’03 has appeared on TV and been featured in women’s
stuff Princeton-in-Asia fellow Mark Zee ’03
becomes a celebrity in Singapore
Mark Zee ’03’s Princeton-in-Asia fellowship in Singapore
began like any other in June, 2003. A business lecturer at Ngee
Ann Polytechnic, he led classes on business communications and economics.
A history major at Princeton with a certificate in finance, Zee
considered Princeton-in-Asia the perfect way to learn more about
his Asian heritage. Everything progressed according to plan —
until he started taking the bus.
About four weeks into Zee’s fellowship, a television executive
with Dream Forest Productions stopped him on a bus to ask if he
had ever worked in the entertainment industry. Zee, a swimmer and
an Outdoor Action coordinator at Princeton, had considered acting,
but never had the time to pursue it. Although skeptical, he took
the television executive’s business card, later met for lunch,
and before long got to know several people in the modeling and acting
His first gig was competing in the women’s magazine Cleo’s
50-most-eligible-bachelors contest. After a long night of pageantry
at Zouk, the largest nightclub in Southeast Asia, 50 men were narrowed
down to one. That one was Mark Philip Zee. Cleo spokespeople
had been promoting Mark before the competition by commenting, “Even
if Mark didn’t speak three foreign languages, wasn’t
a top swimmer . . . or Princeton graduate, we’d make him an
E. B. [Eligible Bachelor] simply because of that heart-melting smile.”
After Zee was crowned, the magazine wrote, “This very eligible
business lecturer makes us all wish we were back in school.”
His next endeavor was the reality-television show, “Eye
for a Guy,” a light-hearted version of America’s “The
Bachelorette.” A prominent Singaporean model, Rachel Lee,
narrowed down her bachelors to one over the course of six episodes.
Zee was the runner-up, but during a post-finale episode, the model
revealed that she had really wanted to choose Zee — and had
been dating him since the show’s final taping — but
the producers had told her she had to end up with a local man.
Since then, Zee has become the poster child of the so-called “ABC”
(American-born Chinese) men and a teen icon. He’s been featured
in magazines and newspapers. Teenage girls have recognized him on
the street. He also appeared in a TV pilot for a courtroom drama
and a commercial for a local resort.
With a growing fan base, Zee extended his stay in Singapore. He
just finished lecturing and is acting full-time. He plans to stay
for at least one more year. He even started work with an acting
and speech coach who is trying to neutralize his “heavy Minnesotan
accent,” says Zee. The coach seems to be succeeding; Zee recently
was offered a contract for a sitcom next season that Dream Forest
is developing for him.
Zee remains cool about his recent brush with fame. “Regardless
of what happens,” he says, “this will be a great story
to tell the grandkids about.”
By Robert E. Accordino ’03
Robert E. Accordino ’03 is a Fulbright Scholar in Australia
and friend of Mark Zee.