Image: JEREMY LONG, YOUTUBE.COM/E! ASIA
Pink hair, make-up, a face that has been enhanced with plastic surgery.
On the surface, Wendy Cheng looks like any number of local social influencers. But not just anyone gets a reality TV show on E! Asia.
The 32-year-old, best known by her online nickname Xiaxue, has her unbridled – and often controversy-stirring – honesty to thank for her latest TV gig. The woman behind the Singtel and Gushcloud online smear campaign expose in 2015 and last year’s blog war with Facebook parody page SMRT Ltd (Feedback) laments the current crop of social media influencers who seem to be all about pretty pictures.
“In the past, there was less competition, but people had to put in more effort – they must have the ability to be able to write, take good pictures and post (on the blog) consistently,” said Cheng. “Nowadays, it’s very easy to just take off all your clothes and show your cleavage on Instagram. But at the same time, there’s a lot of competition, in terms of, ‘Are your boobs nicer than the other girl’s boobs?'”
Chests may not be on display on Cheng’s new reality show, but botox is. Wendy Vs The World, a one-off special, airs next Tuesday at 10pm on E! (Singtel TV Ch 328 and StarHub Ch 441). On the show, Cheng is filmed getting a botox injection on her face, even bringing her mother along for the procedure. It is the sort of no-holds-barred personal sharing that Cheng has built her brand on.
Some of the top posts on her blog, which she started in 2003, include a 2005 entry condemning a disabled man for scolding an able-bodied man for using a toilet for the disabled; a 2007 entry about the top seven most disgusting bloggers in Singapore where she also included herself; and a 2011 entry that claimed aspiring US comedian Peter Coffin had created his own online Japanese girlfriend, which he later denied.
When Cheng first started blogging, the local scene was filled with bloggers like Singapore’s mrbrown and Malaysia’s cheeserland. She said: “One of the Nuffnang bosses, Tim (Timothy Tiah), was telling me how from the start, the blogosphere was actually very intellectual, people used to talk about a lot of heavy topics such as politics. (But) in between, girls started to take videos and pictures of themselves… but yet at the same time, they still had opinions on things and would write articles in proper English.
“Next came the wave of really stupid bloggers… whose (command of) English are all terrible. And now, people don’t really blog, they just post pictures (accompanied with) captions of emojis.”
While Cheng has also shifted to more visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, she is still the blogger to beat when it comes to drawing eyeballs to certain issues.
The Gushcloud saga, for instance, started in 2014, but in March last year, Cheng blew the whistle on Singtel and the social media marketing company for briefing influencers to start a smear campaign against other local telcos.
Singtel and Gushcloud later apologised for the negative campaign. The Infocomm Development Authority also issued Singtel a “stern warning”.
When she is not stirring up controversy, you can still find Cheng making pointed jokes about other personalities, local or otherwise. She hosts her own web series, Xiaxue’s Guide To Life, on clicknetwork.tv since 2007. In 2006, she also co-hosted TV series Girls Out Loud with radio DJ Rosalyn Lee on Mediacorp’s Channel 5.
Cheng said: “I wish social media stars now would have more of a sense of humour because I find that it’s harder and harder to find someone who is funny.
“Most of the time, if someone is famous now, it’s because they take nice pictures and put a lot of effort into it. Of course, that’s hard work as well, but sometimes I do want to read (blog posts).” Cheng is “waiting for the day” when another social media star takes her spot at the top. She said: “I’m quite surprised that it has yet to happen, but I think if it happens, (then) it happens.
“Definitely, I think one day it (will happen), I’ll see what I’ll do in my desperation.”
For someone who has put most of her life on social media, local blogger Wendy Cheng is shocked at how children are making use of the various social media platforms these days.
Cheng told The New Paper: “Nowadays, you see kids from the ages of nine or 10 leaving really nasty comments on Instagram… like, are you kidding me? It’s ridiculous!
“Once, I saw the Facebook profile of this girl who was insulting me, and I clicked on her profile and realised that she was probably only 10 years old. I scrolled through her profile and saw a photo of her wearing a camisole top and it was very revealing and inappropriate.”
Cheng said she was so appalled she sent a private message to the girl’s parents on Facebook. “(I sent them a message saying), ‘What are you doing? Look at your child’s inappropriate photos online.'” Cheng said she has also come across, on Instagram, an 11-year-old boy who posted “disgusting” and inappropriate comments on other people’s accounts.
What will she do when her three-year-old son Dashiel is old enough to run his own social media accounts? Dash, as his mother calls him, already features heavily on Cheng’s social media accounts, and is also featured in her clicknetwork series and her new E! Asia show.
She said: “By the time he’s nine or 10, I (aim to) still be Internet-savvy and be able to monitor his movements on Instagram (or other platforms).
“I will make sure he’s not leaving inappropriate comments like that 11-year-old boy. It’s every parent’s nightmare (if his or her kid does that).” Cheng, who married American Mike Sayre in 2010, said she and her husband are not planning to have a second child now, although she is open to the idea of having another one in the future.
She said: “I think it would be good for Dash to have a companion because being a single child is very stressful. Mike is actually happy with just having one kid because (he says) it’s very expensive and stressful (to have another one).”
But if the child is a girl, Cheng said she may not be featured on her social media accounts as much as Dash is. “I think (if my next child is a girl), I will have to be more careful (about posting photos of her online). “For Dash, I didn’t mind posting photos of him in the bathtub when he was younger, as long as his genitals (could) not be seen.
“But for a girl, (I will) probably (not post) topless photos.”