getting to know malaysians


Samantha Schubert           play it again
"If things don't work out, I will just come home."

Home is where her mother has settled down, after leaving Lancaster, England some 47 years ago. Home is where her mother and daughter converge. Where Samantha can enjoy the bona fide "good Melayu sambal belacan." In Kuala Lumpur, where Samantha feels most at ease. "KL will forever be home. Malaysia is my homeland," Sam says out loud. And just as her English accent changed to street Manglish twang, perhaps in defence from those who have accused her of not being a true Malaysian, she said, "I was born in Assunta Hospital."

Samantha SchubertThat was 27 years ago.

Her life seems to have gone a full circle. Some 18 years ago, Samantha had taken the first step to what would become her career. At the age of nine, she went to England to pursue an education in the performing arts. "My mother saw a talent in me when I was very young, when I was about three," Samantha recalls. From then on, she began attending ballet classes every Saturday afternoon.

Three years later, her mother felt that it was time for her to go to the next level of ballet instruction. There were no schools in Malaysia that would have been able to provide that for the young Samantha. "So, she went around looking for a school in England and she found one," Sam recalls. "At the age of nine, I went over for the audition, which was a nice three-and-half-hour session. I was accepted."

At the age of ten, Samantha's voyage as an entertainer begun. Dancing, acting, and singing sessions became part of the gruelling schedule that went on for seven years. Half of the day, school went on as usual, and in the other half, the performing arts element took over.

There, she was taught the finer points of performing arts based on a regimental system typical of such boarding schools. "It was like a prison - you can't go anywhere, you know. Especially being a dancing school - no chocolates, no cookies, no sweets, no nothing."

"I used to write and say," Sam recalls, as she changes her voice into a deeper but childish growl. "'I want to go home. I hate it here. I hate it here.' And my mum would say, 'No, you are staying there.'"

And it was there she stayed.

It was where she came to be labelled "the dancer", and according to Sam, where she was the worst singer and in the middle of class when it came to acting. But that did not stop her from taking all of them seriously.

"I learned to be disciplined," she says. And she learned to be tough. She recalled a moment from years back, with a broad smile flashing across her face. "It was the first day of my dance class. The teacher walked in and said, 'Hello, my name is Jackie, spelled B-I-T-C-H.'"

That carried over to another three years at the Musical Theatre College. After college, she hung around in England for auditions. She came close several times to be contracted to major theatrical productions (such as Cats and Les Miserables), but when the very final phase of selection took place, she was the first to go because she did not have a work permit. Nevertheless, she had made a point to herself - that she could do it.

"After that, I came back to work in Genting as a dancer for 5 months; and then my modelling career just happened."

Her modelling career would prove to be vital, because several months later, she would discover that she had to stop dancing to prevent the aggravation of a back injury. "The doctor actually came in and said , 'Do you have another line of profession that you would like to pursue?'"

That was the end of her dancing career, at the age of 21.Samantha Schubert

"I always say that professionally, I am a dancer. Unfortunately, that's something that I can't carry on with anymore," Sam says. "That was a bit of a blow for me. But I never let it get me
down. It was something I had a good time doing, that I still love to do to this day."

She takes challenges such as this well into stride, reflective of the mental toughness that had to be developed when she was still very young. "My father died when I was six. That was really difficult," Samantha says. "Then at ten, I had to leave home. That was too hard."

"It was really difficult because I was in a new country, and it was cold. And I was 20,000 miles away from home."

She must be ferociously independent, I think to myself. I ask her if that is how she would describe herself.

"No, I am not ferociously independent. I am fairly independent, yes." She moved out of her own at 21. "I think I have been independent since my father died when I was six. Mother worked 'cos she had three children to bring up, and I hardly saw her in the day. From there, I started being pretty much my own person."

There may also be another reason that had pushed her to begin developing a sense of self at such a young age. She was given up for adoption at birth. "Lets get this straight. I am adopted to an English mother and Sri Lankan father, who are the Schuberts," she says. "My mum had told me practically since the day I was brought home, and I am very glad for that."

Sam knows her biological mother is Chinese and father New Zealander, but she has never met them before and neither has she the desire to do so.

Her approach in talking about the most intimate part of her personal life is most clinical, knowing exactly how much she's willing to talk about. Like when I tried asking her about her present romantic attachments. Her answer: "I am attached to somebody right now, and that's all I will say."

Smile. Ready for the next question.

She does not seem to find a need for pretence, to be impressive. With her mother's support, and the drive to do her best at work, she has kept herself very contended. She talks about her work longingly - very workaholic like. "As long as I am working, I am usually quite happy."

Perhaps, it is for that reason that Sam chooses her projects quite liberally. That had worked very much to her advantage until the Bufori advertisement came out about a year ago. Sam, in television commercial, was casted to say: "I don't care who you are, but if you drive a Bufori, I am all yours."

"I played the bimbo," she says. As soon as the ad was shown to a nationwide audience, different segments of the society jumped on her for portraying women in such bad taste.

"It was purely a professional decision to do it. I wasn't endorsing it personally," she said in defence. "I was just doing my job, being a professional."

She makes it quite clear that she is not in the industry to make social statements. Her passion now is to be a thespian who could play any role effectively. Her single-mindedness to achieve her goals seem so strong that it might override her other senses.

But she is steadfast, confident that she will hold herself well, whether it be professionally or otherwise.

"There's never been a situation that big my mum (the first and the last line of defence) had to bail me out."

The nearest that she had come close to was when she almost got expelled from school. On one occasion, she was invited to attend a party down at the village near her school. She debated whether to go, but backed out. She stayed back to watch Dallas and escaped the wrath of the headmistress that befell her mates who went. "Sneaking out of school was a little too adventurous for me at that time."
Samantha Schubert
According to Sam, as a child, she was always conscientious. She acknowledges her nerdiness, in terms of her personality and her physical appearance. At the request of a "nerdy" Samantha Schubert photograph, she graciously obliges. Then, it is followed by a little squirm followed by a huge shudder. "What a horrible, disgusting photo. God, I could visualise it in my mind now. Oh, dear."

"At boarding school, I was a real square."

For a moment, I thought she would retract her photo obligation. She didn't.

To a large extent, her sensibility as a nerdy child has carried over into her adulthood, minus the glasses and the Jane-next-door hair-do. Her mind is set, just as her childhood had dictated, to become an entertainer.

And when she's allowed to dream, she can only think one thing. "Deep down, I would love to make movies."


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