Miss Caitanya Tan was a newly minted graduate just starting out on a career as an actress, and the 23-year-old was excited at the prospect of attending the fifth Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong in 2011.
She attended the awards ceremony with friends and took it all in, going wide-eyed over the actors and actresses and soaking in the atmosphere as the fans raised decibel levels outside the venue, cheering their favourites on.
She also had a surreal encounter with Harvey Weinstein.
The big-name film producer and co-founder of The Weinstein Company, which recently sacked him, has been dominating the headlines recently after a number of actresses, led by Ashley Judd and including A-listers like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, exposed him for being a sexual predator.
Various reports have emerged of how he lured actresses to his hotel room where he asked for massages, or even masturbated in front of them. Some actresses have also alleged that the Hollywood bigwig raped them, including Asia Argento.
Miss Tan – who has found fame after starring in the Mediacorp television drama Tanglin – told us that she met Weinstein, a keynote speaker at the event, on the red carpet.
The 30-year-old said: “When we saw this limousine pull up and he stepped out, my friend said he was an American superstar producer who made so many big Hollywood movies.”
Her group went to take photos with Weinstein, who graciously obliged. Once done, they went their separate ways, but Miss Tan recounted how Weinstein then doubled back and catching her eye, asked: “Hey, are you an actress?”
Miss Tan, who at the time had a leading role in a stage production at Hong Kong Disneyland, acknowledged that she was.
She was excited at any prospect of working with a big-time Hollywood producer, but that did not last.
“Then he asked me: ‘I have a couple of scripts with me, would you like to come to my room to read them?’ I thought that was really creepy,” she recalled.
Miss Tan declined.
She said: “As he walked away, he asked me, ‘Do you know who I am? Do you know I can make you very famous?’
“I was shocked and stood my ground.”
Miss Tan and her friends then parted ways with Weinstein and his entourage, and she didn’t think much of it until the recent bombshell allegations about his untoward behaviour.
In light of the mounting allegations and increasing number of women speaking out against him, Miss Tan decided to share her own experience on social media and also talk about it on The Pride, a website associated with the Singapore Kindness Movement.
“I’m not a victim because nothing happened, but the reason I shared it is because I think it’s important to report and speak out about it,” she said.
“Everyone’s experience is important and I’m more vocal than I’ve ever been about sexism.
“That kind of behaviour is simply unacceptable.”
Actress Ase Wang says men such as disgraced Hollywood studio head Harvey Weinstein are “just the tip of the iceberg”.
Her own brush with Weinstein happened when she and a few other actresses were invited to dinner with the powerful film executive during his visit to Thailand.
But it was another encounter with a Hollywood player that had real consequences for the career of the 35-year-old Singaporean.
Some years ago – she declines to tell The Straits Times the date or location, except to say that it happened in Asia – a team from Los Angeles came to the region to cast a movie.
“He had the capacity to make your career,” she says of the director.
Despite the presence of her manager, a woman, in the room, he asked her what kind of men she preferred to date, then propositioned her by saying that she “should try white guys”.
She did not respond to what was clearly an advance and was not picked for the movie.
She is angry at how she was viewed as not much more than a sex object.
“At that point, all the practice you put into the script has gone to sh**. All that work, crushed in two seconds,” says Wang, a graduate of the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute of New York.
She appeared in the Hollywood movie Prince And Me 4 (2010) as well as in Thai films such as the drama Shambala (2012) and the horror work The Rooms (2014).
She was also a judge on reality television show Supermodelme (2014).
The Weinstein scandal continues to rock the industry after an expose in The New York Times published earlier this month detailed three decades of his alleged sexual misconduct.
More than 30 actresses, including Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Daryl Hannah, Rose McGowan and Annabella Sciorra, have accused him of assault and rape.
Weinstein has been sacked from The Weinstein Company, which he founded, and the police in Los Angeles, New York and London have opened investigations on him.
In 2010, Wang and a handful of others were invited to dinner with the movie mogul when he was in Thailand on a business trip.
“Within five minutes, I knew I made a mistake. He was loud and obnoxious. He knows he has a lot of power and it is obvious by the way he talks to people,” she says.
She thought the dinner would give her the chance to rub shoulders with the best in the business, but felt insulted by how she and the other actresses at the table were treated as not much more than “a meat show” for the boss.
She declined an offer to continue the party with Weinstein in an upstairs suite.
Men such as Weinstein, who treat women as disposable objects, are rampant, says Wang, who is due to appear in upcoming Toggle show Intercept.
“Along with the glitz and the glamour, there’s a lot of bad… There are plenty of Harveys out there and it’s all coming out now,” she says.
Actress Vanessa Ann Vanderstraaten, 29, has been in show business for eight years and there is one meeting with a producer she would rather forget.
“He began making remarks that made me very uncomfortable. He said I should do anything I had to do in order to succeed as an actress,” says the artist, who has been seen in local television shows such as Spouse For House and who had a recurring role in Netflix’s Marco Polo (2014).
“He asked me what I would do for a part in a big movie and I told him I would not sleep with someone for it. He asked me, ‘Why not?'”
The meetings began innocently, with others present. But over time, “it was one-on-one meetings at one in the morning”, she says.
When the producer began pestering her sexually, she was glad she had brought along her boyfriend, who was waiting outside.
She did not talk about the incident until much later. “I was embarrassed. I thought, ‘Oh god, how could I have been so stupid?'” she says. She had thought of herself as a savvy person and was angry at herself for being in a vulnerable place for the sake of a job offer.
Host Anita Kapoor, 46, relates incidents such as the time when a technician on set talked openly about her breasts and lifted her skirt when changing batteries on a microphone she was using. She made a complaint, but it was “hushed up”.
Most of the time, everyone is mindful of boundaries, but such incidents can occur nonetheless, says Kapoor, who has hosted shows on Discovery, TLC and Channel NewsAsia, among others.
Sara Ann Krishnamoorthy
Host and model Sara Ann Krishnamoorthy, who is known professionally as Sara Ann K, talks about a deeply unsettling encounter when she was 22 and new to modelling.
A photographer coerced her into taking off her top during a shoot and used physical force to do so.
“I had worked with him on a shoot, so I knew him,” says the 38-year-old. In a blog post written years after the incident, she says her mind was “a complete blank” because of the violence of his speech – he berated her for being “unprofessional” in refusing to show her breasts.
She kept her pain a secret until recently because she feared being labelled an attention-seeker.
“When people think you are an attention-seeker, they call your credibility into question,” she says.
Model Vivien Ong-Patenaude, 25, confirms that she and other models can be under intense pressure to reveal more of their bodies than they are comfortable with doing.
The Singapore-born winner of the 2010 The New Paper New Face modelling competition says the psychological pressure on models who refuse to strip is especially intense in Europe, and she speaks about a time in Paris when a photographer bullied her into removing her top.
She was 19 at the time and there were other women in the room, such as hairstylists and make-up artists, who gave her no support.
Ms Ong-Patenaude, who has been based in New York since 2013, says that in Singapore, the worst form of humiliation she has encountered happens during catwalk shows. “Backstage, everyone is expected to change by the racks. They don’t separate the male and female models.”
That disregard for a model’s right to privacy and to say “no” is rampant in the fashion business because those in power keep the models feeling insecure and disposable. “This behaviour is so normalised. They have a way of making you feel that you cannot do your job well,” she says.
Text: Hariz Baharudin and John Liu/The Straits Times