One moment you're admiring Rui En’s Antoinette green sequinned ballet pumps and the next, she’s kicked them off for you to try. “My Ali Baba shoes”, she calls them. Hard and glittering on the outside but surprisingly comfortable on the sole, the shoes are perhaps a metaphor for Rui En. She archly dubs herself the “I-just-want-to-be-me-don’t-pigeonhole-me chick” then throws her head back and laughs when you officially crown her the chick with the longest label.
Rui En’s just wrapped up filming for Ch 8 drama You’re The One and will soon start work on her second Mandarin album with Hype Records. Talk then turns to Ken Lim, the Singapore Idol judge who’s her boss and mentor. Half-jokingly, she says: “My life is in Ken Lim’s hands. I see him as a sort of a mentor and I’m his faithful disciple.”
It’s hard to imagine such ready submission from the teenager who tattooed a swallow on herself in protest of a curfew imposed by her folks, and the same young woman who insisted on wearing her own pants to the Star Awards. Or maybe not. When you tease her about being Ken’s little chick, her response comes fast and furious: “I’m nobody’s little chick!”
8 DAYS: What’s the best piece of advice Ken’s ever given you?
RUI EN: He told me to marry a man who loves me more than I love him. Sound piece of advice.
Do Ken and you share music idols?
Yeah, Madonna. Initially, I didn’t really think much of her; I think I got distracted by the scandals, but he told me to watch her and read about her so I started reading her biography and watching her concerts. She’s excellent and the fact that she’s managed to last until today is good enough. She’s a great ‘live’ performer. She does the most unexpected stuff, which I appreciate.
Do you plan to do the unexpected too?
It’s a bit different over here, you can’t be that bold. The culture, the market is different, you can’t do an about-face without losing half your fan base.
How are you coping with all that Achar! flak?
Okay. I can’t be bothered, really. I don’t really like to read my own press, just don’t want to get influenced by criticisms that, I feel, are unfair, or judgment that is passed without any basis. I don’t want to get involved. I just want to stay away, be happy.
But don’t you think you might be missing out on constructive criticism?
That’s a valid point. But if you listen too much, it’ll get too noisy in your head.
So what do you do?
Ask Ken lor! He’ll go through some of the stuff and tell me what he thinks. I trust him a lot.
But you’re pretty much wearing the trousers elsewhere — like at the Star Awards.
Yeah, everyone couldn’t understand why I wanted to wear my own clothes but I insisted. Well, not really insisted, but I really like those pants. I thought I’d go in a dressy top and heels. Everyone was like, Why are you wearing that top with pants? And I was like, I thought it went well together. Maybe one day, I’ll wear a gown to the Star Awards.
Tell me, you’re quickly becoming known as the chick with the attitude…
…are you becoming the second Li-Lin?
I don’t want to be the second anything, I just want to be myself.
You have three tattoos — a Chinese character for En (gratitude) at the back of your neck, a swallow above the left hip and a yin-yang-ish tribal design on the right.
I like tattoos because they’re permanent. I got ‘En’ done about one-and-a-half years ago after I came back from Taiwan. I didn’t want to regret it and I thought you can’t go wrong with your name. The swallow happened when my parents were going through this disciplinary phase with me, curfews and all that. (Laughs) You know how it is with me, the more you try to control me the more I’ll rebel, but at that time it was worse because of the raging hormones. I think I was 18 — and the swallow represented the freedom that I wanted. There was no real significance for the tribal thing, I just liked the way it looked, and I got it a few months after the swallow.
Was it painful?
Are you a sucker for pain?
(Laughs) No. But I can tell you that with tattoos, the pain can be therapeutic in a very warped way. You should get one too.
Er, no thanks. By the way, have you lost weight?
Yeah, I looked heavier in My Mighty In-Laws, huh? I think I was probably at my heaviest then, about 54kg I think.
Are you afraid of putting on weight?
No, in fact, I would like to be chubby, be rounder. I think I’d look more youthful. I would like to be about 4kg heavier; I’m about 50kg now.
Four kg isn’t that much heavier, is it?
It is on screen. The only reason why I have to try to be slim is so that no one will harass me about my weight. You know how it is with artistes, if you look a bit pudgy, everyone will be on your back. The minute I'm out of showbiz, I’m going to become the Abominable Snowman.
Is it difficult keeping your weight down in the meantime?
I hate to exercise but I watch my diet. I’ve been a vegetarian for less than a year, not because I want to slim down but because I got so sick of eating meat. But I’m not very disciplined, I still eat meat every now and then. You feel a lot lighter; when you eat meat, you feel lethargic. You know how some people eat ketchup with everything? I eat raisins with everything. I don’t know why. I just love them.
What would you do if you weren’t in showbiz, other than start getting chubby?
I would migrate to Maldives and I would be a waitress or a cleaning lady at any of the resorts because I love the beach. I’ve thought about it before: just give it all up and live the simple life. Serve food, clean toilets, lie on the beach.
Have you ever cleaned a toilet in your life?
(Laughs sheepishly) No… but I’m sure I can.