Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Politics a tough act to follow for showbiz stars

They may be good on-screen, but politics demands a whole new different act.

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Politics and the entertainment industry have one thing in common: they produce celebrities.

Some of them wade over, usually from entertainment to politics and not the other way round. Those who have are either more successful as politicians or fail miserably.

Perhaps the best known Hollywood star who made it in politics was the late Ronald Reagan. The US president who served throughout the 1980s was an actor before he took on the world’s most powerful job.

More recently, Arnold Schwarzenegger served eight years as California governor, at a time when he was better known for his roles in films such as “Terminator” and “Total Recall”.

But despite their immense influence in popular culture, celebrities are not always able to replicate their success in politics.

Billionaire rapper and producer Kanye West, one of the most notable icons in the contemporary US hip hop scene, discovered this when he got just 0.04% of the total votes in the recent US presidential election.

In Malaysia, there has been very little success for those in the entertainment industry seeking fame in politics.

Singers Aishah, Herman Tino, Dayangku Intan and TV host Azwan Ali will testify to this, having found out that their fame was no guarantee of victory in the elections they contested.

“If you are a real politician, you are basically on call 24/7.”

Political analyst James Chin said while celebrities are able to maintain their popularity among existing fans and followers, a different skill set is needed for those seeking to turn politician.

“Politicians must be able to engage with people on a different level, unlike a TV personality who doesn’t really need to engage with the public,” Chin, from the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute, told MalaysiaNow.

Unlike a TV celebrity, he added, a politician is “on call” throughout the day.

“They are not used to that, and also being a celebrity means that you can actually take time off, you are not a celebrity 24 hours a day, unlike politicians.

“If you are a real politician, you are basically on call 24/7,” said Chin.

Popular singers Dayangku Intan and Aishah found out that their fame in the entertainment industry was no guarantee of success in politics.

In 2011, singer Wan Aishah Wan Ariffin, better known as Aishah, famously joined PAS in what was seen as a good catch for the Islamist party in its attempt to break out of its conservative vote bank.

But two years later, she lost the election in her home state of Negeri Sembilan.

A similar fate met Herman Tino, famous for his Malay numbers, who was defeated in Tanjung Karang, and Dayangku Intan, who stood as a PKR candidate but lost to Barisan Nasional’s Azalina Othman Said with only 13% of the total votes.

In 2018, sibling rivalry led the brother of Mohamed Azmin Ali, the PKR deputy president at the time, to challenge him in the Bukit Antarabangsa state seat in Selangor. But TV host Azwan Ali was knocked out.

Artistes’ association Seniman attributes the flop of celebrities in the political arena to a lack of funds and an ignorance of politics.

Seniman president Rozaidi Jamil told MalaysiaNow that entertainers who want to be involved in politics should be able to tackle issues beyond their own problems in the show business.

He sees no fault in some celebrities still harbouring hope of making it big in politics.

But he warns: “The failure of artistes who went into politics can be a lesson to others.”

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