“When things get crazy, you get calm. That’s the only way to get by.”
The words fall off Datin Diana Danielle’s lips as though she has said it to herself a thousand times before, like a well-worn jacket that has kept her warm on many a chilly night.
After all, it was this very mantra that the 26-year-old actress clung on to when her husband, actor Datuk Farid Kamil, was faced with drug and assault charges back in January.
In a revealing interview with Star2, Diana recalls she was in the midst of rehearsals for an upcoming film, Gol & Gincu 2, when she learned about her husband’s predicament.
“I didn’t look at my phone. I just focused on the work I had to do each day, learning my scripts. And at home, I made sure there was food on the table for my kids,” she says.
The mother of two – Muhammad, five, and Aurora, two – continues: “I just went back to the basics of my responsibilities and left everything up to God. He was in the hands of the police and the court. There was nothing I could do.”
On Jan 11, Farid was arrested for allegedly assaulting a policeman and a civilian at the Kota Damansara traffic police station.
He was later charged on Jan 25 with self administering THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), one of the active components in ganja, into his body.
As court proceedings wore on (and are still going on), Diana says she always stood by her man.
“I made sure he knew that he wasn’t losing anyone. Because at that point, as a husband and a dad, he may think, ‘What is my wife going to do? Is she going to run away with the kids?’
“I told him, ‘I’m not going anywhere, the kids are not going anywhere’.”
But many questioned why Diana was not seen by her husband’s side at the height of the harrowing ordeal. Some even speculated their relationship was on the rocks.
“I didn’t feel like we needed to prove we’re a happy family. It was more about giving him the emotional support to face whatever there was ahead.”
As she held the family together, trying her best to preserve a semblance of normalcy in her household besides fulfilling her responsibilities as an actress, Diana felt she was pressed on all sides.
But she knows this feeling all too well. She’s been there before.
School Of Hard Knocks
Diana’s American father left when she was four. Her Malaysian mother, Norsiah Ramli, not only raised Diana but built a fairly successful financial company from the ground up.
“She would work three-four days straight without sleeping to get her project done, and it would be the norm,” she speaks of her mother’s sacrifices.
The sleepless nights paid off and mother and daughter lived comfortably for a while. “There was a time when we stayed in a serviced apartment. She could even afford to put me in an international school.”
But overnight, everything changed.
“After years of (overworking), my mum got diagnosed with cancer. Around the same time, her business crashed. We lost everything. She was completely broken,” Diana says.
“She said, ‘I’ve disappointed you. I couldn’t protect you.’ She said there and then, ‘I think this is your time to take over.’
“And that was the scariest thing. I was about 14. I became the breadwinner because she couldn’t work.”
Her mother later recovered but wasn’t fit to work. Diana, who had a chance encounter with a producer a few years earlier, ventured into acting.
“There was no choice. Juggling school and work, that was one of the most horrible times in my life. There were times when I finished work and went home at, say, 4am, and I had to be at school at 7.30am.
“So, I would skip school to sleep and to catch up on homework.
“You’re always lagging behind in school. Teachers are saying you’re not smart when you’re just exhausted. But I graduated anyway.”
Things got so rough at times, the family barely had food on the table.
“We were left with half a piece of bread and cold instant noodles because we couldn’t afford to buy a kettle. We mainly lived off RM1 nasi lemak,” she remembers.
These tumultuous times, which began when she was 12 and lasted until she was 18, took a toll on her emotional well-being.
“I went through depression. My mum was also very depressed.
“So. I would come back to an unhappy home. Being a vulnerable teen, I felt like I couldn’t handle that load, it was just coming from everywhere.”
Diana shares what kept her going through it all: “I genuinely like what I do. When you’re acting, there are different emotions you can expel, emotions you can’t expel in real life. To empty yourself of that certain emotion, it gives you release.”
Today, Diana has gained both critical and commercial success as an actress.
She won Best Supporting Actress at the Malaysia Film Festival last year for her performance in Hanyut while her TV3 drama Raisha was so successful, she will be reprising her role in the second season of the show soon.
Currently, Diana is branching out as a host on talk show, Kata Serasi.
Cherishing Hari Raya
Most of Diana’s fondest Raya memories took place before she was seven, when her grandmother was still around.
“My grandmother was a very festive person and it helped that I have about 100 cousins. We would jump into the river in front of my grandparents’ house and get bitten by leeches,” she reminisces.
As a little girl playing at her kampung in Bukit Merah, Perak, Diana would get into all kinds of mischief.
She remembers one in particular: “Once, when no one was looking, I went into my grandfather’s car, which was parked in front of the house, turned it on and tried to drive it. It jolted to the front and then it died off, thankfully. I almost drove it into the house!”
For many years after her grandmother passed away, especially during her turbulent teenage years, Diana and her mother didn’t celebrate Hari Raya.
After getting married in 2012, Diana finally experienced the Raya atmosphere again as she celebrated with her husband’s family in Jitra, Kedah.
“They speak like how we speak in Bukit Merah, we have that northern slang. When I close my eyes and hear all the commotion, it reminds me of my own aunts and uncles screaming over each other.”
Perhaps owing to the many years she’s missed out on the celebration, Diana has introduced some new Raya traditions to her family.
“Every year, we’d go to the same mosque to pray on the first day of Raya. After that, we’ll take a picture at the same spot.
“So we go from carrying just one child to having another one, and then seeing them grow up. One day, when we’re old, I want them to carry us.”
As Diana celebrates Hari Raya this year, there’s a lot to be thankful for, despite the events in recent months. For one, Diana says her relationship with Farid has been strengthened by it.
“When you have two kids, it’s hard to be emotionally connected sometimes because you’re always busy.
“Having those few months together and trying to figure out what to do next brought us a lot closer. It was a blessing in disguise,” she says.
And every obstacle she has faced, has only made her more resilient.
“I think there’s a steeliness and a stillness in me even in the craziest situations. I’m able to go back to that inner voice, that zen place in me that nobody can break.
“I’m not afraid to lose it all. If things don’t work out and I don’t have any money one day, I won’t freak out because I’ve been there. It’s not that bad.”
“You just get a bit hungry,” Diana says with a smile.