S'pore pop star: Having same name as infamous China blogger made my life hell
For close to three years, netizens called her names. Some even used vulgarities on her.
Singaporean singer Jocie Kok aso had more than half of her gigs cancelled as many did not want anything to do with her.
All because the 32-year-old was mistaken for someone else. Netizens had confused Kok, whose Chinese name is Guo Meimei, with Chinese blogger Guo Meimei Baby.
Blogger Guo, 23, whose real name is Guo Meiling, ruffled feathers when she showed off her posh cars and branded bags online in 2011.
Her name became synonymous with China's nouveau riche who shamelessly flaunt their wealth.
CLEAR HER NAME
It was only when Ms Guo was arrested for illegal gambling in July, that Kok could clear her name.
In a phone interview with The New Paper, Kok, who has been based in China and Taiwan for the past eight years, shared how she suffered netizens' verbal abuse in silence.
The doe-eyed singer said she first found out about Ms Guo when she suddenly received a barrage of hate mail and nasty messages on her Weibo account.
"Not many people followed my Weibo account. But one day, my followers surged by the thousands," Kok said in Mandarin.
Wrote a netizen: "Serves you right for being investigated, (expletive). See if you can continue flaunting your wealth, haha."
Said another: "Do you know what is the meaning of being shameless?"
It was then that she found out Ms Guo had made headlines for claiming to be linked to humanitarian organisation Red Cross Society of China (RCSC).
As Ms Guo was fond of showing off, the public had thought their donations went to fund her extravagant lifestyle.
She later admitted on national TV after her arrest that she had fabricated her affiliation with RCSC out of vanity.
"I like to show off... I have the vain mindset of a little girl," she had said.
Kok initially thought the brouhaha would die down. After all, the two of them were different in more ways than one.
But things spiralled out of control.
Kok's manager Zhai Min, a Chinese national, started receiving anonymous messages on her mobile phone telling the singer to "behave properly".
Concerned relatives in Singapore also made frantic calls to Kok's mother when they read about Ms Guo.
"It was a very trying period," Kok said.
She had an even tougher battle to fight. During the same period when Ms Guo made the news, Kok was hospitalised for suspected endometrial cancer (cancer that begins in the uterus).
And her contract with record label Warner Music had recently expired.
"I really wanted to give up. I thought it wasn't worth trying any more if people could still misunderstand me after singing for so many years," said the singer, who first made waves in 2005 with her two singles, Mice Love Rice and Don't Be Afraid.
But when medical tests later revealed the diagnosis was wrong - she had a benign cyst in her womb - Kok took it as a sign to continue her singing career.
"I also felt that life was too short and precious. I need to do the things I want," said Kok, who had dreamt of becoming a singer from the time she was five.
She then signed a contract with record label IME Productions, which tried to help her clarify matters by issuing statements online.
But the controversies Ms Guo was embroiled in kept overshadowing them. People continued to mistake her for the Chinese national.
As a result, she was kicked off the list of many shows and events.
"At one particular event, we were so close to signing a contract when the organisers said they didn't want me to be a part of it any more.
"Even when they knew it was a case of mistaken identity, they didn't want to risk a bad turnout because of my name," she said.
Ms Zhai, Kok's manager, estimated that she lost 60 per cent of her gigs during that period.
The plans to release Kok's fourth album last year were also shelved for the same reason.
Ms Zhai said she had never seen Kok, who usually has a sunny disposition, so dejected.
"It was so difficult, just waiting every day, hoping I could release my album soon. I was very disheartened," Kok said.
What frustrated her more was that the controversies surrounding Ms Guo negated the positive and healthy image Kok had been trying to project ever since entering show business in 2005.
"I have always believed that singers are also role models. I could very well stir up some trouble and make the news for the wrong reasons.
"But I wanted to be known for my determination and passion for singing," she said.
When asked if she had considered changing her name, Kok gave a flat "no".
"I didn't do anything wrong. Why should I change it? If anything, (Ms Guo) should be the one to do it," she said.
She then shared with TNP how her mother came up with her name after visiting a fortune-teller.
"The fortune-teller said I should have the character 'mei' (Chinese for beautiful) in my name, or I would grow up ugly.
"My mother ended up putting two of the same characters in my name," she said.
After waiting for more than a year, Kok took a gamble and prepared for the launch of her new album, with the support of her record label. She successfully made a comeback on Sept 3.
Coincidentally, it was during the same time that Ms Guo was arrested for illegal gambling, clearing up a huge part of the confusion.
"I feel like Singapore's representative.
"I had to go around a lot introducing myself as Singapore's Guo Meimei," she said with a laugh.
"Even when they knew it was a case of mistaken identity, they didn't want to risk a bad turnout because of my name."
- Jocie Kok, on an incident where she lost a contract due to her sharing the same name as blogger Guo Meimei Baby
HOW TO SPOT THE DIFFERENCE (ACCORDING TO KOK)
- She has a better figure... ...she is better endowed
- She is younger than I am... ...by almost 10 years
- She drives luxury cars... ...I ride bicycles
- She is from China... ...I am from Singapore
The 32-year-old Singaporean is better known by her Chinese name Guo Meimei in China, where she is based.
The home-grown singer first shot to fame in 2005 with her two singles, Mice Love Rice (above) and Don't Be Afraid, while hiding behind a caricature.
The following year in Taiwan, she revealed who she was with her debut album No More Panic.
Media outlets then speculated that Kok was groomed to replace her former record label's top artist Stefanie Sun.
Kok bagged many newcomer awards with the album, including the Most Promising New Artist Award (Taiwan) at the third annual Music King Final Award.
Earlier this month, the petite singer released her fourth album.
The blogger, 23, who goes by the online name Guo Meimei Baby, gained notoriety in 2011 when she bragged about her posh cars - a white Maserati and her boyfriend's orange Lamborghini - and her imported Hermes handbags.
The Chinese national also claimed to be managing an organisation under the Red Cross Society of China.
The scandal dealt a blow to the state-run humanitarian organisation's reputation, causing a huge drop in donations due to concerns over embezzlement of funds.
Ms Guo, whose real name is Guo Meiling, would regularly post updates, like her account balance of 5,137,869,875 yuan (S$1,061,088,206).
Rumours were rife that she had worked as a call girl to get her wealth.
Then, in an attempt to get back into the limelight, Ms Guo faked reports of herself incurring a 260 million yuan gambling debt in Macau.
In July, she was arrested for participating in gambling during the World Cup and organising other gambling activities. Her last post on her Weibo account was on July 7.