Heart Evangelista

ASEAN Celebrities: Then and Now

Stop and think about your friends and family and the people around you. Do you all share the same hobbies? Practically identical interests? I’m sure the answer to those questions is a resounding no. After all, our differences are what makes us human. Imagine how boring it would be if everyone liked the exact same things. 

In this new and modern age we find entertainment in a lot of different places. Some people are huge movie-watchers and are regulars at their local cinema. Others spend their time listening to albums of their favourite singers or exploring the recent top hits. Whatever the form of pastime, we tend to fan over these celebrities who appear on our screens and serenade us through our phones, making them popular figures in the worldwide entertainment industry. 

The Entertainment Industry Then

Traditionally, the entertainment industry is used to refer exclusively to those in showbiz, many of whom actually come from Southeast Asian countries. One such example is Nay Toe, a highly successful actor from Myanmar whose acting abilities have made him a local heartthrob. The well-known drama films Moe Nya Einmet Myu and Bridge of Clouds are only a few of the many movies he has acted in during his career. Another famous artist is Rano Karno. Although he has retired from the show acting business, this sixty-year-old actor still remains a household name in Indonesia. While he has starred in numerous romantic comedies, Karno is most known for his portrayal of Si Doel in the comedic soap opera Si Doel Anak Sekolahan

Furthermore, many ASEAN entertainment artists were only famous nationally and remained relatively unknown in the international community, with a few notable exceptions. Michelle Yeoh, an internationally-acclaimed Malaysian actress, has starred in both Western and Asian blockbuster movies. She was first introduced on the international stage during her role as Wai Lin in the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies. Since then, her stardom has reached astronomical heights with leading roles in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Star Trek: Discovery. She most recently starred in the 2018 romcom Crazy Rich Asians as ice-cold mother Eleanor Young. 

Yeoh is not alone in her fame; long-time Thai actor Tony Jaa is also no stranger to the big screen. His breakthrough movie Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior is filled to the brim with chase scenes and death-defying stunts. The martial arts actor’s determination to do all of his own stunts, and flawless execution thereof, has made him well-known on a global scale.

Tony Jaa Training
Tony Jaa Training (Source: Youtube)

The music industry is also a popular source of entertainment. ASEAN in particular has always been full of talented singers whose voices are capable of evoking emotions and capturing the hearts of thousands. Take the King of Khmer music himself: Sinn Sisamouth. Along with legendary singer Ros Sereysothea, these two artists ruled the music industry and popularised Cambodian rock ‘n’ roll. Another large name in the industry is Tanya Chua, a famous singer-songwriter from Singapore. The Mandopop star’s heart-wrenching performances have earned her the title of three-time Best Mandarin Female Singer at the Golden Melody Awards. And who doesn’t know the singing sensation Siti Nurhaliza? She released her successful debut album at only 15 years old and is currently the most successful Malaysian singer. A self-made woman, Siti has cultivated a devoted fanbase and snared the love of many with her powerful vocals. 

The Entertainment Industry Today

However, in this age of digital distribution, no longer do the music and movie industry reign supreme. Nowadays, celebrities come from social media networks, streaming platforms, and many other different sites. In fact, artists now have to maintain an active social media account in order to ‘make it’ in the industry or simply expand their audience base. Instagram and Youtube are the two main choices when joining the trend of producing content on other platforms. 

Heart Evangelista, otherwise known as her channel name Love Marie, is a multi talented Pinay celebrity who has made headlines for her skills as a luxury bag painter. Not only that, Evangelista is an actress turned influencer. She started acting at a young age in shows such as Hiram and Legacy. Nowadays, she’s most active on her Youtube channel which has a growing fanbase of 2 million subscribers. Whether it’s travel vlogs of her trip to the 2020 Paris Fashion Week, a twenty minute tour of her impressive closet, or even chatty ‘get ready with me’ vlogs for a weekend date with husband Francis Escudero, Evangelista’s content receives millions of views. Furthermore, with over 7 million followers on Instagram, this real life Crazy Rich Asian is the physical embodiment of the modern entertainment industry.

Raffi Ahmad
Raffi Ahmad (Source: Urban Asia)

Many other celebrities are also jumping onto the Youtube bandwagon, especially in Indonesia. Raffi Ahmad is a singer, TV presenter, actor, and now Youtube star. His channel Rans Entertainment which he runs with influencer wife Nagita Slavina has over 19 million subscribers, making Raffi a role model for budding influencers all over the country. Their recent content series called Rans the World which showcases the family’s exciting adventures while travelling to numerous countries was hugely popular and received positive feedback from their fans. 

Other Southeast Asian content creators have also gained fame through Youtube. Indonesian celebrity Atta Halilintar (26.2 million subscribers) became the first Southeast Asian to receive a Diamond Play button, with Laotian Bigyai Seehalad and Thai youtuber Kaykai Salaider having large numbers of subscribers as well. They are capturing the attention of thousands by regularly posting outrageous pranks, reactions, and other random fun videos. 

With the definition of an entertainment artist having morphed and shifted over the decades, these days creativity knows no boundaries. Many of those from the traditional section of the industry are discovering the benefits of joining social media. For one, Asian talent is rapidly becoming internationally recognised, making their countries proud on the world stage. Thus, whether we’re watching them on the big screen or streaming their videos on Youtube, it is clear that us consumers are simply spoilt for choice in terms of entertainment. 

Written By

Siti Mahsadinar Zams. 

Mahsa is a content writer for ASEAN Youth Organisation. Although born and raised in Indonesia, Mahsa is currently studying International Relations at Tokyo International University. She loves to travel and learn new languages. You can usually find her sipping an unhealthy amount of iced green tea lattes, reading a book, or debating politics.  

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