“I had no idea that social media would be such a big thing,” says Awal Ashaari, reflecting on the way the entertainment industry has changed over the decade. That he did not envisage the eventual influence of social media is perhaps hard to believe. With 3.7 million followers and being one half of the power couple Schawal, with his wife Scha Alyahya, it would seem that Awal certainly had the foresight to take advantage of the medium in steering his career.
“I just always wanted to keep up with the latest trends,” he explains. “Me and Scha and our friends, we always want to experience something new, so we like to explore and experiment.”
MySpace, Facebook, Friendster – these were all platforms that Awal participated in. It was when he received a job offer via MySpace that Awal began to realise the kinds of opportunities that the digital world accorded. It was a far cry compared to when he started in the industry. More than years ago, he remembers scouring through the newspapers looking for auditions to showcase his talents.
“I went for audition after audition,” he says. “Sometimes you have to start lining up as early as 6am and you get to go in only after lunch. You audition and then they tell you better luck next time.”
This is not something he sees “newcomers” having to go through. Those who hoped to work in the entertainment industry were dependent on the powers that be to give them their big break.
“There are more opportunities now because as a celebrity you can manage your future by doing stuff on your own,” he says. “In the past, you have to wait till your producer calls. Now, if you don’t have anything you can create hype on social media, which will put you back on the radar. Before, if you were off the radar, you couldn’t do anything to get back into the radar. Something greater has to happen.”
While that may be so, Awal has no regrets over taking the tougher route though the many rejections he endured at times made it seem like his “world had come crashing down.”
“All I knew back then was that I wanted to be on TV,” he laughs. To achieve that, Awal tried many things – modeling, acting and even singing. It was the most “possible” way because “singing could get you to where you wanted to be.”
“You name it I have done it,” he laughs. “Akademi Fantasia, Malaysian Idol, One In A Million, Bintang RTM. I got kicked out of all of them.”
Nonetheless, he still describes it as being a great experience. Each time, he didn’t make the cut, he took something from it and made sure he didn’t repeat it at the next audition, only to be “kicked out” again.
“At one point, you think your world is crashing but you take bits and pieces to make yourself a stronger person,” he says. “Now if netizens talk bad about me, people criticise me, I always have this weapon because I have been through a lot. I am not just going to let them bring me down because I went through a lot to get to this position. It made me stronger and built me for the entertainment industry.”
The industry, he says, has changed significantly since he entered it more than ten years ago. From the days of having to go for auditions and working with analogue to now where everything is digital.
“I never thought I would see a transition between that era and this era,” says Awal. “I am very lucky because I got to see both.”
Photography by Kahmun Ho
Styling by Ibnu Aswan
Grooming by Joey Yap, Mavis Ow + Wanning