YouTuber Preetipls, whose real name is Preeti Nair, and her brother Subhas said on Saturday (Aug 3) they “unconditionally apologise for the tone, aggression, vulgarities, and gestures” used in a controversial rap video they created to criticise a NETS E-Pay advertisement.
“We have apologised but we understand that more needs to be said and done,” the siblings said in a statement posted on Facebook.
“People are offended and we sincerely apologise for it. If we could do it again, we would change the manner in which we approached the issue, and would have worded out thoughts better,” they said.
Their statement – the second this week – comes a day after the Ministry of Home Affairs criticised their original statement on Friday as “a mock, insincere apology” spoofing an earlier apology issued by Havas Worldwide for the e-payment ad.
In the e-pay ad, actor and deejay Dennis Chew, who is Chinese, was dressed up as four characters, including a Malay woman and an Indian man. To portray these characters, Chew’s skin was made up to look darker.
The siblings said on Saturday that their video – which was laced with profanity, targeting the Chinese – was “born from a place of frustration and pain” as they felt that there “weren’t enough safeguards” for the way minorities are portrayed in the national media.
“We only wanted to spark a conversation and get corporations to stop painting people brown to portray a minority and instead simply hire a brown person because brownface is extremely offensive,” they said.
“We must, as a nation, have space for people to express themselves; however, at the same time, it is our responsibility as artists, to carry that message in a way that honours the issue and does not hurt people,” they said.
“We want to continue to participate in the ongoing national discussion, but to do so responsibly. It has been a difficult time, but a silver lining is that brownface will probably never happen again in Singapore.”
Both the ad and the rap video have been criticised for being offensive and distasteful.
NETS engaged Havas Worldwide as its creative agency for the publicity campaign for its e-payment app E-Pay. Havas then engaged Mediacorp’s celebrity management arm, The Celebrity Agency, to cast Chew as the face of the campaign.
In response to the backlash, NETS, Havas and The Celebrity Agency have apologised for “any hurt” caused.
Mr and Ms Nair said on Aug 2 that they had also said that they were “sorry for any hurt” caused by the video, but their statement closely followed the wording of a statement by Havas, first issued last Saturday.
On Friday evening, MHA issued a release criticising their statement a “spoofing” and “a pretence of an apology”, and pointed out that the rap video “is not the first time Ms and Mr Nair have expressed racist sentiments”.
In Ms and Mr Nair’s statement on Saturday, they said that their other works were meant to highlight societal issues, and could be misinterpreted if taken out of context.
They thanked their supporters and “everyone who has participated in a civil discussion on this issue”, and said there were many takeaways from the experience.
“While our work did bring about a discussion about race in Singapore, we know it did not create divisions. If anything, it revealed them,” said the siblings, adding that they will always represent the underrepresented in Singapore, “regardless of race”.
“However, we must not allow the discussion to solely be about race and we must appreciate the intersectionality of various issues.”
The siblings then reiterated their apology for the hurt caused: “We are sorry”.
Ms Nair concluded by calling for members of the public to stop reposting the music video, as she said she was asked by the police to do so.