The New Paper
Jun 19, 2015
Former local actress-host Sharon Au made headlines recently for making insensitive remarks during the SEA Games opening ceremony pre-show, which she hosted at the National Stadium two weeks ago.
She was accused of putting on a strong Indian accent to mock a young Indian girl sitting in the stands and she received flak from Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalist Bhavan Jaipragas, who detailed the incident in a Facebook post and called for an apology from Au.
Au issued a public apology the next morning on her personal Facebook page. The 40-year-old feels that the incident taught her "a lot about humility".
In an interview with The New Paper yesterday, Au, who is busy with rehearsals for The LKY Musical, said: "We have to be responsible for what we have done. It was definitely not an easy time.
"A lot of mistakes are made unintentionally, but they cannot be used as an excuse. I have to accept responsibility for the consequences as a result of being insensitive. I think I was trying to be funny, or trying to create an environment to make someone more relaxed, but I caused some people to be unhappy."
In The LKY Musical, Au plays Madam Kwa Geok Choo, the wife of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew (to be played by Adrian Pang) and his companion of more than 63 years.
The musical, which opens here next month, traces Mr Lee's life from his early days at Raffles College to the founding of independent Singapore.
Au feels that the lessons learnt from the SEA Games saga have also helped her prepare for the role of Mrs Lee.
She said: "Mrs Lee must have gone through experiences and events that were a hundred times more difficult for her and her family, and many times in her life, she had to put aside her ego and her pride and look at things for the greater good."
She added: "It was good training for me. I call it character building. I am glad that I am given an opportunity to learn and start over. The support given to me after I apologised was tremendous and showed me the humanity of society where people accept mistakes and give second chances."
She recalled a similar incident that happened to her when she was studying in Lyon, France, in 2009.
She was walking on the streets of Lyon with her French classmates when some French strangers tried to communicate with her and spoke to her in Mandarin with an exaggerated Chinese accent.
"My classmates found it offensive and were very angry. They almost got into a fight," Au said. "I didn't take it that hard, but when the SEA Games incident happened, I was reminded of this. I was, like, 'Oh my God', I want to apologise and I have to apologise."
Au said she took extra care to "rein it in" when she hosted the SEA Games closing ceremony on Tuesday. She also received criticism online for screaming and shouting while hosting the opening ceremony.
She said: "I was definitely more cautious with my words and actions. I am glad that the episode is over."
With the incident behind her, the TV personality is going full steam ahead with The LKY Musical rehearsals, which started earlier this month.
Besides watching footage of Mrs Lee, building up her stamina with breathing exercises and going for vocal training, Au is also trying to don outfits which are "less girlish, but more conservative and mature" to "get close to the aura that Mrs Lee exudes".
She said: "It's a lot of mental work of trying to get into the psyche of being an Asian icon, an Asian wife, this extraordinary intelligent woman who happens to be the pillar of strength for Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Mentally, I've been trying to achieve a paradigm shift, where I take things more seriously and less lightly."
Au describes herself as someone who is vivacious and flamboyant, adding: "I like to crack stupid jokes that aren't even funny. So it's difficult to make the mental shift. I am everything that Mrs Lee is not. Now, I need to have that firm mental control in everything I do."
FYI WHAT: The LKY Musical
WHERE: MasterCard Theatre, Marina Bay Sands
WHEN: July 21 to Aug 16, various timings
TICKETS: $58 to $150 from Sistic (sistic.com.sg or 6348-5555)
This article was first published on June 19, 2015.
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