There were more than a few upsets on Sunday night at the Star Awards, Mediacorp's annual ceremony to celebrate its Chinese-language television.
Actresses Felicia Chin, 36, and Chantelle Ng, 25, were expected to be named among the Top Ten Most Popular Female Artistes, but both did not make the cut. Ng's profile rose after the popularity of recent Channel 8 drama My Star Bride, while Chin would have become an All Time Favourite Artiste if she had won her 10th Top Ten trophy.
Instead, a few new and old faces made it to the Top Ten at the socially distanced show, held at Terminal 4 of Changi Airport as well as Jewel Changi Airport.
Among them were first-time winners Hong Ling and Bonnie Loo, who shed tears of joy as they accepted their trophies.
Hong's boyfriend - actor Nick Teo - also teared up when watching her acceptance speech.
Returning to the category was Ann Kok, in a high-slit dress with a translucent skirt. The 48-year-old, who left Mediacorp in 2014 but continues to act, made it to the Top Ten for the first time since 2013.
In a post-win interview, Loo, 26, said: "I was the last name announced and I was seated next to Felicia. I could feel that she was really sad and I felt a bit embarrassed, like I took her win, but I really hope she can win her trophy next year."
In the acting awards, Zoe Tay beat favourites Rui En and Chin to win Best Actress for My Guardian Angels, in which she played a single mother. This was the 53-year-old actress' fourth win, setting a record for the most wins in the category.
Qi Yuwu, 44, took home Best Actor for his time-travelling role in A Quest To Heal, which was filmed partly in China.
His wife, actress Joanne Peh, leapt to her feet and hugged him when the result was announced.
The drama, which starred Qi and Carrie Wong, also took home Best Drama Serial, Best Supporting Actor for Bryan Wong and Best Theme Song, making it the big winner with four wins out of five nominations.
STAR AWARDS WINNERS
Best Drama Serial - A Quest To Heal
Best Entertainment Programme - King Of Culinary
Best Actor - Qi Yuwu (A Quest To Heal)
Best Actress - Zoe Tay (My Guardian Angels)
Best Supporting Actor - Bryan Wong (A Quest To Heal)
Best Supporting Actress - Kym Ng (Daybreak)
Best Programme Host - Quan Yifeng (Hear U Out)
Best Newcomer - Zhang Zetong (A Jungle Survivor)
Evergreen Artiste - Jin Yinji
Best Radio Programme - The Breakfast Quartet, Love 972
TOP TEN MOST POPULAR MALE ARTISTES
TOP TEN MOST POPULAR FEMALE ARTISTES
Veteran actors also did well at this year's awards. Actress Jin Yinji, 74, took home her second win in the Top Ten Most Popular Female Artiste category and also won the Evergreen Artiste award.
In the Top Ten Most Popular Male Artiste category, radio deejay Marcus Chin, 67, won for the first time. Actor Chen Shucheng, 71, won his second award in the category.
Chin said when accepting the award: "I'm shaking. I never thought I'd win because all these past years, I've been an also-ran."
Chen said: "I'll never give up on myself. I'll prove that old is gold."
Dennis Chew and Zheng Geping both won their 10th award in the category, putting them in line to collect their All Time Favourite Artiste award next year.
As last year's show had to be cancelled because of the pandemic, the Top Ten category, which is decided by audience votes, was expanded from 20 to 30 nominees to account for two years of television. Performance and programme categories had seven nominees instead of five.
The broadcaster also divided stars into separate seating areas for the socially distanced show. Overseas presenters and guests like Hong Kong singer-actress Gigi Leung and Taiwanese talk show host Kevin Tsai made virtual appearances. Stars wore masks except when they were on camera.
Former hosting partners Bryan Wong and Kym Ng, who became household names hosting the 1990s infotainment programme City Beat, took home Best Supporting Actor and Actress respectively.
Wong, 50, said in a post-win interview about focusing on acting in his 40s: "I'm like a millennial in that I also believe 'you only live once'. I used to be a child star, so I feel like if one day I end my career, it should end with acting, so I made the decisive switch."
Ng, 53, added: "This shows that us hosts can act."
The event's host, Quan Yifeng, 47, won the Best Programme Host category for the fourth time in a row, this time for talk show Hear U Out.
Best Newcomer went to Star Search 2019's winner Zhang Zetong. The new Best Radio Programme award, given to coincide with the 85th anniversary of radio broadcasting in Singapore, went to The Breakfast Quartet on Love 972 hosted by Mark Lee, Dennis Chew, Marcus Chin and Chen Biyu.
A significant portion of the event was also dedicated to the sole All Time Favourite Artiste award for host Dasmond Koh.
Koh, 49, made the news in recent days after hinting at an unhappy incident between Elvin Ng and Angel Lim, an actress under Koh's management agency, Noontalk Media.
When asked during a post-win interview if he had seen Elvin Ng at the ceremony, Koh said the two had said hello to each other.
Socially distanced glitz and glamour
This year's Star Awards was a memorable one. In a normal year, journalists would be invited to cover the event in person, in a media room adjoining the main event hall, with a buffet spread and TV sets to watch the awards live. Stars would enter the room after their wins, at which point reporters would rush to interview them and get them to pose and twirl.
But in a pandemic year, nothing was normal. Celebrities sat in separate areas and joked about how they were not to touch one another.
The usually emotional night involved little shaking of hands or hugging - the exception being celebrity married couple Qi Yuwu and Joanne Peh, who embraced when Qi's win was announced.
It was hard to observe the fashion without being there. I would have liked to see Peh's $2 million 81.85 carat Harry Winston necklace, which was draped down her back, up close.
Instead of attending the ceremony, reporters watched the telecast at home, with a Zoom interview link to speak to winners. The sessions were hosted by radio deejay Kenneth Chung Kun Wah.
A question posed repeatedly to the celebrities by reporters had to do with their appearance on screen without masks. Many netizens also asked about this.
Artistes such as Chen Shucheng and Hong Ling, who wore masks or face shields when answering questions in the media room, assured reporters that they took off their masks or face shields only when they were being filmed.
Chen added that artistes were asked to wear masks in the cars that drove them to the Walk Of Fame, taking them off only before alighting to face the cameras.