EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MALAYSIAN PORN SENSATION ALVIN TAN

As you all have already seen in the news, the Malaysian fugitive Alvin Tan is currently in America where he has applied for asylum. This ends speculation after many weeks of radio silence as to his whereabouts. Alvin has actually broken his radio silence with me weeks ago on Facebook at the beginning of September and we had been chatting for the last few weeks. So when he chose to speak to the press, I asked him for an interview for my blog. After all, I have had a massive spike of traffic to my blog in the last few days from people looking for information on Alvin. Given how terrible the press in Malaysia and Singapore have been when it comes to reporting this case accurately, I thought, screw them, forget those journalists, who needs them – just speak to me and let my blog be your platform. My words will be in italics.

Limpeh: So Alvin, tell me, why have you chosen to break your silence now?

Alvin: The truth is that I was in US immigration detention for not possessing a valid visa upon my entry into the United States, thus I was detained for three and a half months (end of May to beginning of September) while a ton of processing took place to verify my asylum claim. All speculations about my silence being a product of my fear of being caught or my pragmatic desire to lie low are, well, wrong. I was, in fact, locked up without access to internet, hence the silence. If only I had that sort of sheer self-discipline to keep quiet, I wouldn't have landed myself in the trouble I'm in today. I thought that was pretty obvious.

 
Limpeh: What is the American system like when it comes to asylum seekers? 
 
 
Alvin: The thing is that the United States really hates asylum seekers, due to the unending torrents of refugees forever showing up at their borders, and they devise tons of tactics to keep us out (e.g. onerous visa requirements, the technicality that you can only apply for asylum on American soil and never at embassies, strict adjudication of asylum cases, etc.). Yet they wouldn't simply come out and say that they don't want asylum seekers, because that would be politically incorrect. I had to battle the whole chain of obstacles to even arrive there, which is why even putting in a claim for asylum was considered a massive achievement. Most don't even make it anywhere near America.

Alvin is now in America. 
Limpeh: How did you get from Singapore to America? What route did you take? 
 
 
Alvin: My route was pretty simple: fly from Singapore to Mexico, and then walk over to the US port-of-entry to seek asylum with the border official. There were, however, many refugees (with whom I was locked up) who had to start at Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, or Venezuela, because that's as far up north as they can travel without a visa from their home countries. I was fortunate that Mexico offered a visa-on-arrival for Malaysians. From there, these refugees typically move from country to country, illegally breaching the borders of each country on their way to America. Sometimes they get caught and detained, sometimes they get deported, and sometimes they just make it through relatively unscathed. Such is the hell that asylum seekers go through to seek asylum in a country that respects human rights.

Limpeh: So the moment you applied for asylum, you were 'detained' – effectively imprisoned? 

Alvin: The US government detains arriving asylum seekers for long periods of time (a la refugee camp) to break our spirits, in hopes that some of us would just give up and return to our home countries, but therein lies the paradox of the willing-to-return-home asylum seeker. If your life or liberty is truly in danger, why would you be okay with deportation, much less self-deportation? It immediately reveals evidence of fraud, because, if your life was really in danger, even prolonged incarceration would be better than being in your home country. Such was the case for me, so I constantly reminded myself of how fortunate I was to be imprisoned in the United States than to be on court bail in Malaysia.

Alvin has faith in the American system.
 
 
 
I eventually got paroled into the United States while my asylum case was pending, after convincing immigration officers that I wasn't a flight risk. With a legitimate, well-documented case like mine, I had every incentive to show up in court hearings, and they know that. I was released just based on my word, while most other asylum seekers needed to pay a $7,500 to get released. I'd, in effect, really only "arrived" in the United States in the beginning of September.

Limpeh: What's life like in America for you these days?

Alvin: I'm not ashamed to admit that it's been difficult, the most difficult part being that I wasn't given proper identification to begin life proper in America. Upon my release, I was given a flimsy piece of card called an I-94 that basically only stated that I had permission to be in the US, approved by the Department of Homeland Security. What I didn't know was that that piece of ID wasn't recognized by anybody; even checking into a motel was a uphill task. I can't open a bank account, because they confiscated my Malaysian ID and passport, and I can't drive, because they confiscated my Malaysian driver's license. I also won't be able to legally work until six months later, when they will give me a work permit. Without a work permit, any employment — no matter how menial — is impossible, given how heavily the IRS is coming down on under-the-table hirers these days. Without work, I won't be able to take on long-term leases for an apartment. In the mean time, I'm supposed to just… survive, neither really legal nor illegal. I now understand very well the hardships of the undocumented immigrant.

Vivian Lee chose to stay and face the charges in KL.

