Friday, April 2, 2010

And then there were 4 (the 7 Princesses era is over)

With Jesseca Liu quitting showbiz in May, is the whole "Seven Princess" thing passe?

Actress Jesseca Liu has ditched her throne of Caldecott Hill. The 31 hear-old is the third of the famous Seven Princesses to leave showbiz in less than a year.

Fiona Xie, 28, left in July last year while Dawn Yeoh, 23, split in December.

With the royal septet going their separate ways, is the concept of the Seven Princesses- which started in 2007- truly dead?

The seven comprise of Jeanette Aw, Joanne Peh, Rui En, Jesseca Liu, Felicia Chin, Dawn Yeoh and Fiona Xie.

They were the ones to look out for, the stars who were groomed to become the next Ah Jie (Mandarin for big sister) of MediaCorp, like Zoe Tay and Fann Wong.

The term Seven Princesses was first coined by a local Chinese entertainment weekly a few years ago. It was picked up by the media and became widely used.

Peh and Aw said the term was just a convenient and flattering way to classify and to save the people the hassle of saying all seven actressesseven names.

Said Peh, 27: "It doesn't mean that I'm in a different league and that I get special treatment or perks, like my personal make-up artiste."

Neither does she think being a Princess gets her choice roles.

She said, "When it comes to roles, it doesn't boil down to whether you are a Princess or not. It's about your suitability for the role, what you can bring to it, and your schedule availability."

Aw, 30, added, "I don't think I'm in a position to comment on whether I've been groomed by MediaCorp to be an Ah Jie. But I feel that I've been given a lot of opportunities."

In recent years, the actress scored big with two leading roles in blockbuster dramas "The Little Nyonya" and "Together".

But she doesn't think the reigning Ah Jies, Tay and Fann, can be replaced, nor should it be the aim of an up-and-coming actress to do so.

Deos she think any one of the remaining Princesses can be promoted to an Ah Jie?

"It's still too early to tell and it's also not within our control. You can't predict the future," she replied.

But surely there is at least one Princess with the talent worthy enough to be crowned Ah Jie?

Aw laughed, saying, "Whether someone is talented or not is also subjective."

No Influence

MediaCorp drama executive producer Mr Paul Yuen, 45, told The New Paper that he doesn't refer to the seven actresses as Princesses. It was a term used only by the media, he said. He said it has no influence on who he casts in a new drama.

He added, "When I cast a role, I consider the age of the character and select the suitable artistes. Then I consider which artiste pairings would be most refreshing.

But producers will also have their own artiste prefrences because filming is about relationships, chemistry with the artiste and understanding their strengths and weknesses."

The first Princess to give up her throne was Fiona Xie, who ditched he high life to work as a photography assistant in Hong Kong last year.

Then Dawn Yeoh's contract was not renewed when it expired in December.

Jesseca Liu, 31, has also announced her decision to leave Caldecott Hill in May to have a break. She intends to go on a long holiday, tend to her spa business in Malasia, and take up courses to enrich herself.

Among the four who remain, only Peh and Aw have seen their star still shining, thanks to the success of the 2008 drama "The Little Nyonya".

Rui En, 29, and Chin, 25, haven't had a drama that had sent their career launching.

Aw added that she would like to "move on beacuse life is about going through different phases."

"Being one of the Seven Princesses is the first phase. There's no point clinging on to the title if there are no longer seven of us."

New direction

Liu agreed, addig that there should be a "new title", of they should "move forward in a new direction".

Peh added, "I thought it was only a passing phase when the term was first introduced.

"Every actress will grow up and move on to a different career path. I think it's a matter of time when it doesn't hold any meaning anymore. You can only be a Princess for so long."

But are these titles merely a "mould", allowing newer actresses to enter the picture?

Peh believes newcomers should find their own direction and not feel like they have to fill the shoes of another actress.

But Mr Ang Ming Hwa, a senior corresponent for Lianhe Zaobao, who has written extensively about these actresses, believes the dispersing of the Seven Princesses merely reflects the "sad state of the local TV industry".

Said Mr Ang, who has been reporting on TV entertainment for almost 20 years: "Even the current newbies are half-hearted in forging their career. I think it's time the TV stations ask themselves why they aren't able to retain their talents.

"I've written several articles revealing their small pay package, unclear career path and problems problems with the scripts. As long as these problems are not resolved, more artistes may leave.

"So it doesn't matter what titles the media gives them. Let's see how MediaCorp plans to groom the young artistes and whether they have any talent."

Mr Paul Chan, 40, vice-president of branding & promotion for Channel 8, thinks it's time for Peh, Aw, Chin and Rui En to "graduate from being known as Princesses".

He added, "It is a matter of time that the Princesses would outgrow the concept as each gains more experience beyond that 'entry level'."

"I personally feel the existing four are the strongest of the seven and they are already at a level befitting the title of 'New Ah Jies'."

Mr Chan also thinks that any replacement would be compared unfavorably to the original Princess.

Mr Gerald Lee, 48, who directed local movies Aunties United and Love Cuts, said it's common for artistes to "come and go".

"The season of the Seven Princesses is over. There shouldn't be replacements because they are not a band. You shouldn't include actresses in the group just to keep the title."

Singaporean vieweres The New Paper spoke to said the title meant little to them.

Student Willie Wee, 16, said, "I felt it was created just for the sake of it. It means nothing to the public."

Civil servant Gladys Tan, 23, added that she didn't feel the impact of the title because only a few or the princesses appeared to be getting good roles.

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