In the spotlight

WITH zero experience and knowledge in performing arts, Mia Sabrina Mahadir has certainly made a name for herself in this tough industry today.

Having moved from Ipoh to Kuala Lumpur when she was a kid, acting was definitely not in the cards for her when she was growing up. After completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication, she did a string of odd jobs related to her field before she realised she wanted to chase after her dream of being an actress.

What made you pursue acting?

During my A-levels, I was going through a break-up and at the time my friend advised me to distract myself by going for theatre auditions since I’ve always been fascinated with films and stage performances but never had the guts to do so. But attending those workshops really helped take my mind off negative things around me and I’ve never regretted it since.

What does it feel like knowing you acted in Taiping Adagio, a film showcased at the Cannes Film Festival?

It was my first feature film and even though I had a small role in it, it still felt good knowing that I was part of a group of people representing the industry in Malaysia to well-known film producers and critics at one of the most prestigious film events abroad. It has certainly put Malaysia on the map at the Cannes Film Festival.

How do you prepare yourself for an audition?

Every audition means different roles. With that being said, doing research beforehand is a must. Prepare and equip yourself with everything there is to know so you won’t be caught off-guard. Other than that, there’s actually nothing else to do besides relaxing and being your genuine self.

Eating and resting well is also important because television or film roles require you to have more energy than usual whereas indie films are more laidback and soft.

How do you get into character for each role?

It helps to understand what your director wants from you. For example, before filming Girl from Sumatra, the director actually gave me a film to watch and told me to observe how the actors portray their roles and to improve myself.

Other times, I was given the opportunity to daydream and fully immerse myself in the character by thinking what would I do and how would I act if I was in that same situation.

What do you think makes you stand out from your fellow peers?

Firstly, I think it’s an added advantage that I speak three languages as it has really got me a lot of roles in different projects. Besides that, I’ve also been told that I have a specific look that many are looking for in an actress. I realised that I’m also easy to work with and the key is to be humble.

Was there a time during filming that you felt really uncomfortable?

That actually happened once when I was filming with a partner that I have no chemistry with but I had to fake it to get the job done and stay professional as an actress. Other than that, theatre actually brought out another side of me, making me comfortable in my own skin. Ever since then, I’ve become fearless to pretty much any scenario that was thrown my way.

What advice would you give other aspiring actors?

Go to acting classes or workshops and don’t just think about getting that instant fame without putting any effort or hard work into it. Acting isn’t as easy as it seems. Not everyone is born a star.

You acted in Samudera that won the Malaysian International Film Festival Shortfilm Competition. What role did you play?

In Samudera, I played the lead role as a maid named ‘Siti’ who accidentally drowned her employer’s baby and had to decide whether to stay and face the consequences or to run away with her daughter. There wasn’t much pressure I’d say as filming was easy-going for me.

However, during the last day of filming my focus was disturbed and all I could think about was going home to sleep as I was exhausted from travelling to three different film locations.

Would you be writing or directing a movie or short film in the near future?

I’ve had some experience in writing and directing theatre but nothing with films yet. When the time comes, it would be great to be able to dive into that and develop something of my own.

Coffee master

MALAYSIA’S Brewer Cup 2017 winner Shaun Liew has brought glory and fame to our country’s coffee scene.

But despite his vast working experience and many accomplishments, Liew – a co-owner of the Yellow Brick Road cafe in Kuala Lumpur – still remains humble, staying true to himself and with a willingness to learn new things.

How did your interest in coffee begin?

In 2012, when I was working at Berjaya University as a lecturer, I was given the chance to coach students in a barista competition in Penang.
I took up the offer, and have been hooked on it ever since.

Define a good cup of coffee.

A good cup of coffee to me has balance in taste, is tactile, and is complex in flavours.

What does coffee mean to you?

Coffee is something special and interesting to me. Sometimes, it can also be quite painful, as it takes time to perfect and understand the learning curves it comes with.

How long does it take to brew the perfect cup of coffee?

In my opinion, it all depends on the solubility of the coffee. [Everything from] the grade of the beans, to the roasting and brewing [process], specific techniques, and time, play an integral role.

There will never be a bad cup of coffee as long as the maker knows how long the roasting and brewing should be.

Is there any specific technique that people should master in coffee brewing?

A lot of times, they don’t know what they want and forget what brewing is all about. They need to understand that different coffee beans require different roasting and brewing methods.

Sticking to stubborn traditional ways, and not realising what is needed, will not work in your favour.

How many types of coffee bases are there?

Well, there’s the usual espresso base, filter base, nitro base, cold brew, ice drip. There’s also cocktail coffee, but it isn’t available in Malaysia.

Can you elaborate on the differences between specialty coffee and commercial coffee?

Specialty coffee is the kind that cafes usually serve, that is of top-quality grade one beans. The terroir (environmental conditions) of the farm actually contributes to the coffee flavour as well.

Commercial coffee [that is] available at supermarkets [is from] grade two or three beans.

There are also gourmet grade beans available in the market, which is a grade in-between commercial and specialty coffee beans, and is usually in a medium dark roast.

What kind of coffee beans do Malaysians prefer?

In the past, I noticed people are pulled towards bolder kinds of coffee with a chocolatey taste, for example.

But now, it has shifted, and people are more accepting of acidity in their coffee with added flavours like blueberry or tangerine in it.

What made you participate in the Brewer Cup competition?

Since I competed in Malaysia’s Barista Championship 2016, I decided to participate in a different category instead. I wanted to challenge myself and try something new to deepen my knowledge of coffee.

With coffee, there’s always an unlimited amount of things you can learn from it.

How does it feel being last year’s champion?

Of course, it was a big accomplishment for me and my career. It gifted me with priceless exposure, and gave me a once-in-a-lifetime experience where I met with a well-known coffee bean producer in Panama.

Would you be participating in similar competitions in future?

I can’t say for sure if, or when, I’ll be participating in any similar competitions, because right now, I’m focusing on my business ventures and connecting with my team to ensure the growth of [Yellow Brick Road cafe].

Once everything is stable and if given the time to compete, I would definitely love to do so.

How would you describe your road to success?

It was not an easy road but I always remind myself not to let ego affect me. My coach used to be my ex-student back in my teaching days.

Furthermore, it’s important to have a good strategy for everything you do, and remember that age doesn’t matter, [it is] experience [that] counts.

It’s all going swimmingly

NOT many of us can say with confidence that we were making and breaking records before the age of 21. Yet, that is what Welson Sim has been doing for most of his career as a national swimmer.

To date, the Kuching-born boy is the first Malaysian male swimmer to qualify for the Olympics, entering in two events at Rio 2016, the 200m and 400m freestyles.

He has also won various gold medals in international-standard competitions, and even beat Olympic champion Mark Horton in the 400m freestyle twice.

At last year’s SEA Games, Sim broke the 200m freestyle games’ record by winning gold in 1:47.79, with the previous record being 1:48.96. And just two months before, he also broke the national 400m freestyle record at the Mare Nostrum Tour in Monte Carlo.

How old were you when you first started swimming?

I started learning how to swim at a swim club at the age of 10. I had asthma as a child, hence my mother was exploring different ways for me to ease the pain I had when breathing. A doctor recommended that I started swimming. After I got comfortable with it, I decided to pursue it as a competitive sport.

How did you feel when you won your first swim meet?

It felt great! I didn’t expect it, so it was even more of a surprise for me. Before I won my first meet, I always had an interest in swimming – I constantly looked forward to my training sessions and had a lot of encouragement from my mother.

Why did you decide on becoming a professional athlete?

It was a personal interest at first. I liked and enjoyed swimming. As time passed, I realised that being a professional swimmer needed discipline and commitment, which I think is what all of us should have. I suppose I never imagined I would be a national athlete when I was younger –I just wanted to swim, without having any pressure.

Do you feel that being a national athlete is a huge responsibility?

Yes. The moment you put on the tiger stripe T-shirt, you’re also putting on a responsibility to do your country proud. For me, it’s about wanting to make Malaysia proud. I feel really good to be able to represent the country at an international level.

Is there any special training that you undergo to ensure optimum performance during competitions?

I do have special training sessions, which I do twice a week. It’s just a little bit of extra effort that I put in to improve myself and my stamina.

Aside from the special training, what is your daily regular training like?

Our daily training routine is somewhat different from the others. I wake up at six in the morning to get to the pool by 6.30am. I’m out of the pool by 8.30am for morning sessions, and we usually rest until our afternoon sessions at 3.30pm. We train till 6pm, and the only free time we have is usually at night.

Do you adhere to any special dietary restrictions?

I don’t really have any strict dietary restrictions, because the amount of calories I burn in a day is really incredible. It’s actually recommended that I eat as much as I can, and focus on [consuming] more carbohydrates.

What advice do you have for those who aspire to be a national swimmer or athlete?

Never give up, because once you have a set goal, you must try your very best to achieve it. No matter how hard the road might be, there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel.

What do you do to let off steam in your free time?

I enjoy playing computer games. My go-to game is Dota, and I play a lot of it.

Reaching for glory

IF YOU’VE ever wondered what is national artistic gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi’s current favourite movie, it is the much-talked-about musical, The Greatest Showman.

The nation’s darling, who will be turning 24 in May – and who counts indulging in cake as a guilty pleasure – has certainly been busy perfecting her sport, despite not considering herself a perfectionist.

Find out what it’s like to be a strong athlete, Farah’s goals for 2018, and how she balances personal life and work.

You’re considered a role model, especially for young girls. How does it feel dealing with the pressure of being ‘perfect’, while still enjoying the freedom of being yourself?

Thank you for the kind words. However, for me, I do not feel the need to be perfect, because everyone is different and I just opt to be myself and try my very best to be the best version of me.

Did you ever expect your love for artistic gymnastics to flourish and turn into the level of success that it is now?

I started gymnastics when I was three years old. To me, it was just something that I loved doing, and as I grew it became my passion.

I knew from very young that I wanted to be a gymnast and represent my country, and so I trained hard to be able to accomplish this. I believe that at each stage, I just wanted to push myself to achieve more.

Was there a defining moment in your life where you realised artistic gymnastics was what you wanted to pursue?

It was more of [how] each competition or each new skill and training session [made] me realise I wanted to push myself and excel in my sport.

Do you have any other interests that you’d like to pursue after a career in sports?

I would like to travel … and see the seven wonders of the world.

Since you achieved so much last year, especially with the SEA Games, what are your goals for 2018?

My goal for this year is to qualify for finals in both the Commonwealth Games in Australia, and the Asian Games in Indonesia.

How is a typical day like for you?

A typical day now for me since I have graduated from university is a double session training. So, a morning gym session, and then afternoon gymnastics session.

Plus, recovery sessions as well.

A lot of people often underestimate gymnastics as a sport, and how much work goes into it. Can you share your fitness routine, and how does it differ when you’re training for a competition?

When I am training for a competition, the training sessions get a lot more vigorous and hard, because we have to get into optimum shape.

I have training sessions six days a week, three [of which are] double sessions.

During double sessions, I will have a morning gym session, which consists of weight and cardio training [for] about one-and-a-half hours.

In the afternoon, I will have my gymnastics session, which consists of physical training and gymnastics training, [and] can go up to four hours.

Do you ever experience performance anxiety? If so, how do you overcome it?

Yes, I do. Usually at a very big competition. I will do visualisation and breathing exercises to calm myself down, as well as give myself a pep talk.

I usually just tell myself to believe in myself, and now is the time to go out there and just enjoy because I have already prepared for it.

Who are your inspirations in life that drive you to succeed?

My inspiration comes from my goals that I set for myself and I know that every step I take leads me closer to where I want to go and what I want to achieve.

What’s your idea of de-stressing, and how do you enjoy your free time?

For me, to de-stress is to take a nice long bath and read a good book, or watch a couple episodes of a series that I’m currently enjoying.

If I have a longer period of time, [maybe] a trip to the beach.

During my free time, which is usually on a Sunday, I either stay home and spend time with my family or I catch a movie.