As actresses go, Jasmine Sim is laidback. We meet at a cafe for lunch on a sweltering Sunday. She’s early – hair in a topknot, makeup light, nose buried in a book.
A book, not her phone. It’s Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope by self-help author and entrepreneur Mark Manson, dissing the overly positive methods of traditional self-help.
I’m intrigued by how Jasmine is so taken by Manson’s cynical stance. “I don’t actually like self-help books, but this is a refreshing take on life. I like books that make me think,” the 26-year-old says.
Manson’s philosophy of “who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for” has parallels in Jasmine’s life. She tells me she struggles with not being able to multitask well. “I’m impressed by actors who have multiple things going on, but I feel I can’t give my best if I’m spread too thin.”
Acting wasn’t on the cards, actually, five years ago. TV casting calls had come after her first runner-up win in The New Paper New Face competition in 2014, but she said no.
Nothing else was on the cards, though, besides getting her business degree at the Singapore Management University and modelling for blogshop Love, Bonito. She just wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. She only knew that an office job wouldn’t suit her. “I don’t concentrate well when I’m indoors. I can’t even sit still for an hour,” she says.
Getting into adulting
A push was what she needed. It came as a nudge two years ago, with a supporting part in local television drama Dream Coder. Even then, Jasmine says, “I have to admit it was a ‘why not, since I have time’ kind of thing. I was drawn to the fluid nature of acting”.
Still, transitioning into acting was a challenge for the reserved model. She faced a big setback in her latest drama, Doppelganger, when she had to cry on cue in a scene with veteran actors Fann Wong and Christopher Lee.
After a day of forcing the tears to flow, having to cry one more time for one more take was just too much for her. She had to dig deep to keep going. But she realizes she may have been too hard on herself.
“Things like being able to cry on cue are part of the skills I have to learn as a newcomer. Even if you think you did really badly that day, you have to keep going.” That, and practise self-talk. It’s her introvert’s way of coping with living in an extrovert’s world, especially when things get tough.
“You just have to keep reiterating the reasons why you’re in the job in the first place. I tend to talk about my problems only after I’ve resolved them, because I don’t want to be reliant on the opinions of others.”
After that, it’s a good medium-rare steak to re-energise after a long day of filming. And… a long nap. “I can sleep anywhere, literally,” she chuckles.
Getting over the unexpected win
When she won the Best Newcomer award at the 2019 Star Awards in April this year, the shock was real. I liken her bashfulness to when Olivia Colman beat out several shoo-ins for Best Actress at this year’s Academy Awards for her role in The Favourite; Jasmine packed a similar amount of disbelief – and gratitude. Her acceptance speech was soft, tentative, and a breath of fresh air.
Why the self-doubt? She’d written off her showing in The Lead as a flop – “all those mistakes”, she reminds me.
But I remind her of the Manson book she’s reading: You are defined by what you’re willing to struggle for. Surprise win or not, she’s come out on top of her acting struggles, which can only have defined her as an actor. And we’re looking forward to greater things from her.
Photography Shawn Paul Tan, assisted by Hizuan Zailani & Kat Midori
Videography Darren Chang
Art Direction (Video) Sean Tham
Styling Daryll Alexius Yeo, assisted by Low Rin
Hair Calvin Gan/Hairloom
Makeup Larry Yeo, using Giorgio Armani Beauty
This story was first published in Her World’s July 2019 issue.