It’s hard for anyone surfing video-sharing site YouTube to miss Dee Kosh’s face. Every time he puts up a new video, you’ll see those unmistakable thick-framed glasses perched at the top of the ‘Popular Videos’ section.
With 83 videos and 2.9 million views to date, it’s no surprise that the 24-year-old has risen to the top echelons of the small but growing Singaporean YouTube community. And the self-trained comedian has already become the 10th most subscribed vlogger (video blogger) from Singapore, with more than 15,000 registered YouTube members hitting the large grey bar on his channel.
UrbanWire got up close with Dee Kosh to delve deeper into his origins and his plans for YouTube.
The Chinese-Indian ‘Malay’ vlogger
When it comes to his ethnic background, Dee paints a rather ambiguous picture. “My parents are Indian and Chinese… but I’m Malay. It doesn’t get more confusing than that!” he chuckled.
Perhaps the Malay side of him is just part of his online persona as an effort to reach out to Malay viewers, as seen by his intermittent lapses into slang, especially ‘Kau bodoh pe’, used to demean one’s act of stupidity.
But the most successful publicity stunt Dee’s pulled off is probably Malay ‘mat’ style – a challenge to fans last July – which has reached even the local Abercrombie and Fitch (A&F) models.
The shirtless greeters standing outside the A&F Orchard Road branch were asked to give their best impression of Dee’s trademark exclamation ‘Ah-ah-siol’, to express envy.
Surprisingly, the models gamely agreed, even while on duty. Videos of Malay and even Caucasian greeters found their way onto YouTube, garnering more than 50,000 views. Naturally, Dee rewarded the sporting models with something they won’t be able to wear on duty – custom-made T-shirts emblazoned with the hashtag ‘#ahahsiol’.
Being able to speak Tagalog has also gained him a sizeable fan base from his country of birth, the Philippines. “I was made, born, and bred in the Philippines,” Dee proclaims.
And his Filipino roots have taken form in an alter ego, Mario Ernesto Del Rosario Canezo Cabrera, or Mario, for short.
A headband-wearing man sporting a denim shirt and armed with a strong Filipino accent, he’s made cameo appearances in 4 videos so far and is well-known for mispronouncing local blogger Wendy Cheng’s Xiaxue moniker as ‘Xia suay’ (a Hokkien term meaning disgrace).
Mario’s popularity may not be as huge as Dee’s, but it’s grown steadily since Dee uploaded Mario’s cover of Cee-Lo Green’s hit song ‘Forget You’, renamed ‘The Pack You Theme Song’.
And despite Dee’s most recent video implying his alter ego’s demise, he has no plans of pulling the plug on Mario just yet. “I love Mario!” Dee says. “And he’s not dead at all!”
Fans of Mario, you can heave a sigh of relief. For now.
Keeping faith under heat
However ‘cool’ it may seem having a Filipino persona, Dee Kosh admits to being Singaporean through and through.
In 1 particular episode, he vented his frustration at the xenophobic comments left by disgruntled netizens telling him to “go back to his country”.
“First of all, I am not Filipino (by nationality)! I am Singaporean, okay?” he hollers.
Dee then rambled on about his arduous National Service stint and his display of typical Singaporean traits such as a willingness to queue, holding numerous cards and coupons in his wallet, and the ultimate label that grips many of us– kiasuism.
“Everything also insured. Travel insured, my laptop insured. Even my dog also insured!” he claims.
Finally, he lapses into a slowed, serious tone. “I never mention LKY (in my videos) leh!” referring to former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. In fact, he steers clear of discussing politics altogether to avoid defamation lawsuits.
Aside from prejudiced statements regarding his nationality, Dee’s flamboyant personality has led YouTube commenters to question his sexual orientation.
To that, Dee posted a video entitled “DEE KOSH COMES OUT”. Dee explains, “I’m just tired of people calling me gay online because of how expressive I am, though I’ve clearly said that I don’t roll that way!”
He went on to say that the video – all 43 seconds of it – merely showed him emerging from a room, coming out quite literally.
However, he removed it within 18 hours. “It was just a troll video. I like my videos to have points. I don’t make pointless 43-second troll videos. That’s the reason why I took it down, because it was stupid.”
The YouTube community – his world
As a renowned Singaporean YouTuber, Dee’s topics hinge on local issues and controversies. His rants on wannabe bad girl Adelyn “Hosehbo” and Singapore Idol reject Steven Lim have gained him more than 200,000 views altogether.
But does Dee get any backlash from the people he talks about? “They never really respond to me directly. In the case of Adelyn, she messaged me on Facebook.”
Still, Dee says that he would have preferred a little more spice to this side of his YouTube life. “I would actually gladly have them respond to my videos,” he says before cheekily adding, “So if I do make a video about UrbanWire, please do respond.”
Still, true to his self-proclaimed ‘Malay roots’, he says, “I would have to say that my top favorites would be (celebrity humour duo) Munah and Hirzi and (Malay-style farceur) Banchothematrep. I told you I was Malay!”
Surprisingly, Dee also has a soft spot for child actor Amos Yee. The 15-year-old Zhonghua Secondary School student achieved notoriety when he posted a video in Jan 2012, taking rather uneducated jibes at the origin of Chinese New Year and its customs.
But to Dee, “He is a very talented kid. I feel like he is the little brother I never had!”
Dee even showed optimism about the We Not Naughty actor’s future. “I’m sure that (the controversies have) made him a better person, and I can’t wait for his return to the scene.”
As for other controversial Internet personalities, Dee jokingly expressed interest in being the referee for the impending real-life duel between Steven Lim and Aaron Tan.
This challenge came from netizens after Lim publicly challenged Tan to fight him in a legally organised match after the latter called Lim a ‘tranny’ in 1 of his videos.
“I honestly think it’s not happening… but if it does, I would gladly host these 2!”
2012 – bigger plans for YouTube?
For all his candidness, however, Dee remained tight-lipped when it came to his plans for 2012. But he gave us a sneak peek into what we can expect from him soon.
“Hear me now,” he intones softly, “2012 is going to a boom for the Singapore YouTube scene! There are huge plans for huge collaborations and huge events. But that’s all I can tell you.”
Net-savvy audiences will be surprised to know that despite his sizeable viewership, Dee Kosh isn’t a YouTube partner yet. This means he doesn’t earn a single cent from views on his channel.
When asked if companies have expressed interest in signing him up as a talent or for product endorsements, Dee shows a rather down-to-earth side – a stark contrast to the diva viewers we’re used to seeing. “Not actually… I’m still right here (on YouTube)!
Regardless, Dee jokes that he just wants to fans to recognise him as the guy with the most annoying fake accent.
“I hope YouTube would grow as a close knitted and peaceful community. No hate, no quarrels, just each of us making videos to entertain people who watch. Each of us just doing our own thing – responsibly.”