Watching actress Erra Fazira field non-stop questions from journalists – on her beauty secret, business, diet, new projects and, most importantly, her love life – is quite fascinating. She handles each question deftly, and always with a smile that lingers both on her lips and bright (contact-lensed) eyes.
It is especially amusing when the subject veers towards the rumours of her relationship with singer Shahir Zawawi who is 14 years younger than Erra.
Erra quickly deflects the question by joking with the journalists (some of whom she knows by name) and then simply giving non-committal answers like they’re just friends.
“No need to talk about him so much,” she politely chides the journalists after answering more than a couple of questions on the matter. “There is no new development.”
This is not Erra’s first rodeo after all, when it comes to dealing with journalists wanting information regarding her romances.
She famously dated her co-star Awie when both starred in the 1994 hit film Sembilu. The couple got engaged before breaking it off in 1998.
While they parted ways on bad terms (he was said to have cheated on her), Erra and Awie have managed to mend the friendship years later and worked together in 2014 on Konsert Teaterikal Suara Kita – a theatre musical that featured signature scenes from Sembilu, Sembilu 2, Tragedi Oktober, Maria Mariana 2 and Merah – and then later in the film Warna Cinta Impian.
In 2003, Erra married her Mr Cinderella co-star Yusry Abdul Halim in a lavish affair that was the talk of the town. The marriage lasted three years.
Her next marriage to Engku Emran Engku Zainal Abidin in 2007, was a modest affair. The couple had a child in 2009 and divorced in 2014.
Since then, Erra has been quiet on the love front until the rumours of her romance with 28-year-old Shahir circulated in June.
“Nothing surprises me where rumours are concerned,” Erra states. “If it’s not true, it’s just not true. I believe, sooner or later, the truth will prevail. So I just let it be.”
Erra doesn’t let malicious gossip tear her down, something that she has learnt to let go after years in show business. “I used to cry over the rumours about me. Now, I am over such things.”
Business as usual
Her good-nature is quite irresistible really. No wonder at any function Erra attends, everyone wants to be close to the beauty – be it fans, journalists or organisers. And she, in turn, takes the trouble to make time for everyone.
During this interview – the launch of her two new fragrance, Lovable and Forget Me Not – a boy not more than six years old wanted to show Erra a magic trick, and she paid him her full attention; then a fan wanted to take a selfie with Erra, she paused the interview and posed for the photo. Her reasoning is simple really – “I won’t be where I am without my fans.”
The Miss Malaysia/World 1992 is so appreciative of her fans that when she turned 42 on Feb 9 this year, she celebrated it with members of her fan club.
Datuk Yusof Haslam, who first hired Erra as an actress for the blockbuster hit Sembilu, has only praises for the affable actress.
The director shares: “I have worked with her many times, and every time she brings great work ethic to the set. She is disciplined and always polite to everyone.
“I have never seen her complain no matter how tired she is, and she’s always respectful towards me. Her humbleness and lack of ego are valuable qualities in the film industry.”
Not surprisingly, Yusof’s Skop Productions’ next TV project happens to feature Erra. Yusof says: “It’s a drama series called Andartu, Kau BidadariKu, which revolves around Erra’s character, an attractive spinster who is being courted by a number of men. I came up with the idea for the drama, with Erra in mind for the main role.”
These days, Erra is taking on less acting jobs as she is busy concentrating on her business ventures as well as being a mum to seven-year-old Engku Aleesya Engku Emran.
Business, Erra says, is something she has always loved since she was a teenager. “When I was in school, I sold kerepek. Now, I sell head-scarfs, shawls, cookies (Rara Cookies), baju raya during Hari Raya and, starting from today, perfumes. If you ask me what I like about being a businesswoman, I can’t tell you. I just find it exciting and I love it.”
When it comes to her role as a mother, Erra takes the job very seriously – describing her parenting style as strict but loving. Aleesya is not unlike her, according to Erra.
“She takes after her father a little bit, but she’s more alike to me. You might not believe this, but I am a reserved person. She is shy, and slow to mix with people. It is my job to teach her to be polite, social and to encourage her to mingle with other kids.”
Another similarity they share is Erra’s fondness for the kampung life.
Born in Sungai Choh, Rawang – which is just 45 minutes drive from where she is living now – Erra does balik kampung from time to time so that her daughter can have a glimpse of her childhood life.
Erra says her daughter has shown a love for singing and dancing from a young age. So, what happens if Aleesya pursues a career in show business? “If she wants to be an artiste, then I’d tell her that I would be her manager,” Erra answers with a laugh.
“But jokes aside, if she wants to be an artiste then she should be a knowledgable artiste. I don’t want her to be like me; enter the entertainment industry straight out of school. I want her to achieve something else before she becomes an artiste – being an artiste should be her second option.”
Her trepidation is understandable as Erra was only 19 years old when she began filming Sembilu.
In her 22 years in show business, Erra has starred in 20 films mostly in leading roles in the romance genre.
Perhaps the only times she got to do something different was when she had to put on a fat suit for Cinta Kolestrol and played an old lady in Hingga Hujung Nyawa (for which she won the Best Actress award at the Malaysia Film Festival).
Erra hopes to star in an action flick some day.
“The role I am waiting to play is a strong heroine like Angelina Jolie’s Evelyn Salt (in Salt). I have been waiting for a part like that since I was young, but I have yet to get it,” she sighs.
“I am not really athletic anymore, but if you give me a role like that, with a little bit of time, I will work out until I am fit enough to portray the character,” she adds gleefully.
That level of commitment is also apparent in how she maintains her youthful looks. The breathtakingly beautiful actress owes her looks to a beauty regime she started ever since she was in her teens.
“I am truly thankful to my mother for instructing me to take care of my skin from a very young age. It is troublesome as there are many steps in my beauty regime and it takes so much time but the result of practising it all my life is now apparent.
“Every month, I do go for a facial because I have to wear thick make-up when I work, so the facial helps to get rid of the dirt. Otherwise, I just take care of my skin at home. Cleansing, toning and moisturising are all compulsory for me.”
Ever the graceful host, Erra isn’t the one to end the chat. With topics getting a little thin, one of the reporters tries to once again get a comment on her relationship status. Far from showing her frustration, Erra – with a bright smile – teases the reporter: “Eh, dia pergi balik. (She returns to the same topic.)
“I am at a phase where I am not looking for a partner. I am just enjoying my singlehood. I am the sort of person, if I don’t have a function to attend or things to do, I don’t go out. I sit at home and sew or draw. I don’t meet people,” she says, at once concluding the subject and painting a picture of herselfthe public hardly sees. There is obviously more layers to Erra than we’d ever know.