In our February 15 Seconds of Fame Issue, we talk to the reality show superstar who enjoyed the high life of the spotlight - only to taste its bitter aftertaste. Asmawi Ani won the third season of the mega-popular show Akademi Fantasia, but has since been less prominent in the column inches of newspapers and blogs. We chat with Mawi about fatherhood, the limelight, and a burglary. Here are seven choice quotes:
Now that I’m a father, I think about my parents and how I grew up in the FELDA plantations when my dad was a farmer. The folks at FELDA have a good life now. You don’t see wooden houses anymore. You can earn RM5,000 a month there, plus all sorts of perks and benefits. It was different when I was young—not to say that we were poor, but my father worked really hard.
The doctor said my wife’s womb wasn’t “strong”, so there were complications with the pregnancies. The first time she miscarried, I was devastated but I thought, “Okay, we have to accept this.” The second time, I thought this must be some kind of test. So, I prayed and prayed. The third time she got pregnant, I wasn’t hoping for much. It felt like, okay, if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, that’s just our luck.
The first time someone broke into my house in 2008, no one was home. The second time was last year, three months after our baby arrived. Four guys broke in with cleavers and they tied up my wife, my mother-in-law and I. All I could think was, take what you want, just don’t hurt us. I couldn’t even be angry. I was just powerless.
I don’t watch a lot of TV. I don’t know much about reality shows or singing competitions now.
The three years after my AF win were insane! My albums were selling 100,000 or 200,000 copies. I couldn’t go anywhere without being mobbed. People said, “Enjoy it, it’s not going to last.” So I saved as much as I could—and now, I’m good. Things are back to normal. I have a life again—and I love it.
I can’t say if those first three years were better than now. I definitely had other people controlling my life and my career then. But I made a living. Now, I get to do what I want as an artiste. I’m a businessman. I’m learning how to direct films. I get to plan my own life.
I don’t have a problem with the Malay media. They’re a business. They have to write something, good or bad. Friends or not, they’ll support you one day and criticise you the next. It’s all just a game.
And for those who are interested, a Mawi playlist (really. You might be surprised):
"Aduh Saliha", which won a few Anugerah Juara Lagu awards back in the day.
"Seroja", one of his more memorable AF performances.
"Kian". If you're looking for the karaoke version, help yourself. We're not sure what's more amazing, that there is a karaoke version, or that someone may be looking for it.
Interviewed by Lennard Gui. Photograph by Brian Fang. Shirt and tie by Sacoor Brothers.