She may be the daughter of a rock icon, but Nabila Huda is determined to forge her own path as an actress.
THE transformation had begun.
Clad in a simple white tee, fresh-faced Nabila Huda was sitting motionless with her eyes closed, while a hairstylist and makeup artist orbited the actress briskly.
Nabila, who plays Saloma in an upcoming two-part biopic, Saloma: Mencuri Guruh and Saloma: Pandang Kaseh, was getting a makeover inspired by the popular Singaporean-Malaysian artiste for our cover.
“I never wanted to be an actress,” declared the 29-year-old, as the makeup artist gently beckoned for her to lift her chin to meet the tip of a cosmetic brush.
“I went to audition for a modelling job at first but I was too short. The height requirement was about 5’6” (1.68m). But a week later, I got a call to try out for a role in a horror movie instead. I said, ‘OK,’” she continued.
Just like that, the then 16-year-old daughter of local rock legend Amy Search landed her first role in Blok 404, a horror flick directed by Silver Chung released some time in the early 2000s.
Asked if she enjoyed her first acting experience, she candidly replied, “No, not at all,” before adding with a laugh: “The worst part is, the movie became famous. Even now, it’s still playing again and again on TV, and everyone has been tweeting me about it.”
It wasn’t until her third project that Nabila finally caught the acting bug. “Slowly, I started to fall in love with acting. I like the process, from studying the script, to communicating with the production team. Everyone cares for each other, like a family,” she said.
Today, the actress has starred in numerous TV series and films, including the 2009 Syamsul Yusof-helmed Bohsia: Jangan Pilih Jalan Hitam. Nabila even picked up the Most Popular TV Actress title at the Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian 2013, a coveted people’s choice award often regarded as a seal of approval from viewers.
Not bad for a girl who didn’t start off wanting to be an actress.
A soft, romantic quiff was starting to take shape as Nabila’s hairstylist fashioned her fringe with a palmful of hairpins. The subject turned to her famous father, and what it was like growing up with one of Malaysia’s most famous music legends.
“He’s the best dad. He’s very loving, very soft. He can be strict but he never shouts,” the actress said, adding that her dad is just as big a rockstar in the kitchen as he is on stage. “He cooks really well! He can cook rendang, asam pedas and everything, like all the makcik-makcik dishes.”
She also shared her fondest memory of her father, which was when he took her to see his live shows. “When I was a bit older, he took me to his concerts. I got to sit right at the front row and sing his songs. I loved seeing my dad on stage,” she enthused.
While growing up with a famous father has its perks, Nabila admitted that it is not easy to be the legend’s daughter, as everyone puts the biggest spotlights on her. She also revealed she has been accused of using her father’s name to propel her career, especially when she first ventured into the industry.
“I can’t run away from that. Everyone knows that I’m Amy Search’s daughter. But every time I act in a film or drama, I always set my mind that one day, people will be talking about my talent. We are talented in different ways. He’s a singer and I’m an actor,” she said.
Over the years, the actress has had her share of controversies. Her bold outfit choice at the Anugerah Blokbuster 2011 red carpet (a black Alia Bastamam number), for one, was criticised for being too revealing.
“I don’t believe that when someone says something negative about you, you should respond negatively as well. Life is too short. You have to go through it with a smile,” she shared on handling criticism, adding that adopting a positive outlook is key.
Leaving a legacy
Keeping her lips steady while they were daubed with a generous layer of red lipstick, Nabila spoke about juggling motherhood and her career.
“I have very little time. I don’t have a maid at home. So I have to cook and clean and take care of my daughter by myself. When I have to work, my ex-husband looks after her,” she said.
The actress, who is the mother of four-year-old Keisha Laila, also opened up on her more “mature” parenting style: “I treat my daughter like my own friend. I didn’t have any siblings when I was growing up so I never got to mingle with other kids. How I talk to her is the same as how I talk to people.”
Nabila also shared that she always has her daughter in mind when taking on roles, saying: “There haven’t been any characters that crossed the line. If there were, I would have spoken up.”
The actress said she is committed to honing her craft, drawing inspiration from Saloma: “I admire her spirit a lot. Since she was five, Saloma wanted to be a singer, and she said she will never stop singing even when she gets old.”
Likewise, Nabila proclaimed that she’d never quit being an actress. “I’ll never quit. I don’t have any future plans, but what I do know is I’ll continue to act until I die. Perhaps I’ll slow down a little when I’m older. But acting makes me happy.”
And with that, just as our interview drew to a close, I noticed that the woman seated before me was no longer Nabila Huda – it was Saloma.
The transformation was complete.
In Saloma’s shoes
A legend’s life