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#trending: 'Charles & Keith teen' is new AirAsia ambassador. Netizens say she's living the dream but some question appointment

SINGAPORE — After sparking a debate on luxury over an S$80 Charles & Keith bag earlier this year, TikTok user Zoe Gabriel has collaborated with brands ranging from Singapore fashion label The Tinsel Rack to dental startup Zenyum. And now, the teenager is creating content for low-cost carrier AirAsia.

Teenaged content creator Zoe Gabriel (left), who went viral for calling an S$80 Charles & Keith bag a "luxury", is now a brand ambassador for AirAsia (centre in right photo), with the airline debuting her in several videos recently.

Teenaged content creator Zoe Gabriel (left), who went viral for calling an S$80 Charles & Keith bag a "luxury", is now a brand ambassador for AirAsia (centre in right photo), with the airline debuting her in several videos recently.

  • After going viral for calling an S$80 Charles & Keith bag a "luxury", 17-year-old Zoe Gabriel has had a few brand collaborations 
  • The latest was low-cost carrier AirAsia, which unveiled its latest project with the teenager, who appears to be its new brand ambassador 
  • Most social media users expressed excitement and happiness for her
  • Some remained critical, calling her an "opportunist" and a "sellout"

SINGAPORE — After sparking a debate on luxury over an S$80 Charles & Keith bag earlier this year, TikTok user Zoe Gabriel has collaborated with brands ranging from Singapore fashion label The Tinsel Rack to dental startup Zenyum. And now, the teenager is creating content for low-cost carrier AirAsia.

In a video posted to AirAsia's TikTok page last Friday (March 17), the 17-year-old is seen dressed in the airline's signature red cabin crew uniform, dancing to Boy's A Liar Pt 2 by PinkPantheress and Ice Spice.

The video has garnered 1.1 million views and 530 comments so far.

@flyairasia Dare to dream with @zoe 🦋 ♬ original sound - smokinaftereat

Another TikTok video posted by AirAsia Super App refers to Zoe as its "newest AirAsia Ride ambassadress", while a video posted by Zoe herself catalogues a trip to Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur with her family, presumably sponsored by the airline.

In the video, Zoe tries the in-flight meals, meets AirAsia's pilots and shows how to use the AirAsia Ride mobile application.

Response from social media users has mostly been positive, with a majority of the comments on TikTok congratulating her on "living the dream she deserves", praising her humility and expressing how happy they were for her.

One top comment read: "This, people, (is) how life works. Opportunity with a splash of luck. Well-deserved, Zoe."

However, some remained critical of her success, calling her an "opportunist" and a "sellout".

One asked: "(What) exactly did she even do (other) than posting a TikTok (video)?"

Another agreed: "Just shows that working hard is not (a) virtue. Cry online and eventually you get it all."

Many more hit back at the critics, though, with one saying: “Honestly, why (are) people mad she got opportunities?

"If she didn’t get it, do you think you would have? Don’t rain on her parade lol.”

Zoe first went viral with a video of herself unboxing a Charles & Keith bag in January. As it was a gift from her father, she called it her "first luxury bag" — which drew mocking comments from online users about how the brand is neither "famous (nor) expensive".

In a follow-up video, the Filipino teenager tearfully spoke up about her family's humble background, telling the haters: "To you, an S$80 bag may not be a luxury. To me and my family, it is a lot."

Earlier this month, Charles & Keith also unveiled that she was its new "brand community ambassador" in line with International Women's Day, prompting support from online users.

Speaking to TODAY in January, Dr Seshan Ramaswami, an associate professor of marketing education at Singapore Management University, said that he believes Zoe's relatability has made her appealing to people and brands alike.

However, he also warned that too many brands trying to "derive brand image benefits from her story" might come off as "exploitative rather than truly compassionate".

Indeed, the online community has also directed its ire at the budget airline, with one Twitter user stating: "No surprise there. AirAsia is just trying to capitalise on her influence to make more money."

Others took the opportunity to slam AirAsia for its customer service: "Customer service so horrible but got time (to) do such rubbish ah LOL."

In September last year, a paraplegic passenger was forced to crawl across an AirAsia cabin to get to his wheelchair. And in December, a customer claimed that AirAsia's cabin crew had forced her and her family off an overbooked flight "like criminals".

Still, some of Zoe's supporters have said that they will now fly AirAsia and welcome the opportunities that it has given her. 

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