Omar Borkan Al Gala at a news conference in Ho Chi Minh City on September 11, 2013. Photo: Doc Lap
When a local company invited to Vietnam a United Arab Emirates male model and Vietnamese-origin triplets, famous mostly for their good looks, it raised the hackles of critics who slammed the superficial and skin-deep nature of the show business.
On September 11, Omar Borkan Al Gala, the 25-year-old hunk from Dubai, arrived in Vietnam.
He was welcomed by a group of reporters from tabloid newspapers and young girls claiming to be his fans at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City.
Al Gala became known in Vietnam several months ago after some local online newspapers ran translated news reports saying the man was escorted out of a religious festival in Saudi Arabia after being deemed "too sexy.”
The incident helped him become an Internet sensation and acquire over one million Facebook fans in April.
The The Gioi Gia Dinh Limited Company last month invited him to Vietnam for a series of events, including a charity program and a fashion-cum-music show.
The company also invited Mark Luu, Charles Luu and Lance Luu, the half Chinese half Vietnamese triplets known for their brief roles in the Hollywood blockbuster Pacific Rim, to join the events.
Several days before the arrival of Al Gala, online tabloid websites and newspapers were flooded with news and photographs of the man. Youngsters were excited and eager to meet the man in person. Some bars and night clubs in town tried to attract more customers by cooperating with the events’ organizers to organize shows for him at the bars.
But the main music-fashion show named Ket noi uoc mo (Linking dreams) at HCMC’s Military Zone 7 Stadium on September 13 turned out to be a damp affair, many said.
Thuy Dung, Miss Vietnam in 2008, who was invited to join the show, told the press she was vexed that the organizer treated Al Gala well, but ignored her, prompting her to leave the show before it started.
Dung said she and many other local artists were told to wait in a hot room, while Al Gala had a separate air-conditioned room.
When she asked to enter the room to meet Al Gala, the request was refused.
An auction featuring Al Gala was also disappointment, with a few of his personal items fetching much lower than expected bids.
Some critics said the visit by Al Gala and the Luu triplets to Vietnam and the way it was handled showed that the show business in Vietnam is desperately in need of new ideas.
The fact that some models and actors were invited just because of their physical appearance was a petty act, they said.
Young fans need people from whom they can learn something, not just those who are good looking.
The local media was also blamed for trying to create a “fever” among young fans for Al Gala, while the man in fact did not expect he would be that famous in Vietnam.
The tabloid websites and newspapers did not run stories in which the man has admitted that his claim to have been kicked out of Saudi Arabia for being too sexy is, in fact, not true.
In June, Islawmix, a news outlet focusing on Islamic law, said that Al Gala, and the two other mystery men, were neither deported from Saudi Arabia nor were they kicked out of the heritage and cultural festival.
Instead, the head of the religious police in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Sheikh, said that there were several complaints against Al Gala for dancing inappropriately in the family section of an event.
As a result, he was questioned by members of the National Guard, but he was not asked to leave the festival, let alone the country, Al-Sheikh said.
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By Thuy Hang, Thanh Nien News (The story can be found in the September 20th issue of our print edition, Vietweek)