Debate over skimpy outfits worn on stage fails to impress artists
Singer Thu Minh (L) and singer-actress Minh Hang are the latest celebrities to attract criticism for wearing skimpy clothes on stage
"It is painful that we are here just to talk about artists' underwear."
Meritorious Artist Le Chuc, former deputy director of the Performing Arts Department, was among senior officials, artists and others attending an online conference held by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism on May 18.
The topic was skimpy attires worn by local artists on stage that have offended sensibilities among many members of the public.
"Not only music and fashion shows, dramas have been invaded by sex, bedroom scenes replacing horror scenes that were famous some years ago," Chuc said.
Vo Trong Nam, deputy director of HCMC's Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, said the department had, in the first five months of this year, fined 11 singers and models for their violations on stage, including wearing scantily clad and lip-syncing, in comparison with eight cases last year.
Among those fined are Ha Anh, Bebe Pham, Ngoc Quyen, Minh Hang, Quynh Nga, Thanh Hang and Thu Minh. Singer Thu Minh was the latest case in which a fine of VND3.5 million (US$170) was slapped for wearing skimpy clothes that exposed her breasts in a music show titled Ngan sao hoi tu (Convergence of a thousand stars) held in Ho Chi Minh City on April 20.
In a decision issued May 14, the city's Department announced the fine for "wearing inappropriate clothing offensive to Vietnamese tradition and customs."
The fine followed public criticism as well as a report sent on May 3 by the Department of Performance Arts under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, asking the city to punish the singer.
Model Thai Ha was fined VND5 million for wearing a bra that revealed half of her breasts at a party in Ho Chi Minh City last February
Minh was fined and the show's organizer, the Thanh Thao Production Company, received a warning from the department. The same day, the department fined organizers of the Elle Spring Summer 2012 Fashion Show for allowing model Thanh Hang as the event's vedette to smoke while wearing a dress by designer Do Manh Cuong on April 8.
Vuong Duy Bien, director of Performing Arts Department under the ministry, said: "The punishment is not strict enough and the number of the cases does not stop here."
Meritorious Artist singer Thanh Thuy, said the offences were being repeated because the fines were too little to act as a deterrent.
Bien called for tougher measures and heavier punishment, not only in fines, but also banning violators from performing both at home and abroad for three to six months.
Musician The Hien suggested at the conference that violators are sent to reform institutions or asked to social work as penance.
Show organizers that break rules should not be issued performing licenses, Bien said.
Le Ngoc Cuong, the department's former director, agreed with his successor. "We should fine the organizers, because without them the singers themselves can not arrange the show."
Cuong, who revealed that when he was the department's director, he was once offered VND2 million (US$96) to sign a performing permit, said that there is also a need to prevent corruption among local officials and administrators in the field.
Singer Thuy Tien in a brief outfit at a show to ring in the last New Year in Hanoi
The conference's participants included Minister Hoang Tuan Anh, other top officials, show organizers, and representatives of local media, but the violators were absent.
"We invited them, but they refused to attend," Bien said.
Minister Anh said the conference would be in vain if the violators were not part of the discussion. In addition to fines, "we need to meet, talk and educate them."
Singer Thanh Thuy, deputy director of Military Zone 7 Art Troupe, recalled the case of a famous local singer who had proclaimed to the local media that beautiful, sexy bodies should be showed to public. She said the singer "didn't wear underwear" and exposed her tattoos while performing in front of soldiers in the Truong Sa (Spratlys) Islands.
Thuy had also confronted singer Thu Minh asking why she wore a scanty black and white jumpsuit to perform at the Mai Vang Awards Ceremony last year. "Minh told me that the suit suits her voice," recalled Thuy.
According to Tran Thanh Long, director of the PL Model Agency, only 20 to 30 percent of Vietnamese models graduated from high school and had higher educational qualifications. Most of them are from poor families, he said.
"They want to earn more and more money as soon as possible, and they believe that the more they reveal their bodies, the sooner they can gain fame and money."
People's Artist Le Ngoc Cuong blamed this on the fact that because most Vietnamese are of small stature, those who are tall enough, but have only finished primary school, could become a model.
Thuy noted that artists who are "loyal to the ao dai (national, traditional dress of Vietnamese women) are not as big names as "those who wear sexy clothes or nothing on stage."
Leading designer Nguyen Cong Tri noted: "I not only make clothes, but often give advice to artists on how to combine accessories properly, but the artists, like customers, have their own opinion and want to play the role of a designer themselves. However, their creativity sometimes offends others."
Tri said violations and violators are promoted by the media who expect to sell more copies with sensational articles and photographs.
"Many reporters sit on the ground with their cameras trained high, aiming at the thigh or lower parts of the performers. There's no doubt that such "offensive photos" are created from such angles," said the designer.
Thu Minh's manager told a local publication that it was not the first time Minh was wearing the dress that has attracted so much attention. She has worn it many times on live shows that have been broadcast, he said.
"I am not going to say if the suit was beautiful or ugly because different people have different points of view."
"It is just an accident, caused by photographers. For me, the artists never want to be seen as ugly by their fans. They want to be beautiful on stage."
Thu Minh herself was defiant. In separate interviews with the media, she said: "I don't care about the fine or the decree (planned to impose heavier fines on indecent exposure). I will wear sexy clothes on stage because it is compatible with my music and because I feel comfortable wearing it while performing."
"Being sexy on stage is a world trend nowadays," she added.