Singer-actor Alvin Chong today denied he was grooming a 17-year-old TikTok user he had been criticized for appearing in videos with since July.
The 29-year-old clarified this at a press conference held at the Universal Music Malaysia studios this afternoon, adding that the pair had been meeting regularly in recent months to work on a professional collaboration. That collaboration has since foiled amid the controversy, which blew out of proportion this week after his latest TikTok video called out to netizens for “judging” the duo over their 12-year age gap.
The teenager is known on TikTok as “Athalia” and is the daughter of noughties singer Sharifah Zarina.
“I am shocked that people would accuse me of such things, even when they don’t know me,” the TV actor, flanked by Athalia and her mother, told reporters today. Chong and Athalia were meant to appear in a music video together for an undisclosed brand.
“The brand, which we cannot reveal, has dropped the collaboration due to the controversy,” Chong said, later adding: “I’m glad that people care about child grooming, but the sad part is, the accusations are not true.”
Chong also pledged to raise awareness about child grooming in Malaysia, where those under 18 years of age are considered a minor. He also said that he would be more mindful about taking on projects involving minors.
“Usually, if anything controversial happens, I will just be quiet, but not this time because it involves a 17-year-old student, whom I consider as my friend. I worry about the repercussions she will face, and people have been cyberbullying her on social media,” he said. “I will definitely think twice before collaborating with anyone under the age of eighteen again.”
Athalia did not comment much at the press conference other than describing online reactions as “pathetic,” but her mother said that she has a very close relationship with her daughter and is always up to date with the teenager’s whereabouts.
“Athalia tells me everything. We’re like best friends, I fetch her to all her work engagements after school, even on that day when she was seen out with Alvin, so I know they’re working together,” she said.
The TikTok video went up on Athalia’s account on Sunday and drew hundreds of hateful comments criticizing Chong for hanging out with a 17-year-old.
Captions in the video had said: “You think you can hurt our feelings? People judge us because of our age gap.”
Neither Chong nor Sharifah commented on them at today’s press conference.
Other stories to check out:
This article, ‘I am shocked’: Alvin Chong denies grooming underage TikTok user, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.