With a strive to be the best, Puan Sri Tiara Jacquelina rises to break traditions and create a platform for the new generation of Malaysian talents.

(Photo: Malaysia Tatler Society magazine 2007)

Following our story about Quek Shio Chuan, a man of the new generation who creates films that share Malaysian tatler_tatler_stories to the world, we talk to one of the pioneers, Puan Sri Tiara Jacquelina, who has made it her mission to nurture new talents for the Malaysian local arts and entertainment industry.

“Well, I must admit that prior to our foray into producing films and subsequently stage musicals, the local arts scene didn’t look like it could promise anyone a lucrative career at all,” says Puan Sri Jacquelina.

From her early days as a student who acted in TV commercials to pay her way through college to playing lead roles in award-winning productions and now helming Enfiniti Media, a significant contributor to the Malaysian arts and entertainment scene, Puan Sri Jacquelina has certainly come full circle with her career. She has also proven to the world that you can make a living in the arts and entertainment industry.

As a successful entrepreneur, producer, actress and philanthropist, she has made it her mission to push Malaysia’s arts and entertainment industry to the international stage.

Puan Sri Jacquelina says, "It all began with the dream of producing a really well-made Malaysian movie that would be good enough to represent the country at the most prestigious international film festivals."

(Photo: A scene from the Puteri Gunung Ledang film)

The legendary princess in Malaysian film and arts

That dream came true when she embarked on a journey to star in Puteri Gunung Ledang, a RM20-million production that was submitted for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 2004 Academy Awards. Consequently, she also won a stream of awards at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival and Malaysian PPFM Oscars in 2005.

After the film's success, she took on the role of producing Puteri Gunung Ledang: The Musical, which had garnered international recognition for its brilliance in reinterpreting the film for a live stage performance.

But Puan Sri Jacquelina’s success comes with little question from her peers, due to her absolute ‘no-nonsense’ take on all her work. This particular trait is something pushed forward by her loving husband, Tan Sri Mohd Effendi Norwawi.

She says, “Believe it or not, my greatest motivator (at the same time my harshest critic) is my husband, Effendi. He constantly challenges me to think of ways to innovate with every new project I undertake and he pushes me to think like a perfectionist and never settle for mediocrity.”

(Photo: Malaysia Tatler Society magazine 2007)

Breaking barriers against all odds

Many have argued that the local entertainment industry is in a standstill due to strict censorship. While the lady herself admits that it is a tough challenge, she has never deterred in her efforts to break the barrier and invent something great.

She brushes it off by saying, “Censorship isn’t a new issue. So, it’s pointless moaning about it. The most creative artists may even benefit from having to think of subtler alternative ways to present their art.”

This has been proven to be true through her earlier work in Ringgit Kasorrga, a film that touched on many taboo subjects and yet, managed to gain recognition and fame by winning an award at the Malaysian Film Festival in 1995.

There is no stopping this lady in climbing greater heights, even when language is a barrier. In Malaysia, where English is spoken predominantly in urban centres and the more widely spoken Bahasa Malaysia is limited to only Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei audiences, it is harder to reach a wider international audience.

She says confidently, “The only way we can break into the international scene is by changing our mindsets - by thinking big, thinking global, recognising international value and striving to achieve international standards.”

(Photo: A scene from the Puteri Gunung Ledang film)

A constant reinvention of the princess

Bringing traditional context to a contemporary setting with a fresh breath of air is how Puan Sri Jacquelina operates. To those who have watched her work, you'd know that she would often reinvent her character in Puteri Gunung Ledang: The Musical with different facets to give her audiences a myriad of experiences while watching the same piece.

This year also marks the 10th year anniversary of Puteri Gunung Ledang and it is a big milestone for the film as one of the most successful Malaysian productions to date. Even with its success, Puan Sri Jacquelina doesn't sit on the comfort of her laurels and has decided to release a fully remastered HD widescreen version of the film with surround sound effect in the coming Merdeka celebrations to give her loyal fans yet another experience.

This desire to achieve only the best is also why she took it upon herself to promote the local industry and to scout for emerging talents to pass on the legacy, which lead to her setting up the Enfiniti Academy of Musical Theatre and Entertainment Arts (ENACT).

ENACT is a place that provides weekly classes for anyone from the age of 3, in the various performing art forms. She explains, “I’m concerned with the scarcity of quality talent in the performing arts industry, and the need to continuously train and nurture the next generations, the 'future torch bearers' for our industry.”

She continues, “We need a continuous flow of new talent who will be the creators, thinkers and performers of the future.”

(Photo: Bulgari 'Save The Children' press event)

Opening paths for the future generation

Along with her efforts to find new talents for the industry, she also finds time to work on various charities that bring hope and dreams to children everywhere.

The latest charity effort known was the Bulgari ‘Save The Children’ initiative where we saw a tear roll down the cheeks of this big-hearted lady when the unfortunate happenings of children worldwide were mentioned.

She says, “I am a mother, so working for children’s’ charities come naturally to me. Besides my collaborations with Bulgari and Mont Blanc, I also work very closely with a group of Orang Asli children from the Semai tribe.”

As one who never publicise her philanthropic efforts unless asked, her charitable heart is known far and wide in Malaysian society. Puan Sri Jacquelina has said before that charity work is not something to be shown off in the public eye and that's how it should always be.

As determined and passionate as she is, Puan Sri Jacquelina still pushes herself forward for the betterment of the industry and for the future of the next generation.

Ending her interview with us, she says, “Aim to be the best in whatever you do. Do not settle for mediocrity”.


(Photos: Puan Sri Tiara Jacquelina and Malaysia Tatler)

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