Benjamin Kheng says sorry for controversial photo

Sam Willows singer Benjamin Kheng had posed in a magazine photo shoot like he was aiming a gun at himself.

This got some irate netizens firing back at him over his perceived indifference towards suicide.

On Wednesday, Kheng, 29, apologised on Facebook, revealing that a rock star-themed photo shoot with Men's Folio magazine required him to portray Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain.

Kheng was given "a picture reference to follow - Kurt smoking a cigarette in a gun posture".

While he had some reservations, he went ahead, adding "I wrongly recalled that he died of natural cause".

But Kheng said that even if he was mistaken, that was not an excuse since "this pose would still be considered offensive".

Cobain shot himself in 1994 at age 27.

Kheng, who is also an actor, said he was totally responsible for the lapse in judgment since he was guest editor of the magazine issue and had the "authority and opportunity" before the publishing date to change course.

"Some of you have rightfully pointed out the offensiveness of this image. I'm deeply sorry. The blame is on me for this mistake, and not on Men's Folio, which at numerous junctures allowed me the opportunity to review the issue.

"Suicide is not a commodity to be glamorised and should never be painted in a trivial and tokenistic light. My apologies to Samaritans of Singapore, of which I've been a spokesman for (in the past), and anyone else going through depression of any degree."

His apology has drawn praise from netizens who applaud his stand to take responsibility for his acts.

Besides Cobain, Kheng, who was one of the artists featured in this year's National Day Parade theme song Our Singapore, also posed as Elvis Presley and David Bowie.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2019, with the headline 'Benjamin Kheng says sorry for controversial photo'. Print Edition | Subscribe