Today I interviewed Mizz Nina for Niexter Online. Got to play with hijabs. I also feel more like an adult than I have ever felt, my whole life.
REALLY long story (with pictures!):
I was way too immersed in watching Captain America 2, so I only ended up sleeping at 12:30. I did not sleep well – kept tossing, turning, and dreaming that I was late. In fact, it was the worst sleep I had since the night before I had to submit my script for drama last year. I woke up at 5:23, 2 minutes before my Dad knocked on my door, and to his surprise, I answered from downstairs.
Subuh only started at 6:10, so Dad and I got everything else ready before praying almost immediately when it did. We stopped at a petrol station and could hear the imam leading jemaah prayer from USJ 4’s mosque. Dad went to the gents’ while I bought breakfast. The cashier said, “Selamat pagi kak”. Everyone always thinks I’m fourteen or twenty-one. There is no in between. But I don’t blame the cashier, because you’re not going to find a schoolgirl wearing work attire buying breakfast at Shell at 6:25am on a weekday.
Big day ahead.
Alright, here’s the story: I’ve wrote a few articles for Niexter (the New Straits TImes’ pullout for teenagers) since late 2012, I believe. These articles were written without leaving the house. You can find them here, here and here. Unfortunately, I couldn’t write much while I was in boarding school or join programs. But I guess I got a ‘promotion’, finally, when one of the Niexter staff, Kak Noorin, asked if I was willing to be the editor of the upcoming Hijab issue. WAS I??? I’D BEEN WAITING FOREVER FOR THIS DAY! Hahahaha.
So, basically I discussed the issue content with Kak Noorin, found writers for each section (wasn’t easy, I tell you), and discussed on who to interview for the Spotlight section. I suggested Mizz Nina and Dato Tuan Hasmah Tuan Yusoff, and Mizz Nina’s manager replied Niexter first, so we scheduled an interview at 11am on Friday, 6th February 2015 in Mizz Nina’s own Muslimah boutique, Madeena.
Dad and I reached NSTP, Bangsar at around seven. I just found out not only NST is under NSTP, but also newspapers such as Berita Harian and Metro. All sorts of thoughts were bouncing up and down in my mind — I feel like Ugly Betty! I am grown up! I’m actually going to be a journalist for a day! Well, an unpaid journalist, but who cares? It’s all about experience. After all, I don’t actually have a job right now because I prefer to focus on my art, managing the house and taking care of my siblings.
Anyway, my Dad left me to go to work at around 7 (I still can’t believe he actually did that…) and I sat at the NEWS cafe alone. It wasn’t even open yet, but the pakcik kafe gave me yesterday’s Berita Harian to read. That was thoughtful. After the sun came up, I went and explored the place a bit, took dozens of pictures. I was 2 hours early, after all. Then I went to rest for a bit in the surau. A woman actually asked me which department I work in.
When I went back to the cafe, it was open, so I ordered a plate of nasi goreng and ate at a table that looked like this:
And I observed the atmosphere around me carefully. News-related quotes and posters everywhere. People in their office shirts, sitting alone and drinking Nescafe. None of them paid much attention to me. “WOAH, I’M ACTUALLY GOING TO WORK!”, I screamed. Well… in my head.
The sad thing is, I drank coffee super early in the morning and I was all sorts of agitated due to nervousness, so I only finished half the plate because I feared I was going to throw up. Then I had to sit and calm myself for a few minutes before calling Kak Noorin to ask where to meet up, just before 9.
She brought me to her office and I just stared in awe at the place. White. Clean. Motivational quotes everywhere. What I noticed is that some people used really old, thick computers, others normal modern PCs, and there were also Macs in sight. In a normal office you’d most likely see everybody using the same type of computer, but I made up my mind that perhaps the fancier ones are for photo editors or graphic designers or maybe just those higher in rank.
At around 9:40 (after I read the staff copy of that day’s NST), Kak Noorin and I drove off to Empire Damansara. I was thankful that the conversation could flow smoothly, because before Form 5 I was terrible at attempting to talk to adults. I guess it helped that we’d been communicating regularly through Whatsapp and e-mail for the past two weeks or so.
Well, Empire Damansara was a very modern and stylish place, full of high-end premises. It looks like Europe or something, with the elegant design and the grey brick walls. Perfect for hardcore Instagrammers (like me). I couldn’t find a drink that wasn’t mineral water, for less than RM6 there. Oh, and mineral water is RM3. Ironically I read a few articles that morning about boycotting mineral water above RM1. Damansara Performing Arts Centre is also located in Empire Damansara, and right next to it there was an art showcase of broken toys painted in white, hanging from the ceiling.
Kak Noorin and I walked around for a while as we arrived early. Madeena wasn’t even open yet. I could see Mizz Nina getting her makeup done by her makeup artist from Madeena. Kak Noorin and I had to wait for a while, even after we got invited in. I actually had time to do a photoshoot for the Editor’s Note first. Even after that, I took my time waiting while Mizz Nina did a shoot in two different outfits for Niexter.
Madeena is also a lovely place, inspirational quotes and a verse from Surah an-Nur in Kufic script punctuating the walls. The place sold pretty hijabs, shoes, perfumes, jubahs and et cetera — not at a price an unemployed SPM leaver could afford, unfortunately! There is also a mini cafe in the boutique, where Kak Noorin and I sat down to interview her. Kak Noorin briefly introduced the both of us and explained about Niexter, but I generally conducted most of the interview.
Here are the questions I prepared, and asked.
1. Thousands were shocked when you suddenly started donning the hijab and left your career as an artist after performing Hajj. When exactly did you decide to make this hijrah (change)? What was the initial spark that led to being who you are today?
2. What does wearing the hijab mean to you?
3. Being celebrity icons for MOCA (Malaysians On Covering Aurah). Can you explain more about the campaign and your role in it?
4. As you are in textile business now, How important is a modest personality to go with modest clothing?
5. How should we encourage Muslimahs to cover up in a more positive manner?
6. How far do you plan to go with Madeena?
7. Could you share with us about your inspiration on your own hijab design?
8. Lastly, do you have any advice for those who are too afraid to wear the hijab, or hijabis who feel insecure wearing the hijab due to unsupportive environments?
9. Are any projects in progress for Islamic music or spoken poetry?
What were the answers? Check out Niexter Online on 6th April 2015!
Mizz Nina was very friendly and lively, well, she is a celebrity so she’s used to be interviewed I suppose. And she could ramble on and on for minutes at a time when asked one thing, going into another story and yet another story — not just short and superficial answers. I also took selfies with her and she helped me to try one of her latest designs, Hijab Maryam! Thank you so much, Mizz Nina.
Honestly, I don’t keep up with celebrities very much, so I only found out about Mizz Nina’s hijrah last year when Always A Traveller was showing in one of my relatives’ houses. I didn’t even recognise her! My jaw dropped when Mum told me it was her. The last time I saw her, she was dancing with Colby O Donis. But Alhamdulillah, this woman has now come so far from that phase and is a dakwah icon today.
I asked Kak Noorin where I could improve, and she said I was fine, it’s just that I seemed just a teeny bit nervous – like, “Wow, I’m actually meeting a celebrity!”. I simply agreed with her. But the truth is… I really am always nervous in social situations, though I’ve come a long way from where I used to be. Two years ago. I couldn’t even present in front of a group without shaking. I still struggle not to do so.
Maybe you guys would think that interviewing Mizz Nina was the highlight of my day, but the truth is I was just waiting for the moment Kak Noorin would drop me off at the Bangsar LRT station.
My parents are protective – most of my friends know that – and what cripples me even more is that I am the eldest child AND a female. I don’t even bother to go out anymore, I’m just patiently waiting to get a driving license, enter college, move into a dorm, and THEN yell to the world, “DOBBY IS A FREE ELF!!!”.
‘Cause my family is probably moving. Far away. I can’t go into detail on that right now, sorry!
Until then, I’ll just listen to ‘When Will My Life Begin’ from the Tangled soundtrack.
Anyway, the point is, I’ve never actually been alone in a huge city. Cycling around a small town like Urasa at the age of 9 without my parents’ knowledge doesn’t count. So when Kak Noorin drove away from the station, I went up the stairs, stared at the plethora of cars whizzing by from the flyover (is it a flyover? I don’t know, it’s a LRT station?), and thought to myself, “…this is so weird”. Rapunzel moment.
I was in KL! All alone! With money! With no ties to anyone or anything around me! I could actually go to KLCC or Istana Budaya or Zoo Negara or elsewhere! Or I could embrace the drug addict life at some back alley!
But, of course, since I am a good girl, I bought a token and boarded the LRT to KL Sentral, my heart pounding in my chest. Now I was coming back from work.
Couldn’t resist taking a bad selfie, of course.
My stomach was rumbling by the time I reached KL Sentral, but, if you’ve ever been there, you’d know that it is not a wise idea to have lunch there unless you’re desperate.
Reality hit even more now that I was in KL Sentral. There were crowds of different people from different races and different religions and different walks of life everywhere, going about their business. And none of them could care less about me. Heck, I could board a train to Singapore and nobody in the station would go amok. Wait, is boarding a train to SG possible? See, this is how naive and immature I am. I didn’t even have a passport on me, for starters.
Students coming home from boarding school. A British couple holidaying in Malaysia. Muslim men wearing baju melayu and jubahs as they had just come back from Friday prayer. Youth with their suitcases, venturing to unfamiliar places to start new lives. A woman boarding the KLIA transit with her children to join her husband overseas.
I guess when you’re an adult and used to this sort of thing, you don’t care anymore. And you wish you were young once again because you didn’t have many responsibilities or obligations. But that’s only because you don’t bother remembering how restricted and naive and angsty you used to be.
I had some trouble finding where to buy the tickets to Subang Jaya (for a second I forgot I had to take the KTM and not the LRT anymore), but I managed to find my way. I waited for like, fifteen minutes for the train, but luckily the free WiFi actually worked. I had to spend the journey through five of six stops squeezed next to this huge white guy who did not know the meaning of ‘personal space’ and kept talking really loudly with his wife.
I then got off the train, and once again thought, “Is this real? Is this actually happening to me? Did I really board the train alone back from KL?” before walking to Subang Parade, and finally unwound a little at KFC. It wasn’t Kuala Lumpur anymore. I could feel one or two pairs of eyes on me there — I guess it’s unusual to see a seventeen-year-old eating alone in a community mall (is Subang Parade a community mall?). I then did my Zohor prayers and walked around a bit, browsed through MPH, bought shawls and button badges… before accidentally bumping into my Mum who just arrived. My phone had four missed calls from her – how come I didn’t notice?
I (God, this is the fourth paragraph in a row beginning with ‘I’) accompanied her as she ate lunch at Carls Jr. Yesterday night, she told me to take the SIM card from our Galaxy Note and put it in the second SIM slot in my phone so that I would have mobile data, but the sizes weren’t the same. I’ve never had mobile data on my phone, but I guess she realised that I am growing up and having no 3G is a liability, so we went to Celcom and upgraded my SIM card to have mobile data. Yay!
What a string of fortunate events.