With a career that’s set to soar to greater heights, actress and host Amelia Henderson is currently living her best life. We track back to where it all began, her rise above her insecurities and what lies ahead.
Growing up Amelia
1. You’ve been in front of the camera since you were a child. What’s your first memory of it and how has that changed over the years?
Amelia: “The first commercial I did was when I was 10 months old! It was a print ad for Mothercare. There were supposed to have been two babies in the ad but the other child model didn’t show up, so I took on the role of the other baby – they made me look like two different kids! Then there was the first TV commercial that I did when I was three years old for KFC. I had two commercials on the same day and we had to rush back and forth, and it was just a lot of work. I did so many commercials as a child and remember being on set 24/7.”
2: Can you share with us more about your growing up years and your family?
A: “My mum was a single parent and my dad lived overseas. He would come and visit us now and then, but mainly, it was mum doing everything. I didn’t know how she did it, but she would always be calm regardless of how spread thin she was. She had to do everything – look after the household, me, my brother, go to work – so she’s really like a power woman in my eyes for being able to do all those things and not crack. My aunt helped out a lot as well; she would send me to work and school. I had really strong role models to look up to, which is why for me now, I’d also like to be identified as a strong woman.”
3. As a model, actress, host and ballet dancer when you were younger, was it your dream to do so many things at once?
A: “I remember when I was younger up until 12 or 13 years old, it got to a point where I was just really sick of being in entertainment. I didn’t understand why I had to go to work and be on set 24/7 instead of attending my friend’s birthday party or go ice-skating with them. And when I started high school, I just really didn’t want to do it anymore; it was tiring and I didn’t understand what the returns were from it. I fell out of love with it and my mum could see it too. As soon as she realised that I lost interest in it, she said `maybe this is something you do as a child, and then you grow up and do something else’. It took me that break and going and doing other things to make me realise how I missed it and how at that point onwards, it was my choice. And so I came back with a renewed interest in it.”
4. You injured your back when you were younger and can no longer continue ballet; do you wish you could pursue ballet again?
A: “Do you know what’s funny? When I was younger, I didn’t like the entertainment industry and wanted to stop because it was too competitive. And I went from that aggressive environment to doing ballet, which is almost the same thing, if not worse. As an actress you have to obviously be in shape, but as a dancer, being that way is how you make your money and so you have to be in top form physically. Ballet was very overwhelming because it was like 24/7 breathe, eat, sleep, and ballet. I took a year off after I finished O levels and I was doing it full-time. I was a competitive professional dancer – I represented Malaysia not just for ballet, but for Latin America in competitive ballroom dancing too. I was on a super strict diet. My schedule was packed; 8am until 5pm was spent at school. And then I’d have ballet class from 5pm to 7pm, and then some other elective from 8.30pm to 10pm. I did have a lot of leeway given to me in terms of ballet because when I put my legs up, they just look nice because they’re long, regardless of whether I’m a good dancer or not. But then I injured my back and thought, you know what, this is a good thing. Cos realistically, the ballet industry in Malaysia doesn’t exist.”
5. You and your mother are really close. Is there anything she won’t let you do?
A: “She’s always been trusting and supportive of me, and it think it’s cos we were forced to be in a situation where we both were making money and supporting the family together. She knows that there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her and I know that there’s nothing that she wouldn’t do for me. And because she never said no, if there was something that she’d say no to, I wouldn’t do it. I was never the kid who snuck out of the house. I was the kid who was in the club texting my mum. Because I’ve always been so honest with her, the trust we have for each other is solid.”
6. What is the one thing or person you have the softest spot for?
A: “My baby brother, Alex. Back then, my mum and I would go out to do commercials and when we came home, he just would be there looking so cute. And he only had his growth spurt recently, and now he’s bigger than me! He’s really sensitive but not effeminate. He really understands people and how to talk to them, and knows when to mediate and calm any situation down with anyone.”
7. He’s starting to dip his toes in the entertainment industry. What do you have to say about this?
A: “When I was growing up and doing all these commercials, my brother would be on set with me and the crew would always want to take pictures of him and he’d be like ‘No’! cos he was just never interested. As much as all of us want him to do photo shoots, he has consistently been stubborn. He always says that he doesn’t want to be a celebrity, doesn’t care about Instagram or photo shoots. Part-time maybe, but I don’t think he’ll model full-time.”
8. What’s the biggest misconception that you’ve heard about you?
A: “This doesn’t happen often but sometimes people tell me that they’re scared to talk to me, because they think that I’m going to be really bitchy or that I look really unapproachable. To be honest, that probably comes from my own insecurities. It’s just from years of not knowing how to communicate with people my own age. I’m very good with aunties and uncles – we get along like a house on fire! But anyone close to my age within 10 years above or below, it’s always been kind of scary for me and that comes from being bullied in school. But I’m working on getting my confidence to a point where even if I don’t know you, I can strike up a conversation.”