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I just want to be myself: Dennis Chew

Dennis Chew wants to step out of his cross-dressing shadow. -TNP

Mon, Jan 23, 2012
The New Paper

FOR the last three years, Dennis Chew has been over-shadowed by a "woman" who earns more money and has more supporters than him.

But in the future, the 38-year-old Y.E.S 93.3FM radio DJ-actor-host hopes he will shine brighter than his popular alter ego Aunty Lucy.

"I want to be myself and not have to cross-dress. I want to have a programme where more people will recognise me for me," Chew told The New Paper earlier this week at the press conference for his new movie, Dance Dance Dragon, which is showing here.

But it looks like he can't get rid of her so soon.

In the local comedy, he plays a spinster named Lucy, who is not related to Aunty Lucy but is very much similar in mannerisms and looks.

After getting dumped by her Indian boyfriend (also played by Chew), she finds a new love interest in a gambling addict chef (Adrian Pang), who ends up falling for her sister (Kym Ng).

It must be ego-bruising that Chew has been in showbiz for 25 years but has achieved only a fraction of the fame, fortune and fervent fandom that Aunty Lucy enjoys.

The MediaCorp artiste revealed: "Aunty Lucy earns double my monthly salary (as a radio DJ) in just one appearance, even after MediaCorp has taken a cut."

He earns a four-figure monthly salary, while Aunty Lucy can receive up to a five-figure sum for one appearance, depending on the duration.

In a bad month, she gets around two shows and in a good month, at least six. It's not that Chew lacks talent or opportunities.

Apart from starring in local movies like The Ghosts Must Be Crazy in 2010 and hosting Channel 8's satirical variety show Black Rose that same year, he also wrote the script for the 2009 movie The Wedding Game.

He released his debut solo album in 2005 and performed in last year's 881 - The Musical. Chew said: "I have staunch followers of my radio shows, and there are people who like me for my TV shows, but Aunty Lucy has more fans."

Facebook fans

An Aunty Lucy Facebook fanpage has close to 48,000 likes, while a Dennis Chew Facebook fanpage has more than 1,800 likes.

Aunty Lucy, with her trademark curly hair, hair-tossing and flirty giggles, was created as a character in the 2009 Channel 8 variety show Paris And Milan.

Since then, she had a movie - Aunties United - specially made for her, has appeared at award shows and roadshows as a special guest, and hosted the Channel 5 variety show Small & Beautiful last year.

The character has also endorsed massage chairs, cooking oil, jewellery, detergent, furniture, a slimming centre and a steamboat restaurant.

On the other hand, Chew's only endorsement was a health supplement six years ago.

"A few days ago, I went to a road show as Aunty Lucy. When I left, around 30 people of different ages followed me for a distance and were reluctant to see me go.

"Immediately after the event, I went to another road show as myself but no one followed me around," said Chew with a loud chortle.

He doesn't understand why the public sees him and Aunty Lucy as different people.

He told Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao last November: "Once, I dressed up as Aunty Lucy at home before leaving for a show, and my family members told me, 'Wah, this is the first time I'm seeing Aunty Lucy in person!'

"I thought that was really strange. Don't they see me every day?"

But Chew doesn't envy Aunty Lucy "because her money is my money!" he said, breaking into laughter again.

"Dennis Chew cannot complain because Aunty Lucy works really hard for her money. She has to wear a bra, heels, wig and spectacles and sit like a lady," he said.

"She's my goddess. Without her, I wouldn't be able to pay my debts (when my bridal shop business failed in 2007), or go to far-off places for holidays once or twice a year."

In 2010, he told The New Paper he could afford luxury bags and Blythe collector dolls that cost a total of $16,000 because of the extra income he earned playing Aunty Lucy.

But the public might be getting sick of her.

In a poll conducted by Chinese radio station Radio 100.3 last year on the celebrity that listeners do not want to see anymore, Aunty Lucy came in second - with 13 per cent of listeners complaining that Chew is always cross-dressing.

MediaCorp actress Joanne Peh topped the poll with 16 per cent of listeners who feel she's pretentious and acts badly. He joked: "There's a saying that for every person that hates you, there are another 10 people who love you. So Joanne and I shouldn't have to worry."

He added that people often come up to him to say they like Aunty Lucy and miss seeing her around.

Chew hopes the fictional character will never be killed off as Aunty Lucy has not attempted a sitcom or a musical.

Added Chew: "I hope I will get more programmes to host. But I remember who has been good to me.

"Perhaps I could be me 70 per cent of the time and Aunty Lucy the remaining time."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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