Actor Dennis Chew apologises for 'brownface' ad

Dennis Chew apologised in an Instagram post on Aug 7, 2019, for the advertisement which caused controversy for allegedly being racially insensitive.
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

Actor and DJ Dennis Chew has apologised for his role in the e-pay "brownface" advertisement, which was described as racially insensitive.

The ad 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 yesterday, 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, adding that he "could not undo things", and went on to say: "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."

The ad polarised opinions for its representation of racial minorities in Singapore.

A rap video, by local YouTuber Preeti Nair and her brother, rapper Subhas Nair, posted on Facebook and YouTube on July 29 in response to the ad, contained offensive language. The clip was taken down from Facebook and other social media channels, and a police report was made against it.

Mr Chew's post is the latest in a string of apologies after the two incidents, including those by e-payment firm Nets and creative agency Havas Worldwide Singapore.

 
 

The Nair siblings also apologised for their video.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said the video crossed the line and was 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.

He also said the 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2019, with the headline 'Actor Dennis Chew apologises for 'brownface' ad'. Print Edition | Subscribe