A“To this very day, my parents do not know that I was bullied in school. I’ve always kept it to myself. My family had a tough life and I didn’t share anything with them because I felt like they had enough things to worry about.
I was bullied from primary one to primary two. There were many incidents that I can still remember. One time after PE lesson, a girl dragged me to the toilet, pushed me into a cubicle and poured Miranda Orange all over me.
The boys in my class were very rowdy, too. They’d pull my ponytail; destroy my drawings. Once, a boy pointed a pen knife at me from under the table and said, ‘Azimah, let me copy your homework or I will stab you.’
I was scared of everyone. I was very quiet and I think that’s why I was bullied. I didn’t talk to my classmates or my teachers. It’s not that I didn’t want to talk. I actually had a lot of things to say; but, I was scared people would judge me for my English.
Many people do not know this but I didn’t attend kindergarten. I also entered primary school late because of financial difficulties. I was nine, two years older than the other kids in class. When I went to school for the first time, it was a cultural shock.
My English was not very good. I didn’t even know my ABCs. I scored one out of 50 for a spelling test and everyone looked down on me, even my own teacher. I felt terrible. Everyday I would go to school just for the sake of going to school.
But my parents always taught me to never give up and that anything is possible. I slowly learned how to spell. I didn’t have a tutor but I did a lot of assessment books on my own. It was tough but I put in 100 percent effort and started to catch up with everyone else.
You can say that I started to get lucky many years later when I went to Temasek Polytechnic. By then, I was already more vocal and better at facing people. I also started to develop a love for the performing arts after joining the production crew as a CCA.
I handled stage management but I also learned a lot from seeing how actors and dancers performed on stage. That inspired me to pluck the courage to audition for the Singapore International Festival of the Arts.
That was my very first acting audition. When I was there, I was asked why I wanted to act. Even though stage management was my forte, I’ve never been one to stick to just one thing. I love new challenges, so I nervously told them I wanted to try something new.
When I acted out a monologue that I had written for them – it was about a scarf that my late sister had given to me – people started coming up to me and giving me hugs. My mentor said, ‘You did so well!’ From that moment on, I knew I wanted to pursue acting.
I started going for auditions but was faced with rejection after rejection. I was told I didn’t have the skills or the acting experience. I began questioning myself and wanted to give up. That same feeling I had when I was younger of not being good enough surfaced again.
But I told myself to keep positive and continue trying. In 2016, I auditioned for an acting competition called Anugerah Skrin and made it to the top 50. Even though I got eliminated, the exposure that show gave me opened a lot of doors.
People started calling me to be part of their projects. I would be cast as an extra, but eventually I got tougher, more challenging roles. I was even involved in my first Malay theatre experience called Variasi Performing Arts and won best female performance.
I was also given the opportunity to write and direct my own play earlier this year. It’s called ‘Terang’, and even though the lead character is a guy who gets bullied and rejected by his love, it was actually inspired by my own life story. It’s meant to be a light of hope for others.
Many years ago I told myself I could never achieve any of these. I used to blame myself a lot. Why did you let people bully you? Why did you let people criticise you? You cannot do anything. You suck.
But I’ve learnt that forgiveness is very important in life. Forgive people. Otherwise, your life will be dark and filled with grudges. I’ve also learnt to forgive myself. There will be failures in life, but you can always pick yourself up, move forward and try again.
And I often hear people telling me to prove others wrong, but what proving something to yourself instead? Work in silence and let your success make all the noise for you. Have a positive mentality and just go for it, even if you’re scared.” – Azzy, 30
Interview by: Arman Shah