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On the surface, the life of social media star Elaine Heng, more popularly known as Elaine Jasmine, seems as picture-perfect as her Instagram feed. If you follow @xelainejasmine, you’ll see envy-inducing snaps of the globe-trotter twirling in a field of marigolds in Bali one moment and chilling under cherry blossoms in Goryokaku the next. Then, there’s her fairy-tale romance with her university sweetheart and architect boyfriend, whom she recently got engaged to. The cherry on top of her seemingly Instagram-perfect life? Elaine, who has over 80K IG followers, recently scored her first acting gig, starring as a rabid fangirl who gets to swop bodies with her idols in Toggle web series StarCrossed — a dream come true for the newbie who calls acting her “secret passion”. 

But before Elaine could bask in the glow of her big break, she had to deal with some drama of her own. Last month, an online jewellery store owner wrote a damning Facebook post accusing the 24-year-old of flaking on her after receiving payment and products to do a series of sponsored posts. Other business owners then came forward with their own experiences with Elaine, slamming her work ethics and unprofessionalism. Elaine eventually made a public apology and said that she didn’t want to promote the brand’s products ’cos they were of shoddy quality. One may think that the whole scandal would have broken both her career and her spirit. But plot twist! One PR nightmare and a sizeable surge in followers later (It’s true: all publicity is good publicity), it seems Elaine has come back stronger than ever, with a newfound realisation that words, like IG photos, are always better filtered.

8 DAYS: You play a star-struck fangirl in StarCrossed, which is your first acting gig. 
ELAINE JASMINE:
I’m very grateful to be given this role. The whole experience was unforgettable ’cos it was completely not what I expected. I didn’t know that there was so much that went on behind the scenes, like how each scene had to be done multiple times from different angles. On TV, you see all the stars looking very glamorous, but you don’t see the amount of hard work and long hours they put in. I wasn’t trained in acting so the first time I ever acted was during the audition. (Laughs) So I definitely stepped outside my comfort zone. 

What was the biggest challenge?
Playing the character itself. I felt pressured to get my scenes right. Whenever I had many NG takes, I got demoralised and felt bad for everyone who was in the same scene as they had to redo their parts too. Our director was very fun. Once, we were all very tired and had to retake a lot of our scenes. And for every retake we did, she’d use a permanent marker to write some funny words, or even vulgarities like “[Expletive] up No. 3”, on our bodies, just for fun. And at the end of the day, we’ll laugh over who had the most number of markings. (Laughs) 

You had kissing scenes with both Zong Zijie and Richie Koh in the drama. Did you pop a lot of mints before those scenes? 
Yeah. Zijie was very professional and very well-prepared — he came with a whole bag of mints and breath sprays, and he shared them with everyone. The kissing scenes were quite funny ’cos I’d never kiss anyone other than my boyfriend. There was a scene where Zijie, Richie, Vanessa [Vanderstraaten] and I swopped bodies a couple of times and we had to do a lot of kissing scenes. And it was quite funny ’cos when one pair was kissing, the other two would be taking selfies in the background and trying to make fun of the duo kissing. (Laughs)  

On the personal side of things, congrats on your recent engagement! How did your fiancé propose?
It was the perfect proposal to me ’cos I completely didn’t expect it. He lied to me that we had to attend a friend’s wedding. On that day, he had his best friend drive us [to the proposal venue]. His best friend was in shades and wearing a cap so I didn’t know it was him — I thought it was an Uber driver. So we went into this beautiful forest at Turf Club Road. I was very shocked ’cos he had decorated six trees — to signify the six years we’ve been together — with our pictures. It was literally a walk down memory lane. And as we walked through the woods, there were musicians serenading us on the saxophone and guitar. It was very romantic. And as we walked past each tree, he reminded me of our memories each year. When we came to the sixth tree, I thought he was going to propose ’cos there was a box at the bottom of the tree. But it turned out to be a second surprise. He opened the box and it contained a cute cat blindfold. And he blindfolded me and handheld me to another part of the forest where my closest friends and family were gathered. When I took off the blindfold and saw all of them, I was so touched ’cos he knew that I always wanted to be proposed to in front of the people that matter the most to me. I didn’t expect such an amazing proposal ’cos I had always told him I wanted a simple one. I guess he wanted me to be the happiest girl in the world on that day.

You’ve said you’ll improve on your work ethics after the whole social media scandal. How so?
Yeah, I’d probably check my Whatsapp messages more often. ’Cos for me, being on social media is my job. But somehow over the years, ironically, I became less of a phone person. I’m on my phone all the time for my work. So at times, when I’m not working, I just don’t want to touch my phone. So I actually don’t open a lot of my Whatsapp messages. I guess I just have to check my phone more often now.

Keyboard warriors can be quite mean. How did you cope with all the criticism?
I just take it as a learning lesson. I use the criticism in a positive way in the sense that if what others are saying about me is true, I’d take note and work on improving myself. But if they are just out to hurt me, I’d shut them off.

You mentioned in a recent IG post that you felt angry as there was just so much you wanted to say in your defense. Did you feel misunderstood and would you like to take this opportunity to set the record straight?
Yeah. Actually, a lot of people have been asking me this question. To be honest, there are really many different sides to the story and there’s a lot I can say to defend myself. And I have screenshots of so many [evidence]. But after thinking about it clearly, I decided not to [publish them] ’cos I feel that the harder I try to defend myself, the more it may spark off more anger among the parties involved and they would try to add on more stuff [that would put me in a bad light]. Then, this whole cycle won’t end. So I decided to just be the bigger person and accept that there are some parts that were my fault and apologise for them, instead of just pushing the blame and trying so hard to defend myself.

How has that saga affected you and your career?
Honestly, now that things have cooled down, it doesn’t really affect me much. Before, I was very hurt by a lot of the stuff that was going on. But I’m very grateful to still have the support of my existing clients. We work very well together. It’s only a few unfortunate incidents, like that saga, that was blown up. Generally, I work well with my clients. So I’m very grateful that they still believe in me. A lot of them texted me to tell me that they would still support me. But I guess potential clients would probably think twice about working with me. So far, it’s been okay — I’m still closing quite a few campaigns and I’m happy that my clients are still willing to work with me. 

Binge-watch the entire series of StarCrossed here

Photos: Elaine Jasmine

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