Photos: Dion Tang, Tammi Tan, Channel 8
Video: Sarah Tay, Tan Shi Qi
We received strict instructions from Rui En’s Hype Records manager before our interview at this afternoon’s press conference for upcoming Channel 8 drama If Only I Could: “Keep your questions related to the show.”
This precaution is unusual for local celebrities, but it came as no surprise: a month ago, the 35-year-old actress was involved in a vehicle accident – she knocked down a motorcycle with her BMW – that sparked a media frenzy. She released a public apology the day after the news broke, and concluded her sombre All-Time Favourite Artiste award speech with a 90-degree bow.
In fact, the traumatic events took such a toll on Rui En that her gastric problem, which is usually in control, flared up at this year’s Star Awards Part 2, causing her to “vomit into [her] hands” while “literally walking in front of the audience”.
Thankfully, she reassured us that she is feeling much better now. “I’ve been exercising and taking good care of myself,” she said. “(It only happens) in times of stress.”
Her friends, family and management have also played a big part in keeping her spirits up during her trying time.
“It’s sad that it would take an unfortunate incident to show me how much I should truly appreciate the people around me, because they really rallied around me and they have shown me a lot,” she told us. “So I’m going to try to take everything that is negative and turn it into something positive – I think that’s the only thing I can do – and one of the positive things would be to learn to appreciate the people around me more.”
Rui En’s face also lit up when we asked for her thoughts on the video montage featuring her loyal fans from all the world pledging their support for her, which was played before she accepted her All-Time Favourite trophy.
“I was so touched! I couldn’t believe they did that,” she beamed. “I didn’t even know I had fans outside of Singapore and Malaysia! (laughs) [Especially] not in those strange, far-flung countries.”
We decided to push our luck and ask how she was dealing with the nastier comments and her recent breakdown on the set of C.L.I.F. 4, but her manager came in and stopped us. “It’s all right, no worries,” Rui En said with an understanding smile when we apologised.
In If Only I Could, which also stars Elvin Ng, Andie Chen and Paige Chua, Rui En plays Chen Zhen Hao, a woman who is plagued with all kinds of troubles in life. The down and dreary mood from playing such an unfortunate character inevitably seeped into her real life and lasted “a good few weeks” after shooting wrapped.
“There are very few happy scenes, so it’s very easy to get bogged down emotionally,” she admitted, even going so far as to label this role “the most difficult” one, emotionally speaking, that she’s ever had to do.
The svelte star also famously put on weight – as much as 7kg – for the part, a self-made decision that helped her understand what it’s like to be fat-shamed (even though she wasn’t very large).
“I would get comments from people saying, ‘Wow’ [mimics a disgusted expression] and even though I knew I was doing it for the show, I felt very ashamed – every girl wants to be pretty and thin,” she said. “But after a while I started asking myself, why should my size determine my self-worth? I hate that women are defined by everything except their substance.”
After everything that she’s been through, we were happy to hear that Rui En will be taking a well-deserved break after shooting for C.L.I.F. 4 wraps in end-June, although details of her intended holiday remain fuzzy.
“There are no plans at the moment,” she said. “I’m kind of like a ‘go by the moment’ kind of girl, so I haven’t thought that far.”
If Only I Could debuts May 31, 9pm on Channel 8; it will be available on Toggle-It-First on May 24.