Langmo a HK phenomenon

‘Langmo’ – term used to identify the wave of teenage models who are self-promoting.  This became popular about a year ago when several Langmo published a pictorial of themselves in various seductive poses.  Despite the lack of content, it became a hit at the last annual Book Fair.  This year’s Book fair opened yesterday to a group of teenagers who burst through the gates to be first to meet the langmo. 

I’ve noticed that compared to Malaysian or Singaporean womena, HK women love taking photos of themselves.  Often times i’ve observed couples on their day out in the park, where the guy would be carrying heavy camera equipment to take shots of the girl in various poses.  The girl pose like a professional and the guy acts as the Director, directing the shoot and light angle.

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Enough is enough

Kisses from cuties won’t be among offers at this year’s Hong Kong Book Fair.

Thomas Yau and Carrie Cheng

Friday, July 02, 2010

Kisses from cuties won’t be among offers at this year’s Hong Kong Book Fair.

Outrage that shapely young women were star attractions in 2009 has led the organizer to ban stunts by langmo (literally, teen models, though many are in their twenties) to promote books that are short on text but heavy on pictures of physical charms bulging from skimpy outfits.

Scenes at the 2009 fair of sizzling book subjects kissing teenage lads and – a memorable standout – of a secondary student grabbing a man-sized bed bolster patterned with a favorite model were hot stuff for the media.  But just as testosterone-rich young males blinked crazily at promo offers, like kisses to go with autographed books, so did advisers for organizers at the Trade Development Council after people kicked up a fuss about last year’s girlie displays.

The view of the advisory panel of professionals from the education, cultural and media sectors was that the fair was on a wrong page by allowing langmo such as Chrissie Chau Sau-na and Angelababy Yeung Wing to be prominent. Fair hijackedOne member of the 13-strong panel, Man Cheuk-fei, chief editor of the Hong Kong Economic Journal Monthly, admits the committee pushed for a ban, though members like himself had not checked the picture books. Instead, they relied on reports about what went on last year. “Half of the media reports on the fair last year were about these teen models,” he grumbles. “The book fair was hijacked by them.”

There was also worry of more startling scenes to come, a new low. “Some of these young models had declared they were planning to go even further in this year’s fair,” Man notes. The panel’s view led to the TDC decision to forbid promo activities by the langmo – often labeled a feather-brained bunch – during the July 22-27 fair at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. At least 12 applications from models and their managers for promo slots this year have been rejected.

“Tasteless” is how Benjamin Chau Kai-Leung, deputy executive director of the TDC, described the promotional gimmicks of 2009.  The fair should be right for everyone in a family, he says, but the models’ antics were not. So after discussions it was decided to bar them.  Expanding on that, a spokesman for the TDC contends: “Many people misunderstood what the fair is about after the press widely reported on the young models last year. We received many complaints from teachers and parents.”  The fair is to promote “healthy reading habits and should be suitable for people of all ages,” he says, and the way the models pushed books last year was at odds with that aim.

So the TDC must consider what impression an activity will have on the fair when reviewing applications for booths or permission to conduct promotions.  The ban on models, he claims, will not lessen the appeal of the fair, which drew a crowd of 900,000 people in 2009. “We do not need these people to boost its popularity.”  One of the langmo who has made it into the big time – even if it’s on racy posters rather than catwalks because she lacks height – is Chrissie Chau, 26.

“I love the book fair,” she says, “and I just want people who buy my books to have a personal touch – my signature.”  So is the ban going to hurt as she counts down to the launch of another book that examines her curves?  “To be frank, I want to thank the TDC. The ban has ensured publicity I could not buy, and the book’s not even published yet.”  Anyway, she says, “I don’t think I am setting a bad example for anyone and I don’t think I’m out of line. I know what I’m doing.”

Two models are trying to have the ban decision reversed, but another of the shapely set is not waiting around to see if they succeed.  Angelababy’s autographing efforts are being switched to Harbour City, though she will send a copy of her new book to the TDC to let organizers see what they could otherwise miss.  There’s nothing indecent about it, she says, but “I just can’t help feeling frustrated. I don’t want to be labeled as part of an unhealthy phenomenon.”  Her manager, Kim Chow, adds: “If the TDC considers Baby to be someone who is taking modeling down an unhealthy path – well, I cannot but take issue with that.  “When people in countries with much tradition and culture behind them, like Japan, put so much store by her, why is the TDC not taking her seriously? They are really ignorant.”  Chrissie Chau’s manager, Roy Kwong Kwai-yiu, argues along similar lines.  “I think what the TDC should be doing is what it was set up to do: help legitimate Hong Kong businesses – not telling them what they can’t do.”

The model-focused books are a perfectly acceptable commercial product, he says, and Chrissie is not involved in an activity that is unsuitably erotic. “Culture changes with time,” he goes on. “Times have changed, and the TDC must accept that fact.  “Hong Kong is not a police state. We are an open market, a world city. But that all goes out of the window when we can’t even accept that services such as this are nothing more than entertainment.”  He also has harsh word for the advisory panel, claiming members pushed to ban langmo from the fair because of what they saw in the entertainment pages of newspapers and magazines.  “I don’t think any parent uses entertainment news to give their children lessons about life.”  Sensationalist gimmicks.  But like client Chrissie, he sees a bonus in the TDC decision: “It came even before we had finished the latest book. That was great.”  Kwong adds that the TDC has not told him or the managers of other models the reason for the ban nor explained what was wrong with the promotions.

But it’s fairly obvious. Indeed, some members of the panel have gone public and complained about sensationalist gimmicks to promote the photo books, saying they are out of line with the theme of the fair.  “Let’s say you are going to a party with a dress code like smart casual,” says Ng Man-yee, head of culture/education and new developments for radio at RTHK. “If you wear a T-shirt and denim, of course you can’t get in.”  Last year’s langmo promos were unsuitable for everyone in the family, she adds, and families make up the bulk of visitors to the fair.  But “we didn’t single out anyone for blame,” she says and points to the fact that the TDC has accepted two appeals by models seeking to overturn the ban.  And just as Ng argues that the acceptance of appeals shows the TDC is being fair, fellow panel member Man argues that the council is not undermining freedom of expression because the model pictorial books have not been banned from the fair.  Fans of the girls see things quite differently and are saying so.  “I think the TDC is banning Chrissie just because it wanted to,” says an aggrieved admirer on her official website. “They are just too sensitive, and I think they have evil thoughts in their minds.”  Another chimes in: “What the hell! I want to swear now … How is it that they are banning people from promoting their books?”

But such views are going to be buried by the weight of opposition, such as 22 parent and teacher groups which have sent messages of support for the TDC action.  Also backing the ban is education- sector lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong, who says it reflects right thinking by the council.  “Langmo may upset order and introduce vulgar elements into the fair,” he says. “The models should be pushing their books in malls.” For the models, the loss of the publicity that the fair can offer is a setback – but not the closing page. Comic book fairs, TV advertisements and the internet provide openings for promoting their pictorial tomes, and for those with more than just looks there are opportunities in film and song. Chrissie Chau, though, is not one of those content to simply wait and see what turns up next.  She looks to her body beautiful and points out: “Everyone changes with age. If I haven’t changed by the time I am 30, then I don’t think I have made any progress.”

 

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