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December 8, 2004:

Mark Zee ’03 has appeared on TV and been featured in women’s magazines.

Hot 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 industry.

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.