Sunday 17 March 2013

Why didn’t we know about Joanne Peh’s break-up sooner?

I once overheard a conversation between two foreigners in Singapore.

No, wait. The word “foreigners” makes me sound xenophobic. I’ll rephrase.

I once overheard a conversation between two people.

Aiyah, that doesn’t work because it doesn’t provide the context for my anecdote – but let's move on.

One person asked the other: “What do you think of the quality of journalism in Singapore?”

The other person replied: “What journalism?”

Then they laughed like it’s the funniest thing in the world.

As a Singaporean quasi-journalist, I was offended by the joke but said nothing to object, even though I often wish I did.

Now, years later, I realise those two foreigners – I mean, people were right:

There is no journalism in Singapore.

And it’s not because Singapore has dropped from 135 last year to 149 in the latest World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders. (Reporters Without Borders should check out Kinokuniya.)

There is no journalism in Singapore because Joanne Peh and Bobby Tonelli have split for “a while” and we found out about it only last week!

I mean, when Gurmit Singh’s wife gave birth to their third child last month, I saw pictures of the newborn two days later on Instagram.

I also know it was a four-hour natural birth with no epidural.

Privacy? What privacy? More like TMI.

I even know Gurmit just bought an Audi S5 to replace his infamous Lambo.

Crazy COE prices? What crazy COE prices?

I also follow Peh on Instagram and Twitter, but there was never any hint of her break-up with Tonelli.

This is the woman whose tweet in 2011 complaining about being charged $3.90 for hot water at the Nando’s restaurant in Tanglin Mall was heard around Singapore and beyond.

Within a week after her tweet, the skies opened up and heavy rain caused flooding in Tanglin Mall.

Yes, her tweets can control the weather.

And yet no tweets about the storm in her love life.

So like journalism, social media has also let me down.

We know Peh and Tonelli have split only because an 8 Days magazine reporter happened to walk in on a conversation between Peh and stylist David Gan about furniture.

Asked if she was shopping for furniture because she and Tonelli were getting married, Peh said: “We’ve actually not been together for … a while.”

We don’t even know how long “a while” is.

Where’s the journalism? What happened to the fourth estate?

And it’s not as if Peh and Tonelli had been hiding from the media.

She starred in Channel 8 drama C.L.I.F. 2 which just ended on Friday and he was nominated last month for a Pesta Perdana award for his villainous role in the Suria drama, Munah And Hirzi: Action.

They were probably the highest-profile unmarried celebrity couple in Singapore apart from Jia Jia and Liang Teh and we happened to find out about their break-up only because of David Gan’s interior design expertise?

Where’s Woodward and Bernstein when we need them?

It seems I can no longer trust my local celebrity break-up news to be up to date.

What other local celebrity couples have called it quits that we don’t know about?

Fann Wong and Christopher Lee? Xiang Yun and Edmund Chen? Pierre Png and Andrea De Cruz? Glenn Ong and Jean Danker? Mark Richmond and Beatrice Chia-Richmond? Ken Lim and his ego? I haven’t heard much about those two giant pandas from China lately.

They all seem perfectly happy, but so did Peh and Tonelli. Is it possible that they're all just faking it?

Peh admitted as much, telling 8 Days: “The truth is, I’m tired of pretending everything is okay when it isn’t.”

And she did such a good job pretending that we had no idea. She’s a better actress than we thought.

Peh is, of course, not the first MediaCorp actress to break up with a foreign beau. Sharon Au split with her French boyfriend last year. Carole Lin divorced her French husband a few years ago.

And based on the “I ‘heart’ my Italian boyfriend” T-shirt that Peh wore on a TV game show two years ago, I’m guessing that Tonelli is of Italian descent although he’s from the US.

Do I see some sort of continental pattern here? I’m sensing an anti-foreigner sentiment of a different kind.

Maybe now local guys can have a chance with the actress. Like the “Punk Boy” at last month’s Hong Lim Park protest who held up the sign that read “Singapore for Singaporeans”.

To improve your chances even more, Peh also told 8 Days that she knows what kind of guy she doesn’t want now – “someone too good-looking”.

Stop the presses! I expect to be updated promptly on what ugly guy Peh dates next.

Maybe I’ll just start hanging around David Gan.

Who needs journalism?

- Published in The New Paper, 17 March 2013

UPDATE: My Joanne Peh break-up column is a triple threat online

UGLY UPDATE: Joanne Peh finds love with Qi Yuwu

COLUMN: Is she really going out with him?