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Divorce Drama Plays Out on Social Media; Even Meddling Mother-in-Law Chimes In

Written by Russell Alexander ria@russellalexander.com / (905) 655-6335

There’s something about celebrity gossip that’s irresistible. We love to track the love lives of the Hollywood stars, even if they prefer to keep things quiet. For example, it’s been reported recently that Canadian-born actor Ryan Gosling has secretly tied the knot with actress Eva Mendes, after having two children and more than a decade of dating under their belts. 

But it’s a nasty divorce that really catches the public’s attention.  In fact, a celebrity divorce scandal all the way from Asia has hit the headlines recently.  It features a Taiwan actress/TV host named Barbie Hsu, and her wealthy Chinese businessman husband (Wang Ziaofei).  Their messy post-divorce shenanigans have become tabloid fodder, and include what’s been referred to as the “Mattress Incident”.

According to local new reports, the background went something like this:  After more than 10 years together, high-profile couple started divorce proceedings in the summer of 2021.  They eventually reached a divorce settlement requiring Wang to pay significant alimony, but in November of 2022 Barbie accused him of failing to come through with the funds for 9 months. She sued him for enforcement, which included a bid to have some of his extensive assets seized.  

In response, Wang took to social media with more than 20 angry and emotional posts – all of which were eagerly lapped up by his audience of over seven million followers.   Wang even aired some of their “dirty laundry” online.  For example, he posted that he was unwilling to continue to pay the electricity bills for the house that he had bought in 2016 – but where Barbie was still living post-divorce.  (Barbie retaliated by later posting her financial statements online from that year, to prove that she had paid the down-payment on the home).  

But one of Wang’s main grievances, apparently, was that Barbie was still sleeping on the expensive mattress for which he had allegedly paid a whopping US$320,160.  His posts included taunts to Barbie, to the effect that the least she could do while living in “his” house, was to change out the mattress.

Cue Wang’s mother, who in the archetypal role of “meddling mother-in-law” posted long accusatory retorts under her own social media account. These included allegations that her former daughter-in-law Barbie was abusing drugs. 

A few days later, Barbie upped the ante in a dramatic way:  She had the disputed mattress delivered to the S Hotel in Taipei, which Wang owns.  It was then “professionally destroyed”, according to the hotel’s general manager, which is what they do with all of the hotel’s discarded mattresses.  There was even a press conference, where the Taiwanese media were allowed to film hotel workers while they set the mattress ablaze. This 23-minute footage attracted more than 270 million social media views.

(Evidently quick to jump on the drama bandwagon, within 24 hours of that bedding bonfire the mother-in-law started selling mattresses on her livestream shopping channel.  This garnered her 820,000 new followers, and about US$3.5 million in mattress sales).

In a flash of contrition, Wang issued a brief post explaining that he had simply lost his temper after being accused of not paying alimony, writing: “I don’t want to say anything anymore, burn the damn mattress, it’s all in the past, let’s not attack each other anymore.”   However, he deleted that post soon after.  A social media hashtag stirred the pot even further, by asking which of the spouses was “telling lies”.  It garnered a staggering 560 million clicks in a single day.

Shortly after the Mattress Incident, Barbie went on to marry a former boyfriend, South Korean musician named DJ Koo Jun-Yup.  (And – according to the online gossip – the veil she wore was paid for with Wang’s credit card).  The former mother-in-law promptly posted to question the marriage’s validity, since she claimed Barbie’s divorce from Wang was not yet final.

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.