In a nutshell, 2020 has been nuts (metamorphically-speaking, of course). With our travel plans redlined and work hankered down in our own abodes, the coronavirus pandemic has left us with much to be desired. While it is unlikely that life would return to the way it once was, a silver lining beckons in the midst. Malaysia Day
As a writer whose job involves documenting people’s lives and their anecdotes, I am constantly reminded of how an individual’s personal stories would eventually culminate into a larger national narrative. While the pandemic may have shifted the lens which we see things from, the narrative is nonetheless a coherent masterpiece that illuminates the triumphs and tribulations. In Malaysia, we see the national narrative solidify with its chosen theme for National and Malaysia Day this year. Entitled “Malaysia Prihatin” (Malaysia Cares), the nation has taken into account the present circumstance and recognises the resilient Malaysian spirit ignited amid the pandemic.
The theme, according to the Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, was chosen to tip hats at “the caring, determined and patient nature of Malaysians in facing the trials and tribulations posed by COVID-19 pandemic”.
As hoolah reels in to celebrate Malaysia Day on 16 September 2020, I interviewed four Malaysian influencers, an all-female cast of young and dearly individuals—namely Fatin Afeefa, Nurin Afiqah, Charis Chow and Karen Kho. As with all interviews, plenty of interesting stuff wound up on the cutting board. And as I spoke to each of them through email correspondence, we swept through many themes and questions. From their favourite Malaysian cuisine to the meaning of family, I find myself always getting anchored by and returning to their tales of independence and female empowerment.
In the first of two series, we look into the lives of Malaysian personality and YouTuber Charis Ow and Malaysian Zumba Instructor and Entrepreneur Nurin Afiqah who shared with us their struggles with the recent Malaysia’s Movement Order (MCO) and more.
Charis Ow (@charisow)
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many hopeful couples across the world have had their wedding dreams dashed. With strict quota set, state shutdowns and social distancing requirements, larger and elegant wedding affairs seem to have become obsolete this year. Then and again, there is always a way to those who possess a will. While there are couples who are braving the odds and adhering to their restriction to have their big-day proceed as planned, there are also those who are making do with hurry-up events on a smaller scale.
Charis Ow and her husband, Daryl Tan, are one of those couples.
The 29-year-old Malaysian YouTuber and her husband had decidedly postponed their wedding, which was scheduled for 18 April 2020, and instead, they hosted a smaller scale solemnisation ceremony on 20 July 2020. In a YouTube video that featured the challenges the pandemic has on her wedding, she revealed several challenges she had faced: how her bridesmaids’ dresses were unable to be manufactured in China or how she and her bridesmaids were unable to take some time off together overseas. She also shared how several of her guests were unable to attend her wedding.
For the most part, the duo are prescient of the impacts of the pandemic and how it would escalate in the time to come, and made a conscious and well-intended decision to delay their plans. And as the two are taking the extended time to plan for the long-haul, they remain hopeful that their actual wedding will take place next year.
In the meantime, the endearing and bubbly personality continues to brainstorm quality content, upload interesting videos—which run the gamut from vlogs to dance covers—on her YouTube channel and get involve in more acting gigs.
In an short interview with hoolah, she shared the meaning of independence and how the MCO has affected her life.
1. How has the MCO affected your daily life?
This pandemic and MCO really threw me off guard. I had plans for this year, but things got delayed and plans were postponed. Although now, there’s some progress. But throughout the whole MCO, I learned how to be independent because I was alone for most of the time while my family was in Penang.
It got me thinking that it is important to be independent, whether it be financial independence or emotional independence. Yes, I do have Daryl but at the same time, I have to be a whole person first before I could be with someone.
2. What’s it like to get solemnized during the coronavirus pandemic?
Some of my friends and family members could not make it and it was just quite sad that they weren’t able to share the special day with us–but of course, with valid reasons! It was hard sometimes, but (Daryl and I) just kept reminding ourselves that this wedding is about the both of us and that we appreciate whoever who could make it and to also have no expectations of people coming and people doing certain thing for us.
(The coronavirus pandemic) has taught me a lot about people.
3. What does independence mean to you?
Being independent means that you don’t have to rely on another person to sustain yourself. I know a lot of us are trying to achieve financial independence, which I think is one of the goals in life, and that is why you should be smart with how you spend your money. So platforms, like hoolah, really help you to achieve that.
Nurin Afiqah (@nurinafiqaaah)
On social media, Nurin Afiqah possesses an endearing and bubbly personality that makes her extremely likable. She is often seen showing off her pearlie whites on Instagram which contains posts that run the gamut from the casual #OOTDs to the occasional groovy dance moves that she does alone or with her friends. In between her tweets on Twitter and her frequent Instagram updates, it is telling that the 24-year-old Zumba Instructor is outspoken and radiates positivity online. But little did we know that beneath it all, Nurin Afiqah was also a victim of bullying back in high-school.
For nine years, Nurin Afiqah had suffered imperfections on her front teeth. “The front teeth is the most crucial part of your face because that shows how your smile is,” Nurin Affiqah says in a podcast with RTV Malaysia. “I didn’t have those.”
Back then, she was called horrible names. One such name was “Mukah Sampa” (which means ‘trash face’). In another instance, she became the subject of ridicule in an “Anti-Nurin fanclub” in her high school. It was not until putting on and removing her braces, along with three major and two minor surgeries, that her life changed.
Despite succumbing to harassment, horrid name-calling, and physical bullying (some boys had singed and burned her hair when she was walking in front of them), she refused to immediately hit back on her bullies nor did she do so with violence. Instead, she thinks self-empowerment is the greatest form of retaliation. “Put in the effort you need to be successful and then, they will respect you,” she adds in the podcast.
Unhindered, unfazed and unrestrained, Nurin Afiqah has become an advocate against bullying and also a role model for the youths. But even for us all, these virtues that she possesses are equally illuminating in present times.
Read on to find out her casual feedback to our interview questions!
1. How has the MCO affected your daily life?
Really productive! I did a lot of home workouts and they cover a lot of exercises!
2. On female empowerment: What does it mean to be a female today?
To be a woman today right now is about having equal opportunities as men. She is free to do their own things and make their own choices.
3. How are you going to spend Malaysia Day?
I will be running my own business!