“No Matter How You Look, There Are Going To Be Comments”: Rui En On Dealing With Criticism About Her Appearance

As a public figure, you’re inevitably judged by your looks. Do you think the industry or the audience is still too shallow in its perception of how leading actors should look?

I think that it may be a rather general sort of thing  which doesn’t only apply to local audiences where there is a stereotype of what constitutes a lead actress, like they have to be young or skinny.

If you look at the United States, you have Meryl Streep and older actresses in leading roles. I hope our entertainment industry or local dramas can go [in that direction] where you have [a variety of portrayals]. I wouldn’t necessarily call it shallow or narrow minded, but there’s room or more space to develop a sort of more [discerning] taste…

The fact of the matter is that we’re telling stories of the human condition, and humans are very interesting and there are many ways in which they look. There are many stories to be told. So I hope that it does go in that direction.

How do you hope to change that?

Maybe some people think that actresses and actors have a lot more power and authority than they do, but I do think that it’s an industry thing. For example, if you want leading roles that feature older women, that has to start with the story and script. Literally by the time I am cast, the story and script are in place. It is not something that I can necessarily control but it is something that I wish and pray would happen. I think that women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s they have so many stories to be told. I would love to see more of that.

Do comments about your looks get to you? How do you cope with it?

I think in Singapore, we have it a lot easier than in China or Korea. But as a public figure who has been doing this a long time, there has to be a certain level of acceptance that no matter how you look, there are going to be comments. I think I’ve made peace with that fact. Of course it stings ‘cos I’m human, but I think the whole being in the limelight and target of such comments has helped me grow in the sense that I am able to be okay with myself independent of those comments. To a certain extent, I appreciate the area of it that has made me grow. But generally I feel like if you’re a public figure you have to be accepting of that fact.

Have you ever tried to change the way you look because of others’ comments?

To be very honest, I think the whole monologue from Barbie is so accurate it’s impossible to be a woman.

The funny part about entertainment and showbiz is that a lot of people constantly have opinions about the way you should look. That has been my experience since I literally got discovered, started acting and went to Taiwan to release an album. The messaging is that you’re constantly not enough and it’s taken me a long time to be able to not have my self-worth tied to that.

It’s been a difficult journey because when you are a product and you are in the public eye there’s this constant “you need to do this or look that way”. It’s taken me a long time to realise that [there’s] Rui En the person and Rui En the celeb, which is like a product. They have to be independent of each other and I have to accept that this is an industry where aesthetics are important, but it doesn’t mean that if somebody feels I should improve something then I tie my self-worth to that.

It’s not easy to do that, and who is gonna feel good about themselves if they’re constantly never enough. Over the past few years I’ve been working on that and I can’t even say I’m there like “hey I’m not affected”.

Have you ever been told that you should look better?

Oh absolutely, all the time. Well, I try to be just gracious and be like “thank you for this feedback or opinion”. I have to accept the industry is what it is and the only thing I can control is how I react to it. And I try to do my best lah.

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