The day after winning third place in the 2020 edition of the youth icon competition Hero Remaja, all that 22-year-old Malaysian actor Meerqeen wished for propelled him into the proverbial celebrity fast lane. He began acting in shows which had him standing tall next to the entertainment giants he idolised and these performances — more often than not love interests — have made him into an object of cultish admiration.
There is the diehard fawning over by younger women, admiration by luxury brand guardians who finally recognised his appeal, and the media who are always looking for young stars ready to bloom in fame and acclaim. Meerqeen has over the past three years become famous and then, very famous, but he has never been naïve about how celebrity culture works.
In a 2022 interview with us, one of the reasons for the positive pivot in his career was because he never dared to claim he was “talented” or “hard-working”. He just works as hard as he can on everything he decides to be involved in while never taking no for an answer. From the mouths of others, this might seem like a carefully calculated response, but for Meerqeen, its honesty comes from his consistency.
One has to read the interviews he has done with other media titles while remembering that Meerqeen is a young star who has already kept in perspective this new fame, new accreditations from both the elites and masses, new motivators that affect his ego and self, all while constantly reinforcing the simple goal of doing his thing and at his best. A way to stay in touch with himself despite the increasingly out-of-touch demands of being a celebrity.
But how is someone like Meerqeen supposed to evolve his art in a truly meaningful way? Meerqeen has always found an uncompromising answer in his head and heart, but in this interview, a new one flourishes. One that is going to help him escape the emotional trappings that spring as he continues up the rungs of the ladder of success: what is freedom to him and how does he grasp it?
Here, Meerqeen takes us through how he gifts people his time, the last time he felt true freedom, and his journey through this little life so far.
Suited up in a Saint Laurent jacket, Meerqeen surrounds himself with YSL Beauty gift sets like a Y Eau de Parfum one (RM545) that comes with a full 100ml sized bottle, a 10ml version, and a shower gel to a Libre Eau de Parfum box (RM685) containing a full 90ml sized bottle, a 10ml version, and a mini Rouge Pur Couture lipstick.
How do you gift time to the people around you? And how do you cope with prioritising how much to give?
For me, I would certainly prioritise my family, especially my younger siblings. Usually, I’ll stay as long as I can with them, and if I have any extra time, I’m hanging out with my close friends.
How about the gift sets you were shot with? Who would you give each to and why?
My parents for sure, for obvious reasons. But if I have to name one, it would be to thank them for their willingness to bet on me when I began this career.
All eyes on him: the boldness and heat of YSL Libre Eau de Parfum with its notes of lavender, orange blossom, and vanilla is only a second match to Meerqeen’s magnetic gaze.
There is another concept to Firdaus’s struggles in Melur Untuk Firdaus 2 which coincides with the fragrance you’re shot with today. Libre, which means “the state of being free”. When was the last time you felt free?
I would say, right after my Hero Remaja era. My god, that whole endeavour, albeit fruitful, was exhausting. After it ended, the feeling of freedom I felt that day hasn’t been replicated yet.
What do you like most about the fragrance and how does it resonate with your personality? What are your fragrance preferences?
I’d say it’s the way that it’s not overpowering in a sense, and yet it lingers. I love that in a good scent. I appreciate subtlety in fragrances and a good dash of vanilla for good luck.
In a 2022 interview with us, you mentioned that you’ve “been blessed with plenty of opportunities but they will just be wasted if I don’t recognise and seize them.” Do you think your fame now has brought more freedom to you?
Freedom? Oh certainly. I mean, that’s why we work our way to the top, isn’t it? Though I’d admit there are some things that I’m not free from, like responsibilities, which I believe come with fame, so I appreciate it nonetheless.
Meerqeen strikes a pensive pose in a Saint Laurent top, pants, and a pair of boots.
Another thing about freedom, particularly for actors, is how they wield it to evolve their life and art by living it how they truly want to and picking roles that don’t kill their souls. Do you think it needs to be this way?
Not necessarily, though I do see the wealth of benefits an actor can gain from such a lifestyle, but freedom as an artist for me, is less about the work you pick and more about how you approach them. The freedom is in the expression.
What do you chase when you act? Do you chase a sense of euphoria? Or do you chase a sense of achievement? Could you even be chasing something different than when you first started?
Achievement, certainly, but not the kind you give a speech about. It’s more an achievement of self, where you improve on your work from before. There are multitudes of self achievements of course, but any of them is an important step forward in your journey as an actor.
Meerqeen looks ahead to the future in a Saint Laurent top.
If time wasn’t a constraint and you had limitless freedom, what would you wish to do in terms of your life?
I’d love to experience festivals and any kind of celebrations from all over the world. I want to see how other people in other cultures enjoy themselves, plus I just like the positive vibes of it.
As the year comes to a close, where do you think you’re at in your life? It feels like you’ve gone through many chapters so if you close your eyes, does it feel like a fairy tale? Or does it feel like complete reality instead?
It has indeed been a long and arduous journey for me to get here, and yes I do admit that sometimes none of this feels real and that I might just be trapped in a long coma. With that fear in mind, I intend to enjoy this borderline fantastical journey to the very end.
Photography Chee Wei
Creative Direction & Styling Izwan Abdullah
Interview Bryan Goh
Grooming Raeseok | Plika Makeup
Hair Cody Chua
Fashion Coordinator Manfred Lu
Photography Assistant Max Ong
Styling Assistant Liew Hui Ying
Production Assistants Charmaine Tan, Vanessa Grace Ng, Asha Farisha