Limpeh: Now I have heard about people who get a fake Green Card on the black market…

Alvin: I'd be lying if I say I didn't feel tempted to get a fake Green Card (just US$70 on Alvarado St in downtown LA), which would have solved my employment, bank account, driving license, and long-term apartment issues. Fortunately, I have the good sense each time to play it legal, because it just seems very foolish to jeopardize my asylum claim or my soon-to-arrive work permit by — in US immigration terms — "accumulating unlawful presence." My best friend in Australia advised me to exhaust all legal means first before even considering the fake ID idea, which seems like the most rational path now.

Limpeh: So how do you get by in such circumstances then? 

Nonetheless, I work on my software business, which produces just enough revenue for me to stay afloat. I am also looking into other entrepreneurial options, like street busking and tutoring (I have a diploma in piano, which I don't intend to waste at all). Hefty legal costs and costly downtown rent, however, add on to my burden, especially when I didn't even arrived with much savings. But somehow I'm confident that I'll make it work, because I believe that I'm a survivor. I live in Hollywood, California, the place where dreams come true. I don't have a tyrannical government getting in my way here, and, if I fail here, I have only myself to blame. 

 

 
Limpeh: What is it like, settling into new life in America? 
 
 
 
Alvin: Settling down isn't exactly difficult, given that I'm already well-acquainted with American culture even before my arrival. I listen to American music, watch American movies, read American books and websites, etc., and I also speak English without a non-American accent, which turned out to be so essential in my process of acclimatizing to life here. I worry about money pretty constantly, but the fact that I'm even living in America, a land of freedom (relatively), is a source of daily relief and comfort.

Limpeh: Are you enjoying your new life in America? Are you having fun? 

I look forward every day to exploring unique aspects of America. Part of what gets me going is the endless possibilities for new experiences in America. Just the other day, I went to a nudist beach (North Baker Beach in San Francisco) where men and women just strolled around, played volleyball, sun-tanned, danced, did yoga, etc. in the nude like it was no big deal. Later that night, I went to a gay sauna where stranger guys just banged each other in an open area. Few days later, I was witnessing a Jehovah Witnesses protest on the streets. I saw flyers promoting a neo-Nazi conference downtown. Call me a bumpkin, but these are the exact reasons why I love this country so much.

 

Limpeh: Many people would be curious whether you'll be tempted to go into the porn industry, now that you're in America – the country with the world's biggest porn industry. Or is it so mainstream in America that you are just bored with it? 

Alvin : On the contrary, I've always viewed porn as a niche game, a field where, even if you make it to the top, the ordinary man or woman wouldn't even have heard of you. That's my biggest problem with the porn industry. At the risk of sounding like a pompous prick (which I am), I'm destined for something bigger than porn. Porn is far from mainstream. Mainstream is Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, Jeremy Lin, JK Rowling, Bill Gates, and Barack Obama, not Ron Jeremy, Hugh Hefner, Jenna Jameson, or Sora Aoi. And I yearn to be mainstream.I'd probably give it an honest try, but being an Asian male is going to work against me a lot; I'm not deluded at all about my chances of making it big in porn. The other problem is that, as open as America is, once you do porn, a lot of other doors close on you. This is a fact that one must accept before dabbling in the industry, and, unless you're going to make it huge in porn (again, an oxymoron), it's probably not worth it to get involved.

Limpeh: Well Alvin, you know you've already done porn in Malaysia, so it's like you've not done porn before. Not unless you decide to give yourself a brand new identity and totally reinvent a brand new person, completely new identity, new name – with no mention about Alvin Tan, Alvivi or where you have came from, wipe the slate clean. Otherwise, if you are still going to be you, most people are going to associate you with Alvivi and porn whether you like it or not. 

Alvin: Politics, for instance, will probably be out of bounds once you prostitute yourself in front of a camera. If you plan on getting married, your pool of potential spouses would shrink considerably. Even in the entertainment sector, actors and actresses who have done porn are treated less seriously, just like Kim Kardashian. The best thing about being in America is that it's like hitting the reset button: I could resculpt a whole new Alvin Tan with the benefit of hindsight.

Limpeh: Are there any hard lessons you have learnt in the last two years? 

Alvin: I've learnt a ton from all my experiences dealing with the media, the authorities, the mob, my family and friends, etc., so I know the pitfalls to avoid now. For instance, I've learnt that it's useless and meaningless to get vast publicity without a direct channel to monetize all that interest *when* the virality occurs. If I knew that my news would become top stories in the media, I would have started selling a book or some T-shirts way before the traffic spike happens. That way, all those eyeballs could be funneled into a sales process and dollars harvested from them. That's the correct way publicity stunts should be carried out, but, back then, I was too busy basking in the limelight to worry about something trivial like making money.

Alvin likes being in the limelight.
Limpeh: Had things been different, if that whole Bak Kut Teh incident didn't happen in the first place, do you think you would have moved to America anyway? 

Alvin: I've always wanted to move permanently to America; I'd worshipped America ever since I watched Hollywood movies on TV as a kid. Before this whole Bak Kut Teh saga, the pathway was less clear. I applied to college in America upon graduation from Raffles Junior College, but I failed to secure any financial aid or scholarship from the American schools that would have enabled me to gain a foothold in America back in 2008. Going to NUS Law School on full scholarship was, in fact, my last choice. No wonder I dreaded every minute of it. Even I wasn't surprised at myself when I eventually dropped out of the program. My other plan was to create a company in Malaysia, and then expand to open a branch in America when my revenues justify it, then it turns out I hate running a business and managing employees. I even hated sitting in an office all day, even if I was the boss. So that obviously didn't work out. Then some government decided to put me in jail for a photograph…

Limpeh: Politics aside, if we are merely considering the issue from a lifestyle point of view, could you ever consider returning to Malaysia or Singapore? 

Alvin: Politics aside, Malaysia is a great country. The people are laid-back, the places are fine, and the weather is warm (the way I like it)…

Malaysia boleh?
 
Limpeh: I have to beg to differ. Unless you talking about Cameron Highlands or Fraser's Hill, Malaysia is so hot and humid… It is way too hot for me. I hate the weather in Malaysia and Singapore. Sorry, I digress. 
 
 
Alvin: But it's meaningless to discuss about a country "politics aside," because politics affect every aspect of a country. Politics is the reason that America is so great and Saudi Arabia so terrible. In other words, politics makes or breaks a country — always. I'll never return to Malaysia forever for three reasons: 1) I'm a fugitive from Malaysian law and will be liable for arrest upon return, 2) on the US side, returning to Malaysia would void my asylum status immediately, because returning to your country of persecution is the greatest evidence that your life really isn't in danger, and 3) my personal principle of not associating with a country that has done so much harm to me. So Malaysia is effectively history to me, and I don't want to be one of those bitter, jaded souls in exile who keep attacking the Malaysian government from afar, never really starting a new life abroad. I want to be focused on the present and make a name for myself, the correct way this time.

Limpeh: What about any other countries apart from America? Did you consider any others? 

Alvin: Singapore, however, can count on me returning there one day, like it or not. I'm not entirely ungrateful to the Singaporean taxpayers for funding my secondary, pre-university, and university studies. Plus, I still have many connections there that I value as friends. Singapore is another good country ruined by bad politics, the only difference being that the government thinks that it can do anything just because they perform economically. That's still one step above Malaysia, where the government is not only evil but also incompetent.

Singapura lagi boleh?
 
Limpeh: Sorry Alvin, I hate to break this to you but I've had a look at some of the reports on your latest movements in Singaporean social media and let's just say that most Singaporeans are very hostile to you and that's already me putting it very mildly. I think you are far better off in America than Singapore for the foreseeable future. Trust me, just forget Singapore for now. So what are your plans for the future? Have you found yourself in this journey? 

Alvin: I could write an entire book on this topic, because I'm possibly the most stubborn person I know when it comes to strictly doing only what I love for my career. I spent my entire adolescence finding myself (to little avail). Whenever I choose a route and start to go deep into something (e.g. music and martial arts in my teens, law in my late teens, business/entrepreneurship in my early twenties), I eventually realize that I either hate it or I don't have what it takes. In my teens, I spent countless hours playing my guitar and piano and also practicing my wushu, hoping that some day I could make a career out of either music or stunt work. I never had enough confidence that I could succeed, so I dropped those pursuits.

Then I decided to tap on my excellent grades and spent years pursuing a law degree, only to discard it when I realized that it's all bullshit. The thought of becoming a lawyer, sitting in a cubicle 60 hours a week doing meaningless paperwork and obeying detestable bosses really scared me. I knew doing law was going to be a death sentence to me: easy to get in, hard to get out. I was going to be a highly-paid zombie professional who exchanges units of happiness for money on a daily basis. My arrogance kicked in again. Surely I was destined for something much bigger, I often thought to myself.

LimpehSome people are very independent to the point where they can only be self-employed, they cannot really work for anyone, that's just the way their character is. 

Alvin: My disdain of bosses eventually led me to starting businesses, and I did start a software business successful enough to support my lifestyle from 2011 to present. The best thing was that the income was by and large passive, freeing up my time to do silly shit like getting laid, organizing orgies, filming amateur porn, writing a book, filming a YouTube talk showfilming shorts, etc. Even then, the process of starting a business was dreadful, and, during a short time in 2011 when my business partner and I employed an intern, I discovered that I really hated managing employees too. Then I realized that office work was really not for me, not even as a boss.

Alvin hated the idea of working in an office.
 
 
Limpeh: What defines you then Alvin? So many people talk about you in social media, but they don't really know you as a person. What are you really like, can you tell my readers? 

Alvin: My biggest distinguishing trait is that I'm just not the kind of guy to go along with the flow and settle for things, just to appear normal or gain some sense of certainty and stability. I'm built for hardship, and I'm not afraid of struggling. I'm also very passionate about finding and doing only what I absolutely love. Perhaps, because of this non-compromising attitude, I still look like a loser with no direction in life at this ripe age of almost 26, while my peers are getting promotions, buying houses and cars, and getting married. I don't know about them, but my happiness is way, way more important than where they seem to rank it in the scheme of things. I don't envy them at all; in fact, through their own admission, the reverse is very often true.

Limpeh: Let's go back to 2012 when the whole sex blog thing broke and you gained instant notoriety in both Singapore and Malaysia. Let's talk about how you learnt from that whole episode, with the benefit of hindsight. 

Alvin: In 2012 I headlined news on both sides of the causeway. Undoubtedly, it was on a negative/controversial note, but it served as an awakening to me, an epiphany, that I could actually be famous in some way. That I had it in me to have fans. That I could enter a place and dozens of journalists would snap photographs of me and point microphones to that hole in my face, eager to capture whatever awesome wisdom I'm about to dish out. That me and my antics could generate so much interest, way more than even mainstream politicians and legitimate local celebrities. So I never looked back.

Limpeh: So what are your plans for the future? 

Alvin: What are my plans for the future? Honestly, and at the risk of appearing like I'm copying Limpeh, I want to be an actor, which was why I wrote a Facebook status update extolling the perks of a successful acting career (to which Limpeh also wrote a rebuttal)

 
 
Alvin: I've watched tons of movies, way more than the average person, and I've written a few screenplays myself, including one full-feature film. I also own filmmaking gear like camera lenses, light kit, sound kit, rigs, etc., because entertainment is something I really enjoy. I know the odds are stacked against any newcomer, but the odds are especially stacked against Asian males in Hollywood, but I'll be damned if I don't try. I don't even care if I end up as a niche/typecast actor.
 
Limpeh: Mind you Alvin, I've written a piece on that issue as well, you know? Do read it too please. 
Alvin wants to be an actor in LA.
 
Alvin : If I can get enough paid work to make a living out of it, I'd be infinitely happy. I hate setting deadlines, but let's just say that I look forward to being an established actor by the time I'm 30, though I'll be damned if I change my mind and start again in yet another direction in my late twenties. I just really hope it doesn't happen, and that I'll just settle down on this choice, persevere enough for some years, and then emerge as a success of some note. That's all I really want for life at the moment. I'm no longer young, and everything from me from this moment will be on a serious, legitimate note, and no more shock tactic nonsense.

Limpeh: You've been incredibly honest with me in this interview Alvin. 

Alvin: Yup. I gave you all the exclusive details instead of Straits Times, New Paper, Malaysia's The Star, Astro, bla bla bla… I barely even answered them, because I can trust you to be objective.
Alvin doesn't trust the Malaysian journalists anymore.
 
Limpeh: Of course you can trust me – I am a blogger, not some journalist working for a government-controlled newspaper with a chief editor to answer to, censoring my work. Given the crap that has happened in the misreporting on this case, I am not surprised at all that you don't trust Malaysian journalists. What irks me is the way this case has been misreported and so many people who are discussing it in social media don't even bother to find out the basic facts of the case – they read like two or three lines and jump to all the wrong conclusions and dive into a debate on a forum. Good grief. I just hope that my piece here can at least allow some people to get their facts right before they talk about your case. Thank you very much for sharing your story with me, for my blog Alvin. I know it has not been easy for you of late. 
 
Alvin: Thank you. 
 
OK that's the end of my interview with Alvin – as you can see, we chatted like good friends and I must stress that I am doing this as a friend, allowing him to share his stories with the world through my blog. I know some of you may have questions for Alvin and I have been approached by journalists who want to interview him. Allow me to be clear please, I am not here to pass any of your comments or messages onto him, you can leave a comment below but he may or may not even see them. As I am putting the final touches to this interview, I realize I probably could have talked to Alvin for a lot longer on this – so there may be a part 2 soon but that is up to Alvin, not me, okay? Thank you very much for reading!

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