Veteran actress Huang Biren made her highly anticipated return to showbiz last year, after six years away from the limelight. She tells DELLE CHAN about life in the interim and how it feels to be back in the scene.
Huang Biren was - and still is, really - one of the biggest names in the local acting scene, so the award-winning actress caused quite a stir in 2008 when she took a break from acting to focus on her family.
However, to the delight of her fans and TV audiences, the 46-year-old made a comeback in October last year, starring in Channel 8 drama 3 Wishes, before going on to play the titular character in Tiger Mum.
Next up is the highly anticipated blockbuster series The Dream Makers 2, slated to air on Channel 8 at the end of the year.
We ask the seasoned actress about what her life's been like and what prompted her return to showbiz.
On being a stay-at-home mum
Despite being away from the limelight for six years, the mother of three was by no means idle. "I was so busy taking care of my children that I didn't have time to miss acting," confesses Biren. "Being a stay-at-home mum essentially meant that I was on standby 24/7. There was a lot of multi-tasking involved. I had to chauff eur my kids to and from school and enrichment activities, plan their meals and help them with their homework… I only had time for myself late at night, after tucking them in!"
On returning to showbiz
Biren had no fixed plans about going back to work, but the stars aligned to allow her to return to local television.
"It was all about timing, really. I'd been toying with the idea of acting again when Molby (executive producer of 3 Wishes) approached me with a role I couldn't refuse," she shares.
"Besides, I felt it was time I did something for myself after channelling all my efforts into my family for six years.
My kids are older now, so I felt more confident about returning to work."
"I think I adjusted pretty well - it didn't take me too long to find my acting groove," she continues. "That might be partly because I never left the industry completely. Even though I didn't act in any dramas, I still worked on advertisements and attended awards ceremonies. Moreover, my close friends such as (Chen) Hanwei, (Pan) Lingling and Zoe (Tay) would constantly keep me updated about the goings-on in the industry. So, I am very well-informed!" she laughs.
The actress has also never been fussed about fame, so being in the public eye again doesn't bother her.
"I've always been more motivated by my passion for acting than by the attention I receive. What's most important to me is delivering a quality performance," she muses.
On the industry's rising stars Even though she's had no trouble getting into the swing of things, Biren notes how much the scene has changed. "There's so much new blood now! I've recently had the pleasure to work with some of the younger actresses, such as Julie Tan and Hayley Woo (in 3 Wishes). I must say that I'm very impressed by their work ethic - they're very industrious and are willing to give it their all," she says.
So do the younger artistes flock to her for advice? "I wouldn't say that I advise them per se, but we all share our tips and views on how to make each scene work," she shares.
On balancing work and family
When asked how her children have adjusted to her acting commitments, Biren says: "My eldest child, Justin, who is 15 this year, has experienced what my filming days were like, so he's not too bothered. He's also very independent now and doesn't need that much attention. But my daughters, Janessa and Janelle, aged seven and five respectively, have difficulty accepting that I can no longer attend to their needs 24/7."
So while she's indulging her passion, Biren is also making a conscious effort to spend time with her loved ones. "I'll be limiting the number of roles I take on - one or two acting projects a year is quite enough! I think that it's really important to spend time with your children, especially during their formative years," she says earnestly.
SURVIVAL TIPS: WE GET BIREN'S ADVICE ON HOW STAY-AT-HOME MUMS CAN EASE THE TRANSITION BACK TO WORK
Be willing to accept help
"Going back to work means that you'll be spending less time with your children. Seek help from the people around you, such as your parents or in-laws, who can take care of your kids. This will give you peace of mind and enable you to focus on getting your career back on track."
Love your job
"You need to be passionate about what you do for a living. It's not easy being a working mum, so it won't help if you're unhappy at work - you'll only come home angry and resentful, and that might adversely aff ect your relationship with your kids."
Do it for yourself
"Financial considerations aside, you shouldn't feel pressured to go back to work. Instead, your decision should stem from your desire for personal satisfaction - you should only return to the workforce when you're absolutely sure you want to do something for yourself."
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