Western guys are often cast as exotic heartthrobs in Vietnamese pop music videos. Here’s a selection.
Disclaimer: Despite my best intentions and a lot of research, most information here is based on superficial knowledge of the Vietnamese star system and a weak command of the language. Feel free to suggest corrections or add to my selection. I’m sure there are many more videos I missed.
Bảo Thy’s First Lovers
Let’s start with Bảo Thy’s Single Lady, one of her early low-budget attempts at mimicking K-Pop “grrl power” aesthetics. The Westerner in this video is somewhat handsome, although probably not enough to make the cut as Hotboy in any serious Western production.
Bảo Thy also gave us I’m Sorry Babe, where she once again dances in 7-lady formation, this time with more nonsensical English in the chorus (this is an iron rule of K-pop). The cheating, bad bad Hotboy in this video looks a lot like the dude in Single Lady. I guess she likes blond-haired dudes.
Now thanks to Bảo Thy, even more Vietnamese girls are going to call their Western boyfriends “babe”. Sigh. As long as they stay away from the brainless “Bae” we’re getting sometimes.
After she shot that video Bảo Thy kind of gave up on Trai Tây. She kept the English choruses but scrapped the English teachers for genuine Asian models. Recently she made a splash with the low-IQ, high-energy pop anthem Là Con Gái, Phải Xinh or Girls have to be beautiful. Amen.
Anyhow, Western boy or not, she’s come quite a long way since this piece of crap.
Đông Nhi vs. Douche
This is another Vietnamese attempt at mimicking K-Pop, replete again with the 7-dancer triangle formation.
At some point Đông Nhi walks into a local club and makes eye contact with a guy who’s 1) partying while Westerner, 2) standing and dancing, 3) looking to mingle beyond his designated booth.
This is breaking so many rules of the typical Vietnamese club, she can’t even claim artistic licence for this nonsense. She’s trying to merge two totally opposite universes. Dear Western readers, please don’t believe anything you see in this video and stick to the “international” bars that were specifically assigned to you.
Funny thing is I happen to know this guy, and I assure you he’s nowhere near such a douchebag in real life. He’s kind of a local nightlife adventurer though – we once shared a table at Ace Club. I think he just happened to be fucking some semi-famous pop singer and his name popped up when they were looking for a Western Hotboy. He gracefully took some time off his job to help them and play the part, and got fuck all in return (it seems 🖕 is the running modeling fee in the music video business around here).
This was only a tiny incursion for Đông Nhi in the fantasy world of Trai Tây. She’s now back with Asian boys, namely her celebrity boyfriend Ông Cao Thắng who’s featured in recent videos like this one and this one. (Note that in Vietnamese pop music Art and Gossip constantly intersect and feed each other.)
Hồ Ngọc Hà, Queen of Trai Tây
Now considered royalty in pop music, Hồ Ngọc Hà lived a previous life as struggling tabloid fodder; first she was a supermodel, then the mother of Cường Dollar’s child, then the mistress of some other rich guy. People were starting to think she had no true skill besides gold digging. Her previously failed attempts at singing finally lifted off, and this is one of her earliest hits.
As any Vietnamese person over 4 is aware of by now, Hà has mixed French-Vietnamese ancestry. Which naturally brings to mind her association with Western Hotboys.
But Hồ Ngọc Hà’s way too exclusive for the cute English teachers. When she went into Western Hotboy mode (a decisive departure from her past Cường Dollar mode), she got the best there was.
The Western Hotboy in the Destiny video above sports a nose higher than the Eiffel tower, with a car, leather jacket and confidence to match. He’s really a catch. But he was only the appetizer.
That’s when Sebastian Åkerberg Gonzalez came along.
Sebastian first appeared last year in this video among a large group of models, men and women (as part of Hà’s branding as a coach on The Face Vietnam).
I don’t need to be gay to see that Sebastian is something else. The edges on this face. The nose. The smile. The sorry eyebrows. I don’t know anything about this guy (Is he a pro model? What’s he doing in Vietnam anyway?), but I feel they underused his potential here.
Sebastian gave a much more interesting performance in one of Hà’s biggest hits, also released last year:
Here Sebastian plays the ambiguous role of a Western boyfriend who acts like a Vietnamese one.
If you don’t get what I’m talking about, please feast your eyes on his tackling Hà against the wall at 3:08, and his slap on her face at 3:24.
This, my friends, is casual, normal, accepted boyfriend behavior in Vietnam. Most girls around here think that being pushed and slapped around by their boyfriend is a proof of genuine dedication. This time he does it after she catches him cheating; even better!
Again, I don’t know anything about this guy, but the “Å” on his name would suggest he comes from a country where women are not particularly accepting of such behavior. But hey, if local American superstar Kyo York can do blackface on state-owned TV, a nobody like Sebastian Åkerberg Gonzalez can certainly slap Hồ Ngọc Hà as he pleases.
There’s also a short-movie version of the video which further elaborates on the theme of being torn between her power at work and her weakness at home. In that short film we get to hear Sebastian speak Vietnamese, but my instinct tells me he’s not so adept at the language. Just the way he says “Cơm ngon… Nhưng không muốn ăn” is not only a testament to what a jerk he can be to his girl, but also to his not practicing his “không” the required 3,000 times to get it right. That shit takes time and effort! Then again, I don’t think the ladies will complain.
Once Sebastian caught the eye of Hồ Ngọc Hà, the first thing he did was cheat on her with other pop singers. So ungentlemanly of him!
First there was Aí Phương. Although Sebastian only appears at the end of her video at about 3:05 (see above), the general gist is that they love each other very much. Until he starts a romance with yet another pop singer:
In my opinion Khánh My is the hottest of all singers in this post. Yet she still needs the validation of Western men.
After she walks on Sebastian cheating on her, she heads to Chill Sky Bar to revenge-cruise a blond-haired Western guy with the highest nose you’ve ever seen. One glimpse at Sebastian who also happens to be there, and she gets all confused.
Then I get confused as well. At one point she watches Sebastian who’s watching another woman dining with yet another Hotboy or something… And then she’s back to 7-dancer formation for the finale. I’m not sure I understand what’s happening. Except that she fancies Western guys.
Don’t get too excited, though.
Western men are still just one market segment among others. We’re not superior or inferior, we’re just there among other choices. Just look at Bảo Anh’s many music videos featuring handsome Vietnamese men, and that should calm your Western man superiority fantasy right away.
If it’s any consolation, Korean men are nowhere to be seen in Vietnamese pop music videos, which is sad for them considering all the money they’ve been putting on the local “dating” scene lately.