Tainted fame, good publicity

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Local models are choosing to reveal more of their bodies and even posing nude to bolster their fame. But are they considering the consequences?

A photo from a collection featuring Miss Vietnam 2006 Mai Phuong Thuy posing seductively in a white, nearly translucent ao dai (Vietnamese traditional dress)

Vietnamese models seem to have the impression they are in Europe, where public displays of nudity are often acceptable and even considered wholesome.

"In Sweden, nudity is natural. It's not considered sexual. We've grown up with boobies on television. People are topless on the beach," said Swedish actress Marlin Akerman in an interview with the Orange County Register.

But the recent rash of nude or seminude pictorials featuring Vietnamese models and beauty queens turning up online has created a sea of controversy. Many people are none too pleased to see Vietnamese stars going au naturel.

Miss's mistake

Mai Phuong Thuy, Miss Vietnam 2006, grabbed local headlines recently after photos of her posing seductively dressed in a white, nearly translucent ao dai (Vietnamese traditional dress). The collection of 10 photos was shot by photographer Quoc Huy in 2007, when Thuy was only 19-years-old. One of the photos was auctioned to raise money for charity.

After being named Miss Vietnam, Thuy became involved in many charitable causes, fulfilling her social duties as a national beauty queen. The release of Thuy's "nude" photos, in which she is fully clothed, but which certainly reveal the brimming vitality of her womanliness, have shocked the portions of the public who do not appreciate seeing her in a light they find vulgar.

"I cannot recognize my lovely queen. Where did she go, Thuy?" asked one netizen.

The tabloid website phunutoday.vn also posted a letter from an anonymous woman whose family Thuy helped after they were victimized by the collapse of the Can Tho Bridge in 2007.

The woman wrote that Thuy disappointed her, explaining that her children had seen the racy photos.

"I had great appreciation for what she had done for my family. But if the money was raised by the photos which insult the ao dai, I am willing to pay the money back," she wrote.

However, many netizens have commented that they love Thuy's photos, claiming they are artistically tasteful. Others have defended her by arguing that since she was so young when the photos were taken, the mistake should be overlooked.

Amid heavy criticism, Thuy issued an apology to her fans a few days after the photos were leaked.

However, many have dismissed her apology as insincere because she now faces the prospects of having her crown stripped.

15 minutes of fame

Ngoc Trinh acquired the notorious nickname, "Queen of Lingerie," when she refocused her career on modeling undergarments. When her nude photos spread like wildire on the web, her name quickly become one of the hottest online keywords.

Trinh and her manager, Vu Khac Tiep, have denied it is Trinh featured in the spread, but hardly anyone believes their repudiation, speculating that the nude photos are simply part of Tiep's plan to boost Trinh's fame.

Mai Hai Anh, a young model crowned provincial beauty queen of Khanh Hoa, was virtually unknown until recently, when photos of her posing nude a beach surfaced on the Internet. Anh told the press, "Wherever I go, I am still a daughter of the sea and my coastal hometown. Art requires sacrifice and people will understand me as time goes by."

"I cannot see anything that proves her to be a sea-lover. I was shocked when seeing her photos. They are dirty and cheap," said a netizen.

Many models also pose nude for charitable causes like environmental protection or breast cancer.

Diem Kyly, a former model who has been under treatment for throat cancer, wonders how modeling in the nude helps patients.

"Who among the models posing nude for cancer knows anything about cancer?" asked Diem, adding, "There are many more practical ways to help."

"I think the first responsibility belongs to the media," Vuong Duy Bien, head of Performing Art Center (which is under management of Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism,) told VTCNews. "They compete to post these photos, which have a bad influence on the youth. The artists also must take responsibility and so must the photographers."

Bien also claimed that the authorities must manage the media more strictly to prevent them from using the sordid photos to popularize their websites.

"Fines on artists and photographers should be levied if necessary," he said.

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