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‘Brownface’ controversy: Actor Dennis Chew says he’s ‘deeply sorry’ for role in e-payment ad

SINGAPORE — Actor Dennis Chew said that he is “deeply sorry” for his role in a controversial advertisement for electronic payments provider Nets, in which he played four different characters including a Malay woman wearing a tudung (headdress) and an Indian man with “browned” skin.

Mediacorp artiste Dennis Chew has taken to Instagram to apologise for his role in an allegedly racist advertisement, saying he feels "terrible about how things turned out".

Mediacorp artiste Dennis Chew has taken to Instagram to apologise for his role in an allegedly racist advertisement, saying he feels "terrible about how things turned out".

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SINGAPORE — Actor Dennis Chew said that he is “deeply sorry” for his role in a controversial advertisement for electronic payments provider Nets, in which he played four different characters including a Malay woman wearing a tudung (headdress) and an Indian man with “browned” skin. 

“My role in a recent ad has caused much disappointment,” the Mediacorp actor said in an Instagram post on Wednesday evening (Aug 7). “For many days I held back what I have to say, afraid of making things worse. I feel terrible about how things turned out.

“I cannot undo things but I would like to say to everyone, I am deeply sorry.”

“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,” Mr Chew added. 

The advertisement was produced for Singapore electronic payments provider Nets, which had engaged Havas Worldwide as its creative agency for a publicity campaign for E-Pay. Havas, in turn, engaged Mr Chew, who is with Mediacorp’s celebrity management arm The Celebrity Agency, to front the campaign.

The advertisement drew some flak from online users, but the controversy took a life of its own when siblings Preeti Nair and Subhas Nair posted on Facebook a three-minute long expletive-laden rap video on July 29 directed at the ad. 

The video showed the siblings taking turns to criticise the ad for its alleged racial stereotypes and the use of "brownface".

The video was taken down on July 30 and the police are investigating it.

The video, as well as the advertisement, have both been roundly criticised by government and community leaders, including Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam.

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