Huang Biren – Mama Mia!
“I’ve become more patient, more mature since I became a mom.”
Biren called me some time close to noon, we had agreed on a phone interview. On my end of the line, I hear a child cooing. I imagine her daughter tugging at her skirt while she places the phone to her ear.
I start off with asking her what inspired her into acting. “When I was still studying, I saw the recruitment advertisement for actresses. Out of curiosity and fun, I decided to take part in the auditions. I went for the auditions unprepared. Unlike the other contestants who had proper photographs of themselves, I only had a passport-sized photo. There wasn’t much of a plan or inspiration.” Biren laughs – a soft tinkling laughter that makes me think of trickling water down a stream which brought flashbacks to years ago, years before I had this interview with Biren.
I remember seeing her at a boutique in town, trying on an evening gown. Back then, even in my childish 12-year-old mind, I knew that this flawless statuesque beauty wasn’t just like anyone. Somehow, I had known she would make it big…
Unraveling The Drama Mama
At a mere age of 17, Biren joined Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (known as MediaCorp today). She made a decision not many parents would encourage – she chose acting over studying, and has stuck with it since. “My parents had plans to send me overseas for my studies so it did take quite a bit of effort to convince my mother acting was for me,” she admits. “But acting has been my first and only job so far.”
When asked which roles she enjoyed playing most, Biren does not hesitate to answer. “There are many memorable roles. I enjoyed playing the caring wife in Stand By Me, Kelian in Beautiful Connection, and Lucky in My Lucky Charm.” Gracing easily 50 roles during her acting career, Biren’s honed acting skills has certainly impressed viewers.
On her 9th year of acting, Biren won her very first Best Actress Award and, as they say, the rest is history. The years to come saw Biren’s repeated big wins – in 1997 and nearly every year after that, Biren sat on the rungs as Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes with the Star Awards. She was a shoo-in for Best Actress Award in years 1998, 2002 and 2005. Her long list of accolades include Best Supporting Actress, Favourite Actress, All Time Favourite Artistes awards, first Singaporean actress to receive a Best Actress nomination in the 1998 Asian Television Awards for Stand By Me, as well as ousting Zoe Tay and Fann Wong in the prestigious Star Awards 25th Anniversary Show.
So Biren has certainly come a long way indeed, from a fresh-faced 17-year-old to being crowned as one of Caldecott Hill’s queens of her time.
On Taking The Backseat
Some say it’s MediaCorp’s new contract terms whilst others say it’s her children. Whatever it may be, Biren has decided she’ll take a breather from showbiz. On whether it’s a permanent move, she can’t tell. But as most would agree, it is a pity that Biren should decide to leave MediaCorp.
Though her screen appearances have significantly reduced, Biren is not loved any less by viewers – her wins at recent Star Awards shows testify that she’s still very much the hot favourite she was. Avid fans, all’s not lost. Biren has revealed that MediaCorp still represents her, she’ll continue hosting, and appearing in commercials and variety shows, like how she did at Star Awards 2011. She lets on about the drama offers she’s been presented with, but shares she’ll take it all a step at a time. Let’s continue keeping our fingers crossed and hoping we’ll see her back on telly soon.
The 3 Loves Of Her Life
Throughout our telephone conversation, Biren pauses every now and then to attend to cries of “Mummy, mummy!” I hear her in the background coaxing, “I will talk to you later.” When she’s back on line, she tells me, “I’ve to send the kids to school in a bit.” For now, her kids are priority. “My days are spent chauffeuring the kids to and fro school. Motherhood at home has kept me busier than when I was acting!”
Yet she sounds like she enjoys it all. A mother to three children, Justin, Janelle and Janessa, aged 11 years, 3 years and 11 months respectively, Biren tells me the children are a handful. “It’s not easy handling three kids, and my second child needs a lot of attention. My youngest child is easier to handle, she has good temper and is pretty independent despite her young age.” Like most Singaporean mothers, Biren shares the same views on education and its importance. She coaches them in their studies, and has tuition lessons arranged for her 11-year-old son who will be sitting for his PSLE next year.
She spends her time teaching them, and the children in return, have taught her a fair bit too. “They’ve certainly taught me patience and maturity. I no longer just think for myself. I put them before myself I’ve learnt to take charge. It’s no longer just about me.” Any parenting tips she lives by and wishes to share with all moms out there, I ask. “Communication is very important, every child is different. As a mom, it is my responsibility to understand my children. I interact with my children a lot in order to understand them better. Each child is different, we can’t use the same methods to discipline different children.”
Her plate is full but the family finds time for Mother’s Day. “I’ve three Mother’s Day celebrations every year – for my own mother, my mother-in-law and myself! They are usually small meaningful gatherings instead of big parties.” So any plans for number 4, I can’t resist asking. “Unlikely!” she laughs.
Her Beauty Secrets
Women out there must be dying to know what Biren’s secrets are to her svelte, runway-worthy frame and porcelain complexion. We’ve watched her onscreen these twenty years or so, and we doubt she’s gained a single ounce. What’s she doing that we aren’t? Beaute Hub’s treatments, she reveals with gusto.
If you haven’t already heard, this ageless beauty has been named the ambassador of Beaute Hub International, a beauty and slimming centre she has nothing but praises for. “The owner of Beaute Hub is an old friend, which I was in contact for over 10 years. I had just given birth and was approached to be Beaute Hub’s ambassador. I badly needed to slim down then, so I joined them as ambassador.” It’s been a year, and she hasn’t looked back since. “I love their machine treatments – the fat burning, body and tummy toning ones, latest LPG treatments, facial treatments. There is something for everyone!”
But beauty has to be more than skin deep, Biren reminds. She takes time off to eat and live healthily as well – Plenty of water, fruits and vegetables. “Apart from Beaute Hub’s treatments, I make a point to stay healthy. I make sure I get enough sleep, no late nights unless I’ve to take care of the kids. I go to the gym for treadmill sessions, and have nutritious diets.” Does that mean she swears of carbohydrates and all things fattening? “Nope, I don’t believe in dieting. I eat whatever I want to; chocolates, tidbits, you name it. But! I eat in moderation. Yes, it’s really about moderation and discipline.” That must be some mean discipline to keep that lean figure you’ve got there, Biren.
Livin Da Vida Loca
Life has been good to Biren. Though weekends once spent shopping with friends are now replaced with time spent at home, she has no complaints. “I’ve no time for hobbies or even myself. All my time is spent on my children.”
After a satisfying twenty-year-career with MediaCorp, she’s now a happy full-time mom, taking a day at a time. As we come to the close of the interview, I ask the typical interview question – where does she see herself in five years’ time? “My focus is my children, I’ve offers to go back into acting but I’m putting them on hold. I’ve no plans at the moment, I believe in fate. If acting’s meant for me, I will have the opportunity to act again. I just want to concentrate on being around for my children, especially when they are so young.”