One of the perks of making a run for Asian stardom is getting to breathe the same air as some of the biggest international stars.
As a manager, I’ve learned three things from these encounters : One, rehearse until you’re bleeding. Two, leave no stone unturned. I learned these first two rules under the savage tutelage of the Singaporean team who used to run the MTV Asia Awards. (They were apparently so happy at the results produced by their star “pupil,” they went out and cast a special “Favourite Artist-Philippines” trophy just for me.)
The third rule, however, was the most difficult to learn for this Filipino fangirl : Under no circumstance should you ever acknowledge the presence of any Western icon, no matter how exalted—much less ask for his autograph, and God forbid, a cellphone camera shot. This marks you not just as a “civilian,” but worst of all, a glaring disgrace to the exclusive “Asia First” club.
Velvet robes please, not torn jeans
I learned this rule by observing Asia’s biggest names in the music business, who should know more than a thing or two about building a mythology.
During one awards-show weekend in Singapore, we had all been billeted at the seven-star Fullerton Hotel which had converted one of its palatial morning rooms into a private artists’ lounge. The atmosphere was sheer decadence. There were silver bowls filled with giant strawberries, crystal trays piled high with various delights, and a non-stop champagne bar.
At any given time, there would be a gaggle of stars, from Korn to Avril Lavigne, refugees from the PussyCat Dolls and Destiny’s Child, as well as the season’s musical flavor-of-the-month.
Into this mix would descend the region’s royalty – Malaysia’s Siti Nurhaliza, Korean superstars Se7en (the forerunner of today’s Super Junior) and “Bird” Thongchai McIntyre, Thailand’s equivalent of FPJ, who would be routinely unfazed by this or that megawatt U.S. or European celebrity.
“Bird,” in particular, would be a sight to behold—and a lesson unto himself. One day, he turned up in a floor-length red velvet robe, flocked with gold medallions, and black satin pyjamas, took one look at the American stars in torn jeans and preferred to eat by himself.
Practice your snobbery skills
I was mortified that it was only the Filipino artists (some of whom I had mollycoddled to their own share of stardom) who acted like fans—goo-goo-eyed even for no-name ferenji whose record sales couldn’t hold a candle to their own.
I thought it was glorious to watch the other Asians comfortable in their own skins, and what’s more, turning up their noses at the gringos. And why shouldn’t they? They knew they were bigger stars, outshining any of these gaijin, and recognized them for what they were, dangerous interlopers out to get a slice of the world’s biggest pie, Asia.
I resolved then and there to practice my skills of snobbery with all my Type-A glee the entire trip, never turning my head, always pretending I didn’t hear any friendly greetings.
I even jumped the VIP queue and brushed ahead of a U.S. rock band who shall go unnamed. “Who’s that?” asked the lead vocalist of his handler. “Don’t we know you from somewhere?” he added, calling after me. “Nope, I don’t think so,” I replied haughtily.
Any good rule, however, has its exceptions.
Maintain your cool, even in the face of Ed Norton
Now the other perk of the business is hanging out in luxurious recording studios who have a long list of gweilo clients.
One day, Ed Norton was scheduled to lay-in some lines for an upcoming Dodge Truck commercial for the Super Bowl. He arrived taller and more strapping than he looked in “Fight Club” and “American X,” wearing flip-flops and without an entourage except for his long-time blonde girlfriend.
Why do I know this—even if I had locked myself into the studio bathroom to ensure that I maintained my elan? Easy—I reviewed the CCTV tapes of his goings-on, resenting the fact that the G.R.O.s from the karaoke club down the street, who were screaming their heads off, had a better look at him than me.
Oh, well, old rules do die hard.
Lizza Guerrero Nakpil is the manager of Wolfgang. Her posts appear regularly on Yahoo! Philippines OMG!
Read Lizza’s previous post: Rock star tattoos
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