Grab drivers, please stop stalking Hirzi Zulkiflie

The comedian gushes about receiving praise from Channel 8 stars following his movie debut in ‘The Big Day’; plus, Chua Enlai gets candid about getting “anxious and stressed” easily

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Did you know: not long before Hirzi Zulkiflie launched his hit YouTube comedy channel Munah & Hirzi with Munah Bagharib in 2008, he was in a local play called Subculture: Punks vs Peranakans, in which he played a peranakan drag queen - stripper heels and all.

Fast forward to 2018, and the 29-year-old is set to take on another drag role for the stage once again in the reboot of Michael Chiang’s classic production Private Parts, which premiered in 1992 and has been brought to life three times, with the last being in 2004. This time, he forms one-third of The Dreamgirls, a trio of fabulous dancing drag queens who open and close the show.

During our interview at the unveiling of the cast yesterday afternoon, Hirzi shared that in addition to mastering his character’s choreography (prep work will include going for dance classes at co-star and fellow Dreamgirl Andy Cai’s studio at 9am on Sundays), he’s hoping to lose some “man weight” in time for the show.

“My body has changed so much over the past year because I’ve been going to the gym a lot,” he said, noting that his chest, shoulders and legs have become broader and more masculine-looking. However, instead of letting all that sweat and hard work go to waste, he intends to find a middle ground and channel women like Teyana Taylor or Grace Jones, artists known for their androgynous styles.

Another unspoken goal Hirzi has is to master the fine art of surviving a strut in towering stilettos. Harking back to Punks vs Peranakans and the beaded eight-inch (that’s over 20 centimetres, by the way) platforms his 18-year-old self had to wear while sashaying down a catwalk constructed out of columns of different heights, he recalled that one fine evening, he got a cramp in his foot - right before his scene.

Heeding a suggestion by one of his female co-stars, Hirzi removed the shoes to try and soothe the pain before putting them back on and preparing to go out there like nothing happened. Alas, just when it seemed like it was recovering, the blasted ache returned just as the curtain rose for him to make his entrance.

“I was like, there’s no way I can make it across that runway in heels, so I decided to sit by the door, remove my shoes, and walk barefoot,” he said. “So I do have a phobia and fear of doing drag again, but it’s been many years and I’ve been doing it diligently online [Ed’s note: he has a sassy drag alter ego named Syasya].”

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Hirzi and Desmond Tan in 'The Big Day' (Photo: The Big Day/Facebook)

Channel 8 stars praised Hirzi’s performance in The Big Day

After a decade of being an internet sensation, Hirzi landed his debut film role in this year’s The Big Day. “I never imagined my first movie would be a Mandarin one,” he said, laughing. “I felt like I was thrown into the deep end because I had to pick up a lot of vernacular and phonetics, but the team was amazing and helped me a lot.”

The response to his performance as Desmond Tan’s best man, Hirzi reported, was a big thumbs up from the Chinese community at the gala premiere. Many of Channel 8’s top actors even approached him with encouraging words of praise, including a childhood idol of his.

“I’m such a huge fan of Zhu Hou Ren (I used to watch his gambling show The Unbeatables with Zoe Tay all the time), and although there was minimal conversation between us, he told me, ‘You good. You fast’ meaning that he thought my pacing helped the show,” Hirzi beamed. That was obviously the highlight of the night, as the rest of the evening “was such a blur”.

The downside of public recognition is, of course, a decrease in privacy. Aside from the daily annoyance of having random folks secretly snap photos of him on the train (just go up to him and ask if you want a picture, he said), there are the more unnerving incidents of Grab drivers trying to find out exactly where he stays.

“There was this dude who stood there [outside my block] for 20 minutes waiting to see which unit I go into; I had to go into hiding behind the stairwell and all! And this happens almost all the time,” he wailed, before leaning closer into our recording phone to emphasise his next declaration, “To all the Grab drivers out there, please don’t stalk me.”

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Left to right: Playwright Michael Chiang, Hirzi Zulkiflie, Shane Mardjuki, Jason Godfrey, Chua Enlai, Zee Wong, Andrew Marko, director Beatrice Chia-Richmond

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