With over 2.8 million followers on Instagram, there is no such thing as a private life for Zul Ariffin. The actor who recently landed himself in hot water on social media, is setting the record straight.
Zul Ariffin arrives at the studio at 1 pm sharp for his cover shoot. Punctuality is rare in this industry. Dressed in a fitted suit, white shirt and smelling of strong alpha perfume, he introduces himself in his husky manly voice “Hi, I’m Zul Ariffin.”
Just his looks alone have women swooning, and falling to their knees. Zul Ariffin is no doubt, a superstar. During our video interview, BazaarMan asked, what does it feel like to wake up as one of Malaysia’s most eligible bachelors? He bursts into laughter, “Oh my god! To be honest it’s not something that I should be proud of. Ever since I was young, I wanted to get married. Since I was twenty years old, but it didn’t happen.” (Watch the full video interview here.)
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The actor is currently busy filming Don Dukun, where he plays the character of a scam bomoh (shaman), healing people and posting the footage on social media. A wealthy lady seeks his help to heal her daughter, with a promising RM1 Million reward if her daughter is healed. The movie is set to be released in cinemas next year.
During the MCO many actors including Zul Ariffin lost their jobs, as the filming industry was put to a halt. The situation changed his life, but during this difficult time, he found gratitude. “I am grateful for my family, people who believe in me, and I feel blessed with my career. The people in show business suffered a lot. I’m just fortunate that I still have a job after the MCO was lifted.”
It’s no secret that Zul Ariffin is one of Malaysia’s hottest bachelors, and every time he co-stars with a leading lady, the media will be in a frenzy speculating an on and off camera relationship with his co-star. Much to his fans relief, the gossip dies down once he moves on to his next film. This continues from one movie to another. But there is only one woman who continues to be the leading lady in his life, producer Gayathri Pillai.
“I’ll do anything for her.”- Zul Ariffin
The two previously dated in 2012, and broke up after 3 years. The dynamic duo remained as friends, and have worked together on numerous films. Netizens were in shock when Gayathri Pillai posted to her Instagram that Zul Ariffin had surprised her with a car as a gift to show his love and appreciation for their friendship. Curious, we asked Zul Ariffin to describe his relationship with Gayathri Pillai. We can’t help but notice that he answered this question with such passion and honesty. “First of all, Gaya is family, she is more than that. She’s like this kind soul, without Gaya there is no Zul Ariffin—you’re not going to watch Zul Ariffin in the cinema no matter what. When she hires me for a movie I don’t ask much. If she says it’s good, I’m there. If you notice I don’t really shoot with a lot of other producers but for her I’ll just say yes, no problem. It’s about loyalty, because she started my career, and my debut. It’s my job to do my best. She’s close to all my siblings, and my late mum loves her so much. Basically, I’ll do anything for her.”
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At 36 years old Zul Ariffin has propelled himself to stardom. He has come a long way from waiting tables in cafes at 18 years old. He was busy working, while his friends were buying new shoes, going for holidays and going out clubbing because they could afford it. “I was broke, not only working but broke. I couldn’t afford a lot of things. So even when I went for shoots at 23 or 24 years old, most of the time I didn’t have any money to buy new clothes because I couldn’t. One of my motivations was that one day I’m going to make money, good enough to just go out there and eat whatever I want because I like to eat, and I eat a lot. It was stressful when I couldn’t eat whatever I wanted since I was always on a budget.”
While actors have different motivations to do what they do, Zul Ariffin’s motivation was simple: as bad as it sounds it really was, “If I don’t work back then, then I don’t eat.” When he was younger, he wanted to join the Navy, but due to injuries on his collarbone and arm from playing football and a motorcycle accident he was unable to.
After finishing high school, he had no idea what he wanted to do, “I was lost, until I followed a friend to a set, and took up a gig as an extra. I saw one actor trying to memorise his lines. I was thinking, ‘Wow, you get paid for this. That’s nice.’ I was watching and thought I kind of like that. That was it.” That moment triggered Zul Ariffin to try his hand at acting. He started by buying a book about acting, read the book, watched a lot of movies then tried to find his way into the entertainment industry. The rest is history.
Everyone and anyone is interested to know more about Zul Ariffin’s private life. He hardly shares anything private on social media. When asked how does he keep his private life private? “I’m struggling, honestly. In this industry the more you go up the more people you meet, and the less you see people around you. As you grow older you can tell if the people around you are sincere or not. You can just see it. For me, it’s about keeping your circle small, and just focus on work.
Zul Ariffin has landed himself in hot water on social media a few times. Most recently he posted a video teaser from his upcoming TV drama series, titled “Perempuan Itu”. The series was set to premier during the holy month of Ramadan. The video showed Zul Ariffin and his co-star, Siti Hariesa, acting out steamy scenes in suggestive, provocative positions. The video drew a slew of negative comments from netizens on social media. Netizens were quick to criticise, saying the actor was negligent and insensitive towards Malaysia’s conservative culture. Amid pressure from social media, he removed the post from his social media account.
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Many questioned why he agreed to post such a video, knowing at the back of his mind that the video would not sit well with Malaysians. Setting the record straight he tells BazaarMan, “I believe that it was written, it’s meant to be. I’m a Muslim; sometimes you think you could avoid it, and that you made a mistake but no, it was supposed to happen. But you need to learn from it. It was supposed to happen because life is a test—Allah wants to give you something, but maybe he has to bring you down first. See how you recover and overcome the situation. You can be angry and regret the situation, but don’t spend too much time on it. Give yourself one week to be angry about it, then next week start fresh. That’s how I handled it, or else you’ll keep thinking about it.”
What’s next for Zul Ariffin? “I would like to spend more time getting into business. I think it’s about time. I’m trying to slow down on TV shows. The thing