It was shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday of the second last week in July that Singaporean actress Yuslina Yussof arrived into our studio for hoolah’s photoshoot. She had just got off from a work meeting and quietly slipped in to our studio, going almost unnoticed. It was not difficult to see why. For after all, her petite stature, oval face, limpid hazel eyes, and wavy shoulder-length hairdo all coalesce together to portray a seemingly reserved or meek-like front. But little did we know that her effervescent personality would soon punctuate the stillness of the studio.
Yuslina’s breakout role saw her portraying the female lead of Suria’s ‘Syurga Ibu’ in 2017. “Even today, people still remember me as ‘Syurga’, which means heaven. Nobody that I know is named ‘Heaven’,” she said. In the years honing her acting chops, she found herself acting alongside with Singaporean singer Taufik Batisah in the telemovie series ‘Gunting’ (2018) and two years later, landing another lead role as a Senior Crime Scene Specialist in the spinoff of the highly-acclaimed TV series ‘Code of Law’, “Forensik” (2020) on Suria.
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On set, the Singaporean actress was bubbly and carried a semblance of naïve defiance. “Okay, don’t tell anybody about this, but I skipped class to go for my first audition,” the 26-year-old said, cheekily. “A few days later, I got a call. And ’Bam!’ I’m here.” She knew how to lighten the mood with casual commentaries (which worked wonders considering the crew have had a long day in the studio). She was also unremarkably perceptive. From the way she heeded the directions and maneuvered between poses, she easily pulled off looks that were casual without looking nonchalant as well as looks that were elegant without being overly elaborate. In other words, beyond the small screen, one could tell she is well-accustomed to the lens.
“In one of the dramas I did, I had to cry for almost eight hours straight,” she confessed to her earlier struggles as a budding actress. “We had to take different shots and a lot of angles. I had to contain that mood and maintain that emotion. The most challenging part was, on and off screen, I can get carried away with being in character.”
Showbiz has always had the mercurial element where actors and actresses need to demonstrate the versatility of their craft on and off screen. To pull off the right knowing gaze at the exact moment or use the appropriate paraphrasing without straying too far away from the script are skills that take time to hone. Those who work in showbiz will always be placed under scrutiny from the many watchful eyes, and many of whom avoid unnecessary public interaction. Even so, Yuslina embraces the outdoors as a means to perfect her craft. “I like to people watch. I’ll try to observe how people walk, talk, their small gestures, and I try to link them up to a character that I’m told to play,” she said.
In doing so, the affable personality revealed she is now more confident to interact with and reaching out to others. “I had issues reaching out to and talking to people in the past. Ever since ‘Syruga Ibu’, I have learned to be myself and I feel like I’m more open,” she explained, noting the growing charity stints with Jamiyah Singapore and Poetry in Motion (where she took time off to volunteer to help the lower income families).
With the world changing rapidly due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is a lot of uncertainty in the air. For now, Yuslina is taking a step at a time whilst keeping her options open. She wants to challenge herself and take on roles that see her doing the impossible, including physically demanding stunts as well as portraying characters with disabilities. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that Yuslina Yussof is just getting started, and I suppose I cannot help but to admire her resolution to constantly better herself.
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Hey Yuslina, how has the recent Circuit Breaker been?
I actually discovered my new hidden talents during the Circuit Breaker: cooking and baking! I spent most of my days thinking of what I should try cooking for the family and surprisingly, I’m pretty good at it.
How would you describe yourself when no one is watching?
I guess I’m pretty emotional? I don’t know if this sounds weird, but I love to watch sad advertisements or short films—the one that can make me cry—whenever I’m alone.
How would you describe what you do to a stranger when no one is watching?
I would probably start off with a pick-up line and make the other party feel comfortable with me (and my jokes), then ask him or her out for coffee. Find and discuss our common interests.
What was the first show you ever acted in?
Rempuh! By Papahan Films back in 2015. That was my first ever TV debut. Fun times!
What do you do when you are procrastinating?
When I’m procrastinating, I tend to snack a lot. I also enjoy catching shows on Netflix. I sometimes get guilty snacking while watching a show, but I’ll try to tell myself, “Yuslina, if not now, when?”
What are your worst habits?
Snacking at night and always forgetting to charge my phone to 100% the night before a shoot. Which makes me all the more kanchiong (jittery) on set the next day!
What embarrasses you?
When I tripped and fell in front of a cute guy, and then I banged myself into a glass door. It was so paiseh (embarrassing)!!
What sort of rejections do you remember facing in your younger days?
I used to have bad breakouts when I was younger. There was a time when I wanted to apply for a part-time job at this cafe. The interview and all went well. But I got a call few days later and they told me they had to reject my application because of hygiene purposes due to my breakouts. What the hell?
When and what was your happiest moment of your life?
There are simply too many happy moments throughout my life and one of them has got to be during my NAFA graduation day. Another time was when I was receiving my Diploma cert. And also when I won ‘Best Actress’ for National Youth Film Awards in 2019. I totally did not expect that to happen all.
How will you be spending National Day this year?
I will most probably be spending my National Day having a picnic by the beach with my family.
What is one word that describes staying in Singapore?
It is DYNAMIC!
What do you think is your life purpose?
My life purpose would be – Be brave enough to live the life of my dreams, and be patient with my growth and myself. Good things take time and I believe that everything will work out exactly how and when it’s supposed to.