Fame, shame and the blame game

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Teenagers willing to titillate with skimpy outfits and "˜scandalous' behavior spark debate over corrective measures

   Angela Phuong Trinh sings and pole-dances at a bar in Hanoi on August 22, 2013 wearing a skinny outfit. Photo: Dat Viet

She was pretty, adorable and innocent.

But that seems like a long time ago, although she is just 18.

Now, with somewhat heavy make-up and a rumored nose job, she might still be called pretty by some, but her other qualities have gone out the window.

Angela Phuong Trinh was a promising actress when she was just seven. She acted in around 50 TV serials, and some of her special roles like Diep in Kinh van hoa (Kaleidoscope), little Vi in Mui ngo gai (The scent of coriander) and Uyen Lan in the sitcom Ba me nhi (The little mother) made her a star among young audiences.

When she turned 17, she decided to get a "fresh" start. She began to dress up, wear skimpy bikinis and underwear in photo shoots. She made shocking, erotic statements about herself. She appeared in night clubs and performed at bars. She became a frequent subject of tabloid websites and newspapers.

Early this month, the 18-year-old girl got a wake-up call. The country's Department of Performing Arts ordered all cultural agencies nationwide to stop her from performing on any stage or at any entertainment spots for "violating regulations" and "using inappropriate dresses on stage."

Trinh wore a skinny, beige-colored, underwear-like outfit to reveal all her curves while singing at a bar in Hanoi on August 22. She also gyrated around a pole, like a pole dancer.

Trinh's fall might have generated some schadenfreude among her rivals and relief among those appalled at the overtly sexual actions of the teenage star, but many people have questioned the legality and fairness of the ban.

According to her defenders, Trinh was performing in a bar and it was natural to wear a revealing outfit. They also pointed out that her outfit and performance was less erotic than the outfit of some female DJs and the acts of other dancers there.

For its part, the department simply explained the ban was necessary as Trinh's performance went counter to the country's customs and culture, and would set a bad example for the nation's youth.

Nguyen Dang Chuong, head of the Department, told Dan Viet newspaper that Trinh was banned both for her revealing outfit and her actions.

After the ban, Trinh wrote in a letter sent to some online newspapers that she felt very bad and regretted her actions.

"I have spent many sleepless nights wondering why such bad things in this small showbiz world happened to me, why every move I made was reported by the press and why my family has to put up with my bad reputation," she wrote.

Trinh plays little Vi in Mui ngo gai (The scent of coriander). File photo
"I finally found the answer: I've changed so much.

"If I say I am very sad, broken and stressed, would you believe me?"¦ How many people will think that I'm trying to make another scandal? "

Trinh said she wanted to apologize to her family, friends and fans who have loved her and promised to "make things right."

Trinh also said her life is not "en rose" as many people may think. She said she is not just a pretty doll, she had a family to support.

Fame and money

According to some night club managers, Trinh was among the most-sought after singers there. She was usually paid VND50-60 million (US$2,366-2,840) for each night's performance, they said.

Trinh was an actress of some repute before she embarked on the path that got her into trouble eventually, but for other girls, it appears that the search for fame provokes similar self-promotion.

In recent months, a blogger named Ba Tung, whose real name is Le Thi Huyen Anh, had created a buzz among the nation's netizens.

The 19-year-old girl attained some fame, or notoriety, with her Facebook page in which she posted erotic pictures of herself in bikinis and underwear. She succeeded in attracting millions of page views.

She then appeared at the press conference of a famous singer without being invited and posted photos of herself in the lap of a famous businessman.

Anh told the press she just wanted to be famous and was willing to do anything to enter the show business. Anh said she did what she did as she did not have any particular talent.

But Anh also got the axe. The Department of Performing Arts in August issued a ban against her after an erotic performance at a bar in Ho Chi Minh City.

Fallen teens

Hoang Thuy Linh was in 2007 a leading actress in "Vang Anh's Diary" a popular teen soap opera when she found herself at the center of a storm after a sex tape with her boyfriend was leaked.

Linh, then 19, had been widely loved by teenagers for her role in the TV series that focused on the daily lives of high school students.

When the sex tape went viral on the Internet, she faced a storm of public criticism.

With angry parents calling for her to be fired, national television channel VTV stopped airing the show and producers dropped the series.

Within days, VTV broadcast an interview with Linh, who made a tearful apology to her fans.

The scandal put an end to Linh's once-promising acting career.

Her private life had also been exposed.

However, a year later, Linh returned to the show business as a singer and photo model.

Since 2010, she has remained focused on her singing career and won positive reviews for her singles and albums.

Critics say Linh has recovered from her disaster because she had the right attitude and worked hard to redeem herself.

It remains to be seen if either Trinh or Anh can recover from their bans and rehabilitate themselves in the public eye.

Observers also say that it is too early to say if the ban on teens like Trinh and Anh will have a salutary impact, given the attention-mongering nature of the showbiz industry.

But the bans have re-engaged the debate over what is appropriate attire and behavior for celebrities or those seeking to become famous, and whether the Department of Performing Arts is qualified to be a cultural czar in such matters.

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