Local actress Emma Maembong may have a number of thoughts running through her head at the end of a long day as she gets into bed. Well, these days, one of those thoughts may include whether she will be able to get into bed at all.
“Just imagine, the three of us are all grown up and we’re sharing one king size bed,” says 23-year-old Emma who has to sleep with her sisters, who are also actresses, Yaya, 38, and Chacha, 19.
“And they don’t sleep like this,
” she says, straightening her arms and gathering them to her sides. “They sleep like this and like that,” she continues, flailing her limbs wildly in the air.
“So if I go to sleep late, Chacha would have ‘conquered’ the bed. I would have to push her to a side and make some space for myself.”
The Maembong sisters’ sleeping arrangement has to do with their new half-hour, 10-episode reality show, The House.
For more than two weeks, Yaya, Emma and Chacha have taken time off for a “holiday”, living in a beautiful vacation house by a lake. And as the cameras roll on, viewers get a rare look into the lives and the bond shared by these celebrity siblings.
While going to bed these days may be a bit of a squeeze (a prerequisite set by the show’s producers), Emma says it’s the most memorable moment she’s had on the show.
“Every morning when we wake up, my sisters will get very manja with me. Chacha will complain that she doesn’t want to get up.
“I miss those moments because we used to live in the same room and sleep on the same bed. Without this programme, I don’t know when I’ll get to do this again,” she tells this writer during a visit to the holiday home in Putrajaya recently.
The sisters not only get to spend quality time together, which is a luxury given their busy schedules, Yaya, Emma and Chacha, who are only three out of the 11 Maembong siblings, get to reconnect with the rest of the family, too, with many of them popping in for surprise visits.
“Of course I miss him,” says Yaya of her husband, actor Wan Raja, who makes a guest appearance in an episode.
“He told me not to take part in rigorous activities and take care of myself.”
Yaya, who got married last year, is 10 weeks pregnant. “But I do get carried away sometimes,” she adds.
Emma can definitely attest to that. “I thought since Yaya is now married and pregnant, she would be more cool and relaxed, but no, she’s still like a nine-year-old sometimes, pulling my hair and getting into fights,” she shares.
Yes, ruffling each others’ feathers are part and parcel of life in the Maembong household.
“Fights are a must, it’s our way of showing our affection for each other. There’s slapping, punching, hair-pulling. But in the end, you’re my sister and I love you,” says Chacha who also takes the opportunity to point out, “Emma is the naughtiest!”
“I’m the craziest,” Emma confesses. “My jokes are very rough. People may think I’m sweet and soft-spoken, but in my family, I’m very fierce.”
Life in The House isn’t as simple as just spending some R&R time together – or in their case, running around and roughhousing each other – as challenges are sprung on the sisters every now and then, giving rise to some rather dramatic moments.
“We were tasked to cook a meal for ourselves one day. So suddenly I was asked to drive and pick up some groceries all on my own,” says Emma who admits she always had her needs taken care of growing up, being Daddy’s girl.
“Back then, when we went to buy groceries, I just pushed the trolley. This time, I had to buy so many things and they specifically wanted bawang holland. They laughed at me because I didn’t know what it was. It turns out they were just large onions,” she recalls the experience with both fondness and frustration.
Meanwhile, Chacha, who was in charge of preparing the ingredients for Yaya to cook, failed to complete the task within the time limit and lost. Her punishment? Eat a tomato.
“If I eat a tomato, I might get admitted to the ICU,” says the youngest of the Maembongs, who accepted the penalty and ate the fruit. “I felt like vomiting. How can people eat tomatoes?”
Getting into the kitchen is one thing. Imagine the drama that ensues from other activities, which range from getting into the ring for a round of Muay Thai to karaoke and laser tag.
The sisters, who say they feel comfortable to be completely themselves on the show, are aware that opening up their lives in such a way would also mean opening themselves to criticisms.
“We didn’t accept it right away,” shares Yaya on when they were first asked to star on the reality show back in May. “We didn’t know if everyone was free and we were scared that people may criticise or not like it. It was a risk but it’s an opportunity we could not pass on.”
The ladies also see the show as a chance for fans to get to know them. As such, they see no reason to hide their personalities.
“I’m manja on and off the camera. If people don’t like it, it’s up to them,” the sweet-voiced Chacha says.
Emma, who is probably used to criticisms by now, being one of the country’s most talked-about celebrities, reasons: “Even if I don’t do anything, even if I just sit down quietly, I get criticised. If they don’t like me, no matter what I do, they still won’t like me.”
The House airs Wednesdays at 4pm on thehouse.com.my and Mondays at 9.30pm on Astro Ria (Astro Ch 104).