M'sian City Life #20: It’s Not Easy Being A Young Actress In Malaysia

"But being in this industry has also taught me so much about life, people, and myself that I do not see coming from any other way."

Cover image via Mia Sabrina Mahadir

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be an actress in Malaysia?

This is Mia Sabrina Mahadir. She is a student, a part-time actress and a tuition teacher.

In the past few years, Mia has been juggling her responsibilities as a student while she teaches Bahasa Melayu and other exploratory subjects such as Speech and Drama on a part-time basis to earn pocket money.

On top of her studies and part-time work, the 23-year-old is involved in theatre productions or film projects at least three to four times a year. As a freelance actress, she is not tied down by any contracts by production companies at the moment, so she's basically free to join gigs through auditions and castings.

"I went to my first theatre audition to overcome a breakup."

Mia (left) won the best supporting actor (female) at the Sweet+Short Theatre 2015 for her role in “How To Write A Ten Minute Play, The Ten Minute Play”.

Image via Mia Sabrina Mahadir

In 2012, her best friend "forced" her to participate in a Short+Sweet Theatre Workshop at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC). The said best friend made sure she couldn't come up with any excuses by signing her up for the workshop on behalf of her.

"I have always been fascinated by films and stage performances, but I have never really thought of doing it myself," Mia said.

Mia has an excellent track record in her studies, scoring a string of straight A's for her SPM.

Although she had various opportunities to further her studies in science-related courses since she excelled in those subjects, Mia ended up opting for a degree in Mass Communication and to pursue her interest in performing arts.

It is Mia's drive for excellence that ensures she puts 100% in everything that she does

MIa (left) performing at a play.

Image via Mia Sabrina Mahadir

"A theatre production rehearsal process can range from once a week to four times a week, each session usually lasts for two hours at least. Most shows rehearse for at least two months," Mia noted.

As an actress, it is the positive responses from the audience at the end of the day that makes the months of practice worth all the effort.

"Three months of rehearsals come down to one reward: having someone from the audience come forward and share with us what they felt, or have learnt, from the show. This is especially true for children theatre! We have kids taking selfies with us. That's simply adorable."

While it is certainly fulfilling and fun to play a part in this industry, the fact remains that limited job openings and financial insecurities are real occupational concerns

"Money is always a problem, and competitions are tough. You have to be doing a lot of gigs at once, or have a couple side jobs to be able to sustain this career," she said.

Mia explained that there are not many shows going on at one time, and there are even fewer auditions. To make things even more difficult, certain production houses only hire regular people they are familiar with or have invites-only auditions, thus limiting the chances for one to obtain a job.

"There are a lot of people who look like you and can do what you do, so to stay on top you have to find your niche, and that is not easy to do," she added.

Additionally, this means that Mia has to make certain sacrifices to meet the demands that are required of her

"I usually have to sacrifice some sleep, gatherings, and also holidays for my rehearsals," Mia said.

Despite her hectic schedule, Mia is able to anticipate and make the best out of the limited time she has. It is also her principle that no matter how lucrative a job is, she'll never accept one that will cut off her time for her school assignments.

"It is also important to know your body's strength and limits: for example, I know I need at least six hours of sleep so I will not sacrifice that. I also know how much time I need to finish a 1,500 words essay, so that's useful during last minute assignments!"

"I don't chase after the high life, so I live simply and enjoy the freedom and flexibility," she pointed out.

It remains a challenge for her to find the balance between her passion and career but Mia has no regrets in devoting herself to the road less travelled

"I see my ex-schoolmates out and about doing veterinary, dentistry and computer science. Of course, I can't help but wonder if that could have worked for me too. But being in this industry has also taught me so much about life, people, and myself that I do not see coming from any other way."

Her best friend once told her, "We both walked the same distance, you just walked on a different path" and she still holds these words close to her heart till this very day.

"I love every moment of this journey and I wouldn't change a thing about it."

Living in the city ain’t a piece of cake but it could also be exciting and adventurous. How are you coping? How are you making the best out of things? Do you have a story or experience to share?

SUBMIT YOUR STORY NOW, or work on it and send it soon. Share a personal experience, your story as an urban city-dweller in Malaysia, whether it’s yours or from someone you know, email [email protected] or FB message us.

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Stay tuned for the next episode!

Previously on Malaysian City Life #19, Nur Izdihar binti Ramlan tells a gripping story about her student who has suffered much neglect at a young age:

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