by Ngoc Bich
How rich she is!" is the common exclamation that most people had when surfing the internet and confronted by the news that Ly Nha Ky, Viet Nam's former tourism ambassador, ordered a dress from Channel worth nearly VND2 billion (US$100,000) and that she will be the sole owner of the dress design.
It would not have drawn much public attention if Vietnamese singer My Le hadn't been reported by a local paper to have criticised the former ambassador as a show-off.
My Le said Ky should not have flaunted the price of the dress, given that the country was experiencing a gloomy economic situation and many Vietnamese people were struggling to earn a living.
Several people had similar opinions, but others disagreed.
Nguyen Thanh Phuong, a lecturer at the Foreign Trade University, said Ky should not be blamed for being wealthy if she could earn the money and her business did not violate the law and regulations.
However, she should have known that she is a person in the public eye and she should have been more careful what she said and did, because whether her action was intentional or not, it would certainly have an influence on other people.
The cost of the dress was equal to what a low-income person could earn during his/her whole life and equal to the price of two social houses, Phuong said.
It would be better if the funds had been invested to help poor people, she added.
A friend of mine said: "I have not paid much attention to her because I hardly see Vietnamese films and I have not seen a film that she acts in. But recently, when several online papers posted news about her pricey dresses and clothes, I started remembering her name."
He said US actors often show off the expensive clothes they bought from famous designers in award ceremonies and they became popular thanks to their performances and contributions.
"I am sure that many foreign famous artists also spend hundreds and even thousands of dollar to buy brand name clothing but never say their prices out loud."
Their fame and popularity was a result of their contributions to the show business industry, rather than advertising the clothes they wore, he said.
For her part, Ky told reporters that stylish and unique clothes and accessories she bought were artistic works.
She bought artistic garments because she admired their beauty and wanted to share information of the designs with other people. She didn't do it to show off.
Nguyen Thu Van, a second-year student of the Academy of Journalism and Communication, said the popular mass media was partly to blame.
That section of the media was "always trying to increase its viewers by triggering their curiosity. I don't want to judge anybody because I think everyone has their own taste. People can buy whatever they want if they can afford it.
"Looking on the bright side, I don't think Ky's action was wrong. On the contrary, her action somehow has helped advertise the country's image."
Van said that to some extent, people had to change their point of view. In the past, when Viet Nam was an extremely poor country after going through two resistance wars, wealthy Vietnamese people didn't dare buy expensive things because they feared being criticised,
But Viet Nam had moved up to a lower-middle-income country with a rising per capita income and was attracting foreign investors. If such investors only saw images of poor people in Viet Nam, would they be confident that their investment in the country would generate wealth?
In fact, she said, one of the reasons why the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism appointed Ly Nha Ky to the position of the country's first tourism ambassador was that she had a strong financial capacity and ability to call for foreign investment.
Van said that personally she did not care what Ky wore but as an actress in Vietnamese show business she should focus more on professional activities and avoid scandals. Otherwise, she could fall out of favour with the public. — VNS