Excuse us while we gawk.
In a dark jacket draped over a casual tee and denim cut-offs, Rui En, 24, is a far cry from the hot-assed babe bouncing off the streets of Shenton Way in the 2001 SingTel ad. For one, the ingénue has swapped her schoolgirl innocence for a more knowing worldliness, evident in the way she handles this interview (she nicely but firmly requests that it comes after the photo-shoot and she puts her foot down when it comes to wearing revealing clothes). For another, if you haven’t already noticed, she’s a lot slimmer. Seven kilos slimmer, actually. In fact, just one week before this photo-shoot, a newspaper ran a story of how thin she’s become .
Over coffee (black, no sugar), the dewy actress, who now tips the scales at 47kg, bites into the whole hullabaloo with a mix of feisty indignation and weary resignation. “Reading the article was… surreal. When I was fatter, I was harangued, harassed, nagged by everyone. People teased me [about my weight] all the time — producers, managers, everybody. And newspapers and magazines don’t put you in their pages if you’re chubby. And for them to turn around to say you are too skinny…. It was ironic and poetic at the same time.”
Her frustration, you must understand, stems from the fact that she is not just any weight-obsessed filly dreading the next potluck dinner with overly-concerned relatives. Rui En, like other celebs, has a duty to look good. “People really, really have to realise it’s a responsibility and that however much a talent you are or how successful you are, a large part of being a celeb is aesthetics,” she posits.
“No matter what field people are in, whether they are architects or mee pok sellers, they constantly try to upgrade themselves. And this is our way of improving ourselves.”
In other words, like HDB flats, celebs could — and usually do — use some upkeep, facelifts, reconstruction, a new coat of paint, that kind of thing. Besides, as the actress who will be next seen on Ch 8’s A Child’s Hope III very reasonably points out, “People don’t really want to see chubby or overweight people on screen. Would you put me on the cover if I look [fat]?” Yes the girl has got a brain on her. But while she eschews carbohydrates and junk food, she sees no reason for the woman on the street to starve and deprive herself. In fact, the fair lady doth protest. Very loudly.
“I’ve said this before and I will say this again: People who don’t have to be on screen, don’t torture yourself for the sake of being vain! (Raises her hands dramatically) God! It’s so stupid! For us, it’s our obligation. It determines how much we earn. But for people not in the industry, no! Whyyyy??? It’s torturous, you know.”
8 DAYS: Just how torturous is it?
RUI EN: When I was filming outdoors and it was mealtime, everyone would be eating mee pok or whatever and I would just be sitting there looking at my salad or yong tau foo — I was just dying inside.
But you stuck to your guns and successfully went from 54kg to 47kg in a year. Are you still on a diet now?
No, I’m just maintaining my weight. I take the 7 Day Diet for a few days every two weeks. It’s a reduced calorie supplement and it’s pretty effective — it has the vitamins and nutrients your body needs. When they approached me to be their spokesperson, I thought it was important for me to try it out and see if it’s effective, safe, and healthy and not get fainting fits, which I didn’t.
What food would you kill for now?
Oh, you always get cravings. I like MSG, stuff like instant noodles, Twisties, etc, and I eat these things in moderation. You should ask my manager — I just treated my colleagues to Boon Tong Kee chicken rice! And yes, I finished a whole plate.
Dieting must have been a bummer for your social life. Did you go out a lot less in the past year because you couldn’t eat many things?
That’s unhealthy! You can’t let [your diet] affect things.
Do you feel badgered whether you’re fat or thin?
People make a big deal of celebs being role models. It’s like, if you lose weight, you’re not a role model. The fact is, people will try to look a certain way on screen. You can’t change that. That’s the essence of the industry.
Most local actresses weigh below 50kg. Why is it the magic number?
Maybe that’s the point when you start looking less chubby? I don’t know. But some people may look fat on screen while they look perfectly normal in “real life”. Yes, it’s very sad, I’ve questioned this before.
Many people would proudly flaunt their new and improved bodies, yet you’ve kept to your policy of not wearing revealing clothes despite being 7kg lighter.
Personally, I’ve a problem with that. I’m a very private person. I crave and treasure my privacy very, very highly and wearing revealing clothes is a certain invasion of that. I feel you gotta keep something sacred and private. I don’t see the need to be sexy. I think it’s overdone nowadays. I don’t see the need to milk that. If you work hard and you have talent and you have focus, then you’ll make it.
Yet you say that a large part of being a celeb has to do with aesthetics.
Yes, being a celeb depends on the way you look but you don’t have to solely rely on that. It’s principles.
You once said in an 8 DAYS interview to give you some time to become feminine.
Did you watch the NDP Parade (where Rui En performed onstage with Taufik Batisah)? I wore a skirt! I’m growing up. I’m more open to wearing skirts and I’m the kind of person who likes to shake things up once in a while. But I will never be girly girly.
Are you proud of your figure now? Do you feel sexier?
Even now, when my body is skinny, I still have (tugs at her cheeks) baby fat. People teased me all the time when I was fat. Of course, I was never fat but compared to other celebs, I was a cow! (hoots in laughter). I grew up really nerdy and plain and I still have that nerdy, plain and fat person in me. I still feel like that. I still feel chubby no matter how skinny I get.
Celeb make-up artist Clarence Lee was quoted as saying that even though you’re skinny now, your face is chubby and so your body doesn’t seem proportionate. Did you take offence at that?
(Shakes her head in resignation) People have a lot of opinions. I wouldn’t be offended. You get used to it. When I first entered showbiz, I used to take these comments personally and I’d feel very inadequate. Everyone asked me to lose weight and it was cruel to a certain point. Now I take these comments professionally. It’s funny how people now tell me that I should put on weight and eat more. When I was at the IMM food court, a stall owner gave me free yong tau foo, and when I went to the stall selling fruits, the auntie grabbed a bunch of bananas and gave them to me. But I don’t think they are only giving me food because they think I’m too skinny.
Fess’ up. Do you get more attention from the men now?
Guys don’t like me skinny. Most of the people telling me to put on weight are guys.