Actor Hafreez Adam is nailing nearly every shot at his photoshoot session. The former model moves so naturally in front of the camera, our photographer didn’t even need to say a word to direct him. In just a few minutes, our satisfied photographer calls it a wrap.

It’s hard to believe then that Hafreez is a shy person by nature.

Before stepping into showbiz, as a teen, Hafreez explored his passion for photography and graphic design.

“I was so shy to ask people to be my model, I ended up setting the timer on the camera and photographing myself,” the 27-year-old actor recalls with a laugh.

When his friends saw the photos, they encouraged him to be a model. A hesitant Hafreez decided to give a modelling competition a shot at 20. To his surprise, he won the competition and began receiving modelling jobs.

Six months later, he signed up for male modelling competition Hero Remaja in 2012. Hafreez made it to the finals, but lost to current TV heartthrob Fattah Amin.

Still, he managed to hold his own and acting offers piled up.

Hafreez made his acting breakthrough in 2014’s Bila Hati Berbicara and hasn’t looked back since. His latest project Hikayat Cinta Si Pematah Hati, which has just finished its run.

The actor reflects on one his most memorable projects so far. “In Putri Malam, the second drama I ever acted in, I played a kid who grew up in the streets. The show was set in Kuala Lumpur in an area where there was a lot of prostitution and drugs. It was a very new experience for me. While shooting, I saw the homeless sleeping under the bridge. I got to experience these things without really experiencing it.”

Hafreez will star in Gantung next, a TV series based on a popular local horror novel.

1. Do you remember your first brush with fame?

Things got really crazy when Bila Hati Berbicara took off. People called me by my character’s name, Badri, everywhere I went and wanted to take a photo with me. It was a surreal experience.

I’m not going to lie, fame makes me feel good. Growing up, and maybe even today, I’ve always been very shy and introverted. And having this fame, it boosts my confidence level.

But there are pros and cons. It will make you feel good and sometimes, it will make you feel too good about yourself. It’s important not to go over that limit.

2. What can you reveal about Gantung?

I was really excited about working on Gantung. It’s about a group of schoolboys who misuse their influence. Each of them have their own backstories, and what happened in the past makes them who they are today. So when you put them together, everyone in school gets scared of them.

3. You’ve been pretty honest about your teenage struggle with acne. Why is that important to you?

When I was about 18, I had a serious skin problem, my whole face was covered with pimples. I remember an incident when I was with a friend. A girl was looking at my direction and I jokingly said, “Of course she’s looking at me, I’m handsome.” And he says, “No, my behind looks nicer than your face.” I knew he was joking but I was hurt. I’d never felt so down before.

Having acne made me an introvert. I didn’t go out and make friends because I was so shy and insecure. I spent most of my time in my room, doing arts and graphic design.

I consider myself lucky because I had those things to distract me. What about others who have nothing to turn to?

4. Was that what inspired you to start WeSmile, a campaign to help those with low self-esteem?

When I became an actor and a public figure, I thought maybe I could do something about this. I thought about how I could give back to my fans, so I had a discussion with my fanclub and we started this campaign.

We’ve had two sharing sessions so far. I would start by sharing my own story, then others also share their problems, and we’d all help each other find a solution.

I also leave positive comments on other people’s Instagram photos. One compliment can make someone’s day. These are small things that we can do to boost people’s confidence.

5. What do you do to take care of your skin today?

My acne went away by itself after about two years so I’m guessing it was a hormonal thing. Now, I wash my face in the morning and at night. I go to the gym a lot. I drink a lot of water, at least three litres a day. And I cut down on caffeine and spicy food.