Rui En put on 7kg for her role as a frumpy housewife in If Only I Could, and got fat-shamed. The experience opened her eyes to the realities of body-shaming and made her determined to start a dialogue about it. Which leads us to today’s cover story. Trying to arrange a cover shoot and interview with Rui En is tougher than catching a Mewtwo in Pokémon Go — there’s her crazy-packed schedule, her many conditions for the photo shoot (she only wants to work with certain hair and make-up people and stylists, and will only wear certain clothes) and her utter disdain for interviews. But we really wanted to put Rui En on the cover, and talk to her about body-shaming. So what did we do? We cheated. Zero photo shoots and barely an interview later, we have our cover story.
Here's an excerpt from Issue 1345, Jul 25, 2016.
8 DAYS: There’s a burgeoning movement, especially in the US and other Western cultures, where “fat” is not a bad word. Where plus-sized poster girls such as Adele and Melissa McCarthy are proud of their bodies and have no desire to be thin, and they have super successful careers. Do you think that will ever reach our shores, where so many think that skinny is beautiful?
RUI EN: Yes, we are Asian, and yes, our culture is different, but body-shaming and ageism crosses all borders. It's time to open a dialogue in Singapore about this. It's not about foreign celebrities having successful careers despite being plus-sized or older. It's about why there even needs to be a “despite”. Is this a disability? Unfortunately, these “skinny” standards are not only held by men, but also by women. Does owning a Lamborghini immediately mean that you are truly wealthy? And does being skinny by default make one happy and contented? In a world plagued by a horrific loss of life due to terrorist acts, Trump becoming the Republican [US Presidential] candidate, the upcoming consequences of Brexit, and police brutality towards blacks in the US, can body-shaming seriously be an actual issue? Enough, and be awake.
At one point in your career, the media and the public judged you for being too thin, and now, they are judging you for being too fat. Are you tired of all this body-shaming and are ready to make a stand, or are you resigned that it’s yet another one of the curses of being a celebrity?
I do not deny that I unfortunately chose a career where I will undeniably and brutally be judged on my appearance. I can't change that. However, the irony of being praised for being professional and putting on weight for my auntie role in If Only I Could, and yet be judged and torn apart for looking heavier, does not escape me. I just shrug and tell myself [it’s] dirt off my shoulder.
You’ve said that you’re in your thirties and your metabolism isn’t what it used to be. Will you let nature take its course and accept that you may from now on be a couple of kilos heavier, or will you strive to lose weight?
Yes, it's been difficult losing the weight after the project. My metabolism isn't what it used to be. However, I have no intention of going back to having the body of a 14-year-old boy. As I grow older, I now appreciate curves and flesh on a woman.
Do you think it’s time for actresses to reject being judged by their appearances (especially their weight) and start being appreciated for their talent? Or is this too much to ask for in the looks-obsessed world of local showbiz?
Showbiz anywhere in the world is what it is. I just wish for younger actresses to understand that being skinny is not [everything]. If you’re a bamboo pole but can't act, is that any use? Work on yourself, understand the crazy — and getting crazier — world we live in, and understand life.
Do you think men and male artistes suffer as much from this affliction?
They are also artistes and also rely on their appearances to appeal. But for the Chris Evans, the Ryan Reynolds and the Channing Tatums — if they weren't as buff, would they still have opportunities? Yes. If I kept my auntie weight, would I have as many opportunities? No. Do men have to obsess about thigh gaps and how ‘protruding’ their collarbones are? No. I believe that when a male artiste appears [to look] heavier, he is not crucified as much as a female artiste would be. I hate to bring up a Kardashian, but do you remember when [Kim Kardashian] was crucified for her weight gain during pregnancy, of all things? That's all.