PM Lee’s official visit to the US

VIPs, celebrities attend state dinner

From far left: Former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly; actress Keri Russell and actor Matthew Rhys; author Amy Tan and her husband, Mr Louis DeMattei; as well as Mrs Joy Balakrishnan, wife of Foreign Minister V
Mrs Lee, Mrs Obama, PM Lee and Mr Obama before they headed for the state dinner at the White House. The state dinner honoured 50 years of diplomatic ties between the United States and Singapore.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
From far left: Former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly; actress Keri Russell and actor Matthew Rhys; author Amy Tan and her husband, Mr Louis DeMattei; as well as Mrs Joy Balakrishnan, wife of Foreign Minister V
American singer-songwriter Chrisette Michele entertaining guests at the State Dining Room, where PM Lee and Mrs Lee had front-row seats. She opened her segment with the song Be OK. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
From far left: Former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly; actress Keri Russell and actor Matthew Rhys; author Amy Tan and her husband, Mr Louis DeMattei; as well as Mrs Joy Balakrishnan, wife of Foreign Minister V
Former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly (above); actress Keri Russell and actor Matthew Rhys d; author Amy Tan and her husband, Mr Louis DeMattei; as well as Mrs Joy Balakrishnan, wife of Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, arriving for the state dinner. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ALPHONSUS CHERN
From far left: Former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly; actress Keri Russell and actor Matthew Rhys; author Amy Tan and her husband, Mr Louis DeMattei; as well as Mrs Joy Balakrishnan, wife of Foreign Minister V
Former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly; actress Keri Russell and actor Matthew Rhys d (above); author Amy Tan and her husband, Mr Louis DeMattei; as well as Mrs Joy Balakrishnan, wife of Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, arriving for the state dinner. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ALPHONSUS CHERN ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
From far left: Former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly; actress Keri Russell and actor Matthew Rhys; author Amy Tan and her husband, Mr Louis DeMattei; as well as Mrs Joy Balakrishnan, wife of Foreign Minister V
Former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly; actress Keri Russell and actor Matthew Rhys d; author Amy Tan and her husband, Mr Louis DeMattei (above); as well as Mrs Joy Balakrishnan, wife of Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, arriving for the state dinner. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ALPHONSUS CHERN ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
From far left: Former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly; actress Keri Russell and actor Matthew Rhys; author Amy Tan and her husband, Mr Louis DeMattei; as well as Mrs Joy Balakrishnan, wife of Foreign Minister V
Former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Captain Mark Kelly; actress Keri Russell and actor Matthew Rhys d; author Amy Tan and her husband, Mr Louis DeMattei; as well as Mrs Joy Balakrishnan, wife of Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (above), arriving for the state dinner. PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ALPHONSUS CHERN ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Some 200 guests present; attention paid to detail of room design, with musical entertainment rounding off the night

It was a glitzy affair attended by not just political and corporate bigwigs, but also actress Keri Russell and actor Matthew Rhys, as well as Amy Tan, author of best-selling novel Joy Luck Club.

The state dinner, honouring 50 years of diplomatic relations between the United States and Singapore, began with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mrs Lee arriving in a black limousine at the North Portico of the White House, where they were received by US President Barack Obama and Mrs Michelle Obama.

The men wore black tuxedos while the women were a picture of elegance - Mrs Lee in a gold and red kebaya matched with a red shawl, and Mrs Obama in a strapless ivory-coloured dress by Brandon Maxwell, singer Lady Gaga's fashion director.

As the Marine Corps band struck up a tune, the two couples descended the grand staircase of the White House, pausing briefly at the foot of the stairs for official photographs before heading off to dinner.

Close to 200 guests packed the East Room where dinner was held and which was decorated with yellow orchids and roses, a symbol of the friendship between the US and Singapore.

Flickering candles and a large spray of flowers adorned a feature wall, forming a grand backdrop for the head table, where PM Lee and Mrs Lee were seated.

Much attention was paid to detail as the yellow flower motif was used throughout the room, from the pattern of the table cloth to the projected lighting design on the ceiling.

Midway through dinner, violinists entered the room and played the tune of popular Malay folk song Di Tanjong Katong, prompting many to whip out their cameras to capture the moment. Among them was Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, who posted the video on his Instagram account.

Mr Lee's Facebook page also offered a 360-degree look at the state dinner, just as he was raising a toast and the cameras were clicking incessantly.

More musical entertainment rounded up the night as the guests filed into the State Dining Room, where chairs were tightly packed.

Mr and Mrs Lee had front-row seats as American singer-songwriter Chrisette Michele opened her segment with the song Be OK.

As guests bobbed to the music, the 16th president of the US, Abraham Lincoln, observed the proceedings from his portrait on the wall. Touching his chin in what must have been conceived as a pensive posture, he looked quizzically at the immaculately dressed guests gathered before him, before the evening drew to a close.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2016, with the headline 'VIPs, celebrities attend state dinner'. Print Edition | Subscribe