We revisit one of 2010’s cover stars as we start the new decade
They say time changes everything and for model and actress Carmen Soo, this statement is truer than ever. When she first graced the cover of our February 2010 issue, we talked about her career and how she was looking to focus on acting. It’s been almost ten years now, and as we catch up with her, she shares about her journey in the acting industry thus far and how she is now balancing being an actress with the most important role of her life – being a full-time mum to her baby daughter, Béa.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE IN THE PAST DECADE?
The biggest change is definitely getting married and having a baby!
I was fully focused on my career back then and the past years have really been about shifting my priorities, giving more time to family and travelling less for work.
LAST WE SPOKE IN 2010, YOU WERE PRIORITISING YOUR ACTING CAREER. WE SEE THAT YOU’VE HAD MANY PROJECTS SINCE THEN. YOU WERE EVEN ON CRAZY RICH ASIANS. HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THE ACTING WORLD BEEN LIKE?
I have been working in the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore regularly, and am very lucky to have experienced all the different working styles and cultures, which I treasure immensely.
Being on Crazy Rich Asians was another level altogether. Not only was I able to achieve my lifelong dream of being part of a Hollywood movie, the success of the film, what it stands for and how it changed the industry has truly made history.
I am so proud and lucky to have been on my acting journey. Working in different countries, with different actors, languages and cultures, helps me learn and absorb all that I can to improve my craft.
I still enjoy acting a lot, but being a mum, I cannot pick just any project that comes my way nowadays.
There are many elements to help me decide whether to take on a role. It could be that I want to work with a certain director or actor. There have been some very interesting scripts and I am very excited to try out characters that I have never played before. Sometimes, it’s the journey of the character that attracts me.
My role in the film Orang Itu is something very different. I play the owner of a coffeeshop in Malaysia. There are some small physical transformations too and I love my character. Go watch it if you haven’t.
HOW DO YOU GET INTO CHARACTER BEFORE EACH SHOW, PLAY OR MOVIE?
Depending on the project and role, it’s a combination of talking to the writer and director. There’s also a lot of reading, research and imagination, and sometimes, it involves physical practices too.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
Being in Crazy Rich Asians takes the cake.
WHAT ABOUT THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THAT YOU’VE HAD TO OVERCOME AT WORK?
There are always challenges. In all projects.
Sometimes, it’s the language barrier. Other times, it’s working in difficult conditions and locations, such as in the forest where you’re far away from civilisation.
But I think the biggest challenge is surviving in this industry. Malaysia is a small market and to getcontinuous work is a challenge in itself. I believe I speak for everyone in the industry when I say we need help from the government and all parties in power to turn things around.
WE UNDERSTAND THAT SINCE THE BIRTH OF YOUR DAUGHTER, BÉA, YOU ARE NOW FOCUSING ON MOTHERHOOD. WHAT WAS THE TRANSITION LIKE GOING FROM BEING IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA TO BEING AT HOME MORE OFTEN?
I took care of Béa full time on my own for a year before I started on a project when she was 13 months old. It was so fulfilling and I am very blessed and fortunate to be able to stay at home and give her my all.
But I believe that with all mothers, we need to love ourselves too and devote some time to ourselves, whether it’s a career, a hobby or even just a chance to go for a massage.
There are days when I am only able to shower in the afternoon, and sometimes, I would catch my reflection in the mirror and get a shock! But that’s part of the journey of being a mother. We give our all willingly for our babies, and it’s fulfilling. It has been a learning experience for me – from loving it to feeling overwhelmed and to finding the balance again.
I know these ups and downs will come again but I also know it’s totally worth it.
Miraculously, I have completed three projects this year. I know that as long as I am able to juggle my roles, I am able to keep a career while being a (mostly) full- time mother.
I have to be more selective with my projects, making sure they’re worth me being away from my daughter. With that said, I hope to be involved in more exciting and meaningful projects.
THIS YEAR WILL BE BÉA’S SECOND CHINESE NEW YEAR AND FIRST AS A TODDLER. HOW WILL YOU BE CELEBRATING?
Our Chinese New Year celebrations are usually quiet, so there’ll be lots of eating, resting and spending time with loved ones.
WHAT ARE SOME CHINESE NEW YEAR TRADITIONS THAT YOU FEEL ARE MOST IMPORTANT TO UPHOLD NOW THAT YOU HAVE A FAMILY OF YOUR OWN?
The reunion dinner is very important to me. We always eat with family during the first two days of Chinese New Year.
I believe this important tradition need not be practised only during festivities, but year-round. We should always make time to dine and connect with family.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE CHINESE NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS?
The abundance of food and the excuse to eat them all. My favourite Chinese New Year snack is arrowhead chips, and well, Yee Sang is a must.
The quiet roads in the Klang Valley are also a big plus during the holidays.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO ACHIEVING BY 2030?
The first thing that comes to mind is imagining Béa being a 12-year-old!
Hopefully, by then, I will have achieved all that I set out to do before I get too old. One of the worst things in life is living with regrets, so I better get to it!
IF YOU COULD HAVE A DAY WITH NO RESPONSIBILITIES AT ALL, HOW WOULD YOU SPEND IT?
I would spend the day caring for myself. Sleep, go for a facial, get my manicure done, go for a massage and sleep some more.
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU’D LIKE FOR YOUR DAUGHTER TO KNOW?
I would want her to know that we all love her so very much and that she makes me a better person. I did not know this kind of love until she came along.
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU’D LIKE FOR THE WORLD TO KNOW?
If we want change, every single one of us has to play a part and do something about it.
Words By Crystal chong
Photography: Eric Chow @ Blink Studio
Style: Andrea Kee
Makeup: Rachel @ Plika Makeup
Hair: Bibian Leong