ALEA Yang Ni has earned a spot in the Malaysia Book of Records as the youngest person to win the National Storytelling Competition in Bahasa Malaysia organised by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP).
Aged 10 years and eight months at that time, Alea beat the other participants who were older and more experienced to emerge champion in the competition held in September 2012.
Having joined storytelling competitions since she was seven, the eloquent 12-year-old is certainly no stranger to them.
However, she still finds that overcoming her nerves is her biggest challenge.
“With so many people watching, I always feel very nervous before going out there to tell my story,” she said.
Although she had no expectations to win the competition, the SJK(C) Kuen Cheng 2, Kuala Lumpur pupil was ecstatic about her victory.
“I was so surprised when they announ-ced that I had won!
“I usually only speak Malay with the maid at home and sometimes, in school, so it was a nice surprise,” said Alea.
Storytelling is something that runs in her family as well. Her brothers, Aidan, 14 and Ashton eight, have also taken part in such competitions.
Alea’s mother, local artiste Kimberly Yang, said that as her children were avid readers, it was a natural transition from reading to story-telling.
“When my children were younger, I read a lot to them. Even now, they enjoy reading, so it was natural that they would enjoy story-telling, too,” said Yang, adding that she uses her experiences in the entertainment industry to train them for the competition.
It only occurred to Yang that she could try to enter her only daugther into the book of records after she attended a Malaysia Book of Records event early last year.
Yang, 43, shared that she had no clue that the application process, which included submitting documents and photographs as proof, as well as making regular calls to DBP for a statement to verify Alea’s win, would be so tedious.
“I almost gave up halfway through the application process, as it took up more than a year!
“I’m so glad I didn’t, though, as it was worth the wait. When we received the call that Alea’s record would be endorsed, I was in tears,” she said.
According to Yang, their strategy for the storytelling competition was to focus on several important aspects.
She said that she really enjoyed taking old stories and retelling them to suit the competition.
“When you’ve done this for so long, the toughest part is looking for stories with moral teachings that are funny and able to captivate the audience,” she said.
“We also paid a lot of attention to the technical aspects of the competition.
“For example, the Bahasa Malaysia storytelling competition has a time limit of eight minutes, which must not be exceeded. We also made sure that there were no grammatical errors in the script,” she said.
As for the costumes, Yang said that her husband, architect Yong Saw Wai, makes them all by hand.
Alea noted that while her costumes were usually simple, her favourite costume — also the most intricate — was the one used during the national competition.
She told her story, “Tuah ayam nampak di kaki” which was about a disabled child being bullied by her stepmother, from a wheelchair.
As props are not allowed during story-telling competitions, Yong, 52, had to make a wheelchair out of cardboard, which was then strapped on to Alea minutes before she went on stage.
“As I had to stand, the wheelchair was fashioned in a way where I would not be able to sit.
“So, I could only put it on right before I went on stage,” shared Alea.
Despite the process being so taxing on her family, Yang shared that her children will only gain from their experiences on stage.
“It’s really an asset to be able to speak well in public, and this is how storytelling has helped my children.
“The self-confidence they gain from having to speak to an audience will also help build them up to be good leaders,” she shared.
During the certificate presentation ceremony, Malaysia Book of Records founder and managing director Tan Sri Danny Ooi said the local book of records would love to endorse more record-breaking achievements by children.
“I hope to see more young children attempt to create or break exisiting records as they can inspire and instil the spirit of excellence in the young and old alike,” he said.