I feel terrible: Dennis Chew apologises for e-pay 'brownface' advertisement

Dennis Chew apologised in an Instagram post on Aug 7, 2019, for the advertisement which caused controversy for allegedly being racially insensitive. PHOTO: DENNIS CHEW/INSTAGRAM

SINGAPORE - Actor and DJ Dennis Chew apologised on Wednesday (Aug 7) for an e-pay "brownface" advertisement which caused controversy for being racially insensitive.

The advertisement featured the ethnic Chinese actor as four characters, including a Malay woman in a tudung and an Indian man with visibly darkened skin.

In an Instagram post at 7pm, Mr Chew said: "My role in a recent ad has caused much disappointment. For many days I held back what I have to say, afraid of making things worse. I feel terrible about how things turned out."

Mr Chew, who said he "could not undo things", went on to apologise in the post.

"We live in a harmonious multiracial society and we must never take it for granted. I will set higher expectations of myself. I will do better by my family, friends, colleagues and most importantly, all of you," he said.

The ad was widely shared online and drew polarised opinions for its representation of racial minorities in Singapore.

A tweet from the account of Ms Ruby Thiagarajan, editor-in-chief of Mynah Magazine, an annual publication, slammed the ad on July 26.

The tweet, which captured a picture of the ad, read: "Brownface in a Singaporean ad in 2019. I thought we already went over this..."

The ad was also the subject of a controversial rap video posted on Facebook and YouTube on July 29 by local YouTuber Preeti Nair and her brother, rapper Subhas Nair.

The video, which contained offensive language, was made in response to the ad.

The clip was taken down from Facebook and other social media channels after a police report was lodged against it.

Mr Chew's post comes after several apologies on the incident, including those by e-payment firm Nets and creative agency Havas Worldwide Singapore.

The Nair siblings also published two apologies after the backlash against their video.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam has said the video "crosses the line" and is unacceptable.

"When you use four-letter words, vulgar language, attack another race, put it out in public, we have to draw the line and say 'not acceptable'," he said.

Mr Shanmugam also said the Nair siblings had every right to discuss racism, but the manner in which they did so was wrong.

"We want to build a cohesive society, but racism corrodes and deepens the fault lines in society. We do a lot to counter it, and we have set out what we do," he added.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.