the investors back. In a separate post before the video, she wrote that she “will find the funds to return (the money) in every possible way”. Although many Netizens did not consider what she uttered assuring, that post curiously attracted 6,169 likes.

And then she was heard no more.

In happier times (2022), Nutty is like most influencers: She cannot resist a sexy pose. Photo: nutty.suchataa/Instagram

Natthamon Kongchak was born in the northern city of Chiang Mai, in 1993—the year the popular Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden (originally named Mae Sa Botanic Garden) opened in the district of Mae Rim, central Chiang Mai. By most accounts, she spent her childhood in the calm city, attending the co-ed Phraharuthai School, also known as the Sacred Heart College, a 90-year-old catholic institution that, a Chiang Mai native tells us, is “very popular”. Phraharuthai School is a fairly large building, which, from the inside, looks like a composite of village residences. When the students played in the school yard, they would have seen a familiar sight: The Sacred Heart Cathedral, with its distinctive red-brick façade, which in December conducts the city’s grandest annual Christmas mass. Less than two hundred metres away, is the maenam ping (or Ping River), one of the two main tributaries of the Chao Phraya River that flows into Bangkok. Interestingly, her alleged partner in crime, Siriwipa Pansuk, too, went to a Catholic school, in Nonthaburi.

But unlike Ms Pansuk, Ms Kongchak seems to have had a rather privileged childhood. While she had not said much about her younger days or her grades in Phraharuthai School, she did reveal in 2014, during appearances on talk shows (sometimes with her mother), that hers was a coddled life of luxury (she, like China’s last emperor Puyi, did not even have to put on her own shoes!) made possible because of her family‘s considerable wealth. As she regaled, her mother owned a karaoke bar and business was extremely good, with a monthly income of 2 million baht (about S$76,668). At one point, the family (there was no mention of other children) owned 14 cars, and their home had a staff of 22 maids/nannies. Why a small family like hers would require that many automobiles or domestic helpers, she did not say. Although she was pampered, she wanted her mother to spend more time with her. She asked the businesswoman not to go into the bar and let the employees run it. Apparently, this was not a good move, and the business tanked: the mother became a “bankrupt”. It is at this juncture that her back story turned Netflix-worthy dramatic. Thais were riveted to her story as “real life is better than drama”.

Nutty on the talk show At Ten in 2014. Screen shot: 2020 Entertainment/YouTube

Natthamon Kongchak enthusiastically revealed the story of her sensational early life in July 2014 on the Channel 3 evening talk show At Ten (ตีสิบ or tee sip). With financial ruin, the mother decided she could no longer stay in Chiang Mai. Before departing, she divorced her husband as she was too “ai“ (shy) to remain with him, given her economic disadvantage. Not bothered by being a single mother, she took her daughter to Hat Yai, a city in the southern province of Songkla, bordering Malaysia. The divorcée did not say why a bankrupt with a young child needed to flee her hometown for a place some 1,650 kilometres away (24 hours or so by car). In Hat Yai, the older woman met a guy who operates a win-motorsai (or motorcycle taxi). He would take them around Hat Yai (whether he was paid, we do not know). As the mother was looking for work, he suggested to her to consider the other side of the border in the south. When she decided to leave to try her luck, she left her daughter with this man, whom the just-pubescent Nutty called “gaopor”, or “godfather”.

The mother found work in Malaysia as a masseuse. In which city or town, or even state exactly, it has not been established. Soon, her daughter joined her (what happened to the godfather is not known either). According to some reports, she offered foot massage by going door to door with the little girl by her side. Ms Kongchak was then 13 years old (a photo she shared on IG of her at a younger age showed a little girl that probably could not escape the description cute). That would have been in 2006. Nothing is said about her education at this time. In the beginning, they had no place to stay, and would sleep at the homes of customers who took pity on them (others “donated” bicycles—there were two, apparently). A Malaysian man her mother did not identify, but did describe as wealthy (some media reports say a “billionaire”), who owned schools (“universities”, apparently) and other businesses in the country, wanted to marry her child, even when the 48-year-old man reportedly had “several wives”. In agreeing to the marriage, the mother would be paid an undisclosed sum of money. Additionally, he was willing not to touch the girl until she came of age, which, according to the mother, was two years later. Strangely, the single parent did not find the man and his proposal creepy, and agreed to the marriage.

Pre-fugitive days: Mother and daughter in 2018. Photo: nutty.suchataa/Instagram

As no pre-arranged sexual restraint could really be met by those seeking juvenile brides, the man, as Ms Kongchak recalled, “harassed” her. It could be assumed that, by now, the child-wife was living with the fellow. The girl went to her mother to report what her husband (it is hard to use that word here) attempted, but the woman would not believe her. The girl fell into “depression” and apparently “fainted” many times. The mother admitted on camera, between sobs, that it was hard on her daughter, who also teared when interviewed, as the young one did not know what was going on. She then decided to annul the marriage, and had to engage an imam to speak to the man and to act as facilitator. She revealed that she had to pay the man back the money she was earlier given, even when he reneged on his promise. As she had only the equivalent of two million baht (or S$76,673), she was unwilling to gave him all of it; she handed him half of that. She did not explain what she did with the initial sum. It is not known if the man agreed to the amount. After the unfortunate marriage ended, they “escaped” once more, this time to Pattaya.

Again, it is not known why mother and daughter had to flee what would have been home by then (it is not known how many years they were in Malaysia). If there really was a need to, why did they go to Pattaya, the seaside town on the opposite side of the isthmus of Kra, across the Gulf of Thailand, in the east? If they needed to be near the sea, why did they not choose the island of Phuket instead, just 200 kilometres north-west of the northern most Malaysian state of Perlis? The answer may never be made known. Back in Thailand, mother and daughter seemed to have enjoyed a more stable existence. Ms Kongchak claimed she worked as a waitress at this time. In 2014, despite a seeming gap in her education when she was living a married life in Malaysia, she was accepted at and graduated (curiously, she did not share any graduation photos on social media) from the College of Communication Arts at Rangsit University, a private institution in Pathum Thani on the border shared with the north of Bangkok. The province has a considerably high concentration of schools of higher education and Rangsit University, according to EduRank, is ranked no. 1 in the whole of Pathum Thani, where Ms Kongchak’s legal address is registered.

Nutty in school uniform, appearing on a talk show. Screen shot: TikTok

And then the Internet and social media caught up, and Ms Kongchak began fashioning herself as a “web idol”. She was noted for her dancing and for doing covers of Korean pop songs, as seen on social media. She joined Instagram in Dec 2013, and her first post was a twin photo of her in a car. There was no accompanying comment. A month later, she was sharing videos of her confident singing—the first, an English song, no less: Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe. More videos emerged, mostly showing her performing, usually dancing. There was no mention of how she learned to dance so engagingly. Of the 2,301 posts she shared (her account presently shows 310K followers), interestingly only 34 showed food. Like the many who derive an income through IG, she peddled anything, from health supplements to cosmetics (she was a long-time face of local brand Costina) to shoes. It is not known if goods were sold to her fans, who are called “Nutters”. In less than ten months after her IG debut and many dance videos later, she would appear in the talk show At Ten, revealing her colourful past.

She seemed very pleased with the broadcast, having urged followers to tune in days earlier. On IG, she thanked the host, the crew, friends and supporters, and wrote: “I have sat down for interviews and told stories about my life. It’s fun and it’s an honour.” Overnight, she became the “talk of the town”. But a year later, in a post of her mother kissing her, Ms Kongchak shared a lengthy message, in which she wrote, “I don’t have to be afraid of anything. The truth is the truth. Please believe in your child… How many stories in life have we been through? Only our hearts know.” And she went on to say: “Good people don’t fall into water, don’t fall into fire, don’t burn… The child will not allow anyone to do anything, mother, especially over something for which we are not wrong.” Netizens were beginning to speculate if it was her inability to handle her fame. She added, “What’s the story that makes it look bad? If it’s true, Nut (she frequently refers to herself in the abbreviated name) doesn’t care about the image at all. Nut is pure-hearted and ready to face every problem. And you don’t have to organise a press conference, to let it go on TV or something because Nut doesn’t want to be famous in this kind of thing.” What that thing was, she did not say. She concluded with: “If the fact that happens may affect anyone, I apologize here. Nut had to come out and defend herself. Protect mae (mother) Nut in various matters that are being talked about. Because when you protect yourself, you hurt Nut, you destroy her career, destroy all the future that Nut has created for herself.”

On a TV show, Nutty took out huge wads of money to show the audience that with them, she was going to buy her mother a car. Screen shot: TikTok

This could be seen as a regular mother-daughter squabble. But, few believed that was the case. It is likely that, for all the love she showed towards her mother on social media (and she did—a tad excessively), theirs was (and likely still is) a complicated relationship. Many netizens, upon learning of her marriage at 13, and that her mother received money for the “immoral” arrangement, was quick to say that the woman had practically “sold” her daughter. Money and the need to show off cash in the hand seemed to characterise their love for each other. In her third post on IG after she joined the social media at the end of 2013, Ms Kongchak shared a photograph of her presenting to her mother a hamper of bottled bird’s nest and a ‘fan’ of 14 pieces of 1,000 baht notes. Similarity, in 2016, during Songkran (the Thai New Year), she showered her mother with gifts and 1,000 baht notes, fan out so that the viewer could count all 10 pieces of them. Last August, after achieving success as a Forex trader, a TV program—shared on Nutty’s Diary—showed her being interviewed in her car. She unzipped a rather large blue bag, took out a Manila envelope and whipped out thick wads of cash (still bound as if just handed over by a bank teller), informing viewers that with all that money, she was going to buy her mother a surprise gift: A three-million-baht car!

Mae Nut was a constant presence in Ms Kongchak’s life, even when the daughter had to be overseas—in, for example, Seoul. Interestingly, Natthamon Kongchak and Siriwipa Pansuk have something in common: Korea. Ms Pansuk’s scamming career is said to have been seeded in the Korean capital. Ms Kongchak was there to pave a more legit professional path, and, in fact, had arrived three years earlier, in 2014. It is, therefore, unlikely that they ever met there. According to Thai media, Ms Kongchak claimed that her online popularity caught the attention of an “older” fan (gender not specified), who was dating a Korean girl, whose friend, as it turned out, owned a record label. Somehow, he saw “a clip” of Ms Kongchak singing and was convinced she deserved an audition. Things unfolded very quickly thereafter: A contract was signed with a company called Dream Cinema and she debuted in Korea, not as part of a girl group, but, amazingly, as a solo artiste. In October 2014, she went to the city of Incheon, where the airport is located, as one of two Thai guest-artistes to perform at The K-Festival Concert, reportedly organised to foster friendship with Thailand. She shared the stage with the singer/actor Jirayu ‘James’ Tangsrisuk (2019’s Krong Karm or Cage of Karma, shown on Channel U last year). Recorded music ensued, but none made a major impact on the charts.

Dancing days: Nutty not only danced, she taught as well as, with her own dance school. Screen shot: nutty.suchataa/Instagram

Her singing career did not take off as she had hoped. Reports of disputes with her music labels emerged, and Ms Kongchak reportedly terminated her contract. That some kind of agreement cannot be reached in Korea surprised many. Some also wondered why Thai music companies would not sign her up, with a few suggesting that she should perhaps go to Malaysia, where she has a sizeable fan base. Ms Kongchak, in fact, speaks surprisingly fluent Malay (which may suggest that she did go to school in Malaysia when she was there). In one YouTube post, she sang the Malay song Tak Tahu Malu (Shameless) by the Sabahan brother-duo Atmosfera (Atmosphere), including the speed-up chorus that could have been a tongue-twister for a non-bahasa Melayu speaker. It is tempting to assume she lip-synched, but she did release a Malay single Take You Home two years back, in which she even rapped in Malay. In a Q&A with her Malay fans that she shared online, she spoke Malay fluently, revealing, when asked what she likes to eat, that she loves “nasi lemak dengan kicap (with soy sauce, instead of sambal?)”. To endear herself to her Malay fans, she went a dramatic step further: In one make-up tutorial, she showed the end result wearing a tudung!

Back home in Thailand after her Korean stint, she was not quite crestfallen or defeated, determined to strengthen her online popularity, which still remained high. It was at this time that she began legal name changes that would amount to two in total (this excludes her nickname which remained as Nutty). She was, thus, also known as Leeah (spelled with an extra ‘e’) Kongchak and Suchataa (with an extra ‘a’) Kongsupachak (she was, therefore, called Nutty Suchataa sometimes, and also the moniker used on IG). Why these other names were necessary is not known as she still referred to herself as “Nut”, just as Nutters did. Similarly, her K-pop-style dancing and singing continued as before. Even her coquettish posts, which dates back to her university days (such as a photo of her, all made-up like a doll, in a tight school shirt, that went with the message, “Sweet dreams”) were still very present. Some of her photos started to show more skin, which could be a move to push herself beyond being a “cute” singer/dancer. A profile on her in a local magazine even titled the piece “Naughty Pretty”. Little did the editor know how prescient that was.

As she grew older, her dance moves became sexier, so was her dressing. Screen shot: nutty.suchataa/Instagram

Without a music or acting contract, she started looking at other income streams, and dance, she thought, was a sure way to make money. In 2018, she opened a dance school Diva Studio in Bangkok, but that was badly affected when the COVID pandemic struck. She wrote on IG in August last year: “My studio had to be closed. I could not teach dancing. Savings are running out. Many people’s stomachs are waiting for me”. In the same post, she shared that she had received a gift that was a course in “money management” and that she had enrolled, and had been on it for six months. And she let on that she had “studied stock trading before” but had ”just come to trade”. In no time, she was earning massive amounts of money, bragging to her followers that she could easily “make 300,000 baht (or about S$11,448) in 10 minutes”. COVID-era followers were duly impressed. Her mother was a firm supporter of her daughter’s new, quick money-making enterprise, even showing her daughter in action in IG posts, which led to the suspicion that the older woman played a part in the ruse, and had to abscond too.

According to Thai news site Sanook, Ms Kongchak’s daring scams were exposed by victims in April, when many of them reported they had not seen any returns on their paid-up investments. It is reminiscent of the alleged crimes of the now-caught and awaiting-trial Pi Jiapeng and Siriwipa Pansuk. A Thai Facebook page with the fitting handle Drama Addict shared that they received news of Ms Kongchak fleeing to Malaysia—again, sounding similar, although in the latter’s case, from the north of the Malay Peninsular. Thai authorities do not think that is the case, as exit records do not show her departure. That alone may not proof anything as Ms Pansuk had crossed the Causeway with almost not trace of her daring passage. If Ms Pansuk were not caught, would she and Ms Kongchak meet, assuming they knew each other, as alleged by Thailand’s Criminal Court. Ms Kongchak speaks Malay, and is familiar with the land; she would be a good accomplice to hide in Malaysia and lay low. And there is all the nasi lemak dengan kicap she could eat. A two million baht (about S$76,353) reward was recently put up for information on her whereabouts. Whether in Malaysia or Thailand, online or off, that is good money. Natthamon Kongchak—or whatever name she answers to now—could be wishing the Sacred Heart Cathedral of her childhood is nearby.

Note: It is hard to establish events chronologically as Natthamon Kongchak rarely referred to dates

Illustration (top): Just So

Sort Of “Free The Nipple”

Kylie Jenner confirms that this would be the Year of the Areola

Warning: The illustration that follows, the links, and the subject matter of this post may upset some individuals

Kylie Jenner exposed, and recomposed. Illustration: Just So

What’s the thrill? Frankly we don’t know. Perhaps it’s in the upsetting of the prudish or the religious that some women get immense kick out of? In an Instagram post four days ago, cosmetics queen and mother of Stormi Webster, Kylie Jenner shared a photo of her very self from the inframammary fold up, in a skin-coloured bikini top that sported photo-realistic nipples—yes, the pink punctuations on the mamma. We were advised not to use that image here, as it may be considered obscene, and may even run afoul of the decency laws of this nation (potential wearers, beware too). The above is an illustration of the image that Ms Jenner shared, but with the nipples removed to take away the possible titillating factor that some might find objectionable, or down-right offensive.

Whether it’s part of her optimization strategies to strengthen visibility or just creating content that deliberately do not conform to the general standard of propriety, modesty, or good taste, it is really hard to say. Nudity (or suggestion of nudity) is not really alien to the Kardashian/Jenner daughters. Kylie Jenner could easily pose topless, but she chose not to, possibly because she might risk a ban from Instagram for “violating community guidelines” (last month, Madonna did when she shared nude photos on IG). So she covered her breast, but on the bikini top, it was what could have been if she had gone without. In the comments, she wrote, “Free the nipple”. Naturally, she did not. She faked it. This was Instagram, not OnlyFans. She needed to block to bare.

The €140 swimwear upper-half is from the collaboration of Jean Paul Gaultier and Lotta Volkova, the Russian stylist/designer very much linked to Vetements and Balenciaga (where she is Demna Gvasalia’s face-not-obscured muse). The cheeky capsule, in fact, offered entire lengths of a woman’s body—full frontal—on the dresses. These are not the first such garments. Some months back, Glenn Martens created a slinky dress for the Jean Paul Gaultier X Project Y collab that sported a realistic half naked body that Bella Hadid wore with considerable glee (she would!). There was also the body-con, three-shoulder-strap version by Sergio Castaño Peña that Iggy Azalea donned to mark her 32th birthday. And, others that we have not been able to keep track. The skimpy bikini top Ms Jenner wore is apparently sold out, even if it allowed the wearer to be only partly in the buff. But that presumably does not matter. Free the nipple does, even if it—or both—is not at all hers.

Gone With The (Digital) Wind

Kim Lim removed photos of her husband on Instagram and the media became really excited

We delete Instagram entries all the time. It’s the thing we do. Sometimes, every single post. But, when Kim Lim (林慧俐), the influencer and beauty entrepreneur, removed a few on her IG page, the media consider that headline news! Ms Lim, as we learned, did not merely edit the contents of her IG, she apparently got rid of all the photos of her husband of barely four months, Leslie Leow. That is a big deal. Such is social progress. Even The Straits Times was into sharing Ms Lim’s daring deletion: “Her Instagram feed has recently been scrubbed of all photos of Mr Leow, including those of his proposal in September 2021 and wedding on Feb 22 this year”, they wrote. A Mothership report stated that “all traces of Kim Lim’s husband have disappeared from her Instagram feed”. Expunged! Was the guy obliterated? Or, were the deletions tantamount to someone’s death?

One of the earliest to report on the missing squares on Ms Lim’s revealing IG grid was the e-mag GirlStyle two days ago, describing her act as “mysterious”. It helps not that IG does not leave deleted posts blank so that we may know what was removed, even how many. Which led many in the media to wonder why she did what she did: Was it petulance, her “borderline personality disorder” that her father had previously identified, or the breakdown of her marriage? Does it matter? Could the deletion be part of what influencers commonly—and cringingly—refer to as “curation” (which, in the world of influencer engagement, is on-going)? The thing is, much of the contents of social media are what the account holders want you to see. Is it possible that Ms Kim now no longer wishes, for whatever reason, her followers to view those photos she presently does not consider viewable, even if, for most, the images cannot be unseen?

As we know, nothing, once posted online, disappears completely. The Leows’ expensive wedding planner, The Wedding Atelier, has not deleted the two IG posts (excluding those of the flashy guodali betrothal ceremony) of the couple in their matrimonial best. Not yet, anyway. Unmistakably ardent Kim Lim supporter, Icon (风华) magazine, too, has not removed the two photos they shared on their IG feed. Neither are those on the hashtags #kimlim and #klstyle—just to name two—taken out. And even on Ms Lim’s own IG page, her connection to her husband (as of now) is not totally ”scrubbed”. We do not know if Kim Lim wants all photos of her wedded to Leslie Leow deleted for good. A marriage is forever: Online, it is. Search and the images shall be found.

Illustration: Just So

A Career Dee-stroyed?

The ex-radio deejay and now-quiet YouTube/TikTok star Dee Kosh pleaded guilty to the charges of sexual offenses involving teenaged boys. If he still enjoys Watching Cringey TikTok Videos, it is possible he would be doing so from behind bars

Warning: This post discusses a subject matter that may not be suitable to young readers

In his second last post on Instagram in August 2020, Dee Kosh blurbed the next instalment of his Watching Cringey TikTok Videos YouTube broadcast. The theme was “Gross Guys Galore!?” Three days later, he had to share a lengthy post on IG to deny the charges of sexual relations with minors levelled against him through social media, negating the possibility that he, too, might have been a fellow of rank behaviour. “Men have a tendency to be over-confident,” he said in the introduction to that video post, in full makeup. The YouTuber knew what he was talking about. In that firm rejection—a second, in fact—of the by-then very public accusations, he wrote, “Today I stand before you to account for my actions.” And then came the certitude: “Some of the allegations baffled me because they were baseless and untrue”, before, just as bafflingly, accepting “that there is truth to some of the things which are being said now, and I am sorry to the people I have hurt in the process.”

Today, in court, there was no reversal to that admission. But we already knew that it would be so since January, when his lawyer notified the court that the accused would be pleading guilty. Many on social media had already said that it is unlikely that he could be totally innocent. Appearing before the district judge as Darryl Ian Koshy, he did not challenge the seven sex-related offences that were raised before him: He marked three guys between the ages of 15 and 23 (at that time of the misdeeds) for sexual gratification, offered to pay them between S$400 and S$2,000, and made an obscene film by recording himself and a man in “a sexual act”, reported to be onanistic and oral. According to the news, the other four charges “will be taken into consideration for sentencing on July 28”.

In one photograph published online by CNA, Mr Koshy wore a printed, blue and white camp shirt to the State Courts. He appeared to have put on weight, and looked, even with mask on, surprisingly older than his 33 years of age. The shirt, one stylist told us, “is uncle”. It did look like it might have been bought at CK Department Store. Mr Koshy has, through the years, cultivated an image of unmistakable street cool. His attire today was, therefore, unexpected. So youth-centric and pop-relevant he was that, in July 2020, he even wore a hoodie with the phrase emblazoned in the back: “TEAM WANG”. It could be now seen as prescient. American designer Alexander Wang was accused in December 2019 of sexual misconduct by a British model who claimed that he was groped by Mr Wang during a concert at a New York nightclub in January 2017 (other accusations soon followed). While both cases are different (the latter not concerning the below sixteen), they involved behaviors that could be understood to be predatory, since the advances were unsolicited. Was the possibly like-minded Mr Koshy showing sympathy and support for the designer?

According to CNA, “if convicted under the Children and Young Persons Act for attempted sexual exploitation of a young person, he could be jailed for up to five years, fined up to S$10,000 or both.” And if “found guilty of communications for the purpose of obtaining sexual services of a minor, he could be jailed for up to two years and fined. The penalty for making an obscene film is a jail term of up to two years and a fine of between S$20,000 and S$40,000.” With the possibility of jail term, could this be the end of Mr Koshy’s career and the gila antics of Ria Warna? Or, Xiaotina? The online star had, no doubt, normalised brash queerish humour and fans appreciate and adore him for that. One of them wrote on IG last year: “I’m still hoping you will upload videos on youtube soon. It’s been boring without your videos. I hope that things get better on your side an you can come back to yt asap”. If the comeback of Alexander Wang is any indication of how easily and quickly people forget past transgressions of the famous, this fan’s hope may not be dashed.

Illustration (top): Just So. Photo: deekosh/Instagram

This Pair Of Sweatpants Had A Korean DJ “Kicked Off” A Flight

Even when no skin of her abdominal or limps were revealed. But the bottom she wore was considered by the airline to be “offensive”

Warning: This post contains image and words that some viewers may find offensive

South Korean disc jockey and music-maker Deejay Soda shared on Instagram, two days ago, with 4.3 million of her followers (in two separate posts) that she was booted out of a flight from New York to Los Angeles. She wrote—not quite effervescently—in English (as well as Korean) that American Airlines “kicked (her) off the flight and harassed (her) to take off (her) sponsored @RIPNDIP ‘F**K YOU’ sweatpants in front of people to board again.” The DJ, whose passport registered Hwang So-hee, is currently in the US on part of her coast-to-coast Starlight Tour. According to her, the airline staff told her that the free sweatpants she wore were “inappropriate“ and “offensive”. At some point, she stood “half-naked” in the presence of others.

As she said, the bottom in question was sponsored by Ripndip, an Orlando-born skate brand, available here at Well Bred. In black cotton, the S$125 sweatpants has a white, all-over print of basically two words: “fuck you” in full caps, with a foxy feline-looking creature peeking out of some of the ‘O’s. While the bottom was sponsored, it isn’t known if she was given that particular pair to wear or if she chose it. Nor do we know if she was required to wear it onboard as part of the deal or if it was entirely her choice. Ms Hwang was in fact rather covered up, sporting the brand’s black ‘Nebulan’ hooded coach jacket under a similarly coloured T-shirt. On her feet were black-and-white Nike Jordan 1 High. This look contrasted dramatically with Ms Hwang’s usual style, as seen on IG and her new music video Cold. Sexy is truly the best, even if inadequate, word to describe her style. Only Siew Pui Yi (aka Ms Puiyi) wears moderately less.

Korean disc jockey Deejay Soda. Photo: deejaysoda/Instagram

If what the the 36-year-old DJ claimed really happened, American Airlines has considerable explaining to do. Even if Ms Hwang’s choice of trousers is “offensive”, is making her “take off (her) pants in front of the whole crew and standing half-naked” while refusing to board her, if true, not “offensive” too (some of her supporters called it “abusive”)? It is, of course, odd that in the US, where free speech is so important and anyone can say anything, including the profanity-as-repeated-pattern on Ms Hwang’s pants, having them printed on one’s garment is more abhorrent than coming out of one’s mouth. Conversely, was the passenger, even with a business class seat that she was sure to note, not aware that what she wore could be objectionable? It was not just two words; they were repeated many times. Or, was she on the same page as Whoopi Goldberg, who wrote in her book Is It Just Me? Or Is It Nuts Out There?: “I would love to teach every kid to say ‘fuck’. That is a word that doesn’t have any effect. But ‘stupid’ and ‘dummy’?”

American Airline may disagree with her on that. According to their Condition of Carriage, the simple term of “bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed” is stipulated. It does not, however, say what makes clothing offensive. But its staff, in making the DJ strip, spoke volumes. Would Ms Hwang’s usual boob-accentuating tops be considered incompatible with the American Airlines’ rules? We do not know. Nor, why Deejay Soda chose, assuming she did, that particular sweatpants. It might work in the dimness of her show venues, but in an airport and an aircraft, would it not draw unwarranted attention and annoy those for whom such blatant display of insouciant insolence is totally repugnant? One thing Whoopie Goldberg wrote is not wrong: It’s nuts out there.

Update (29 April 2022, 09:10): In a statement issued to the media, American Airlines wrote: “During the boarding process for American Airlines Flight 306 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, our team members informed Ms. So-hee of our policies and provided her the opportunity to change out of clothing displaying explicit language. The customer complied with requests and was allowed to continue travel, as planned, to Los Angeles International Airport”. They did not address Ms Hwang’s allegation of harassment

Product photo: Ripndip. Illustration: Just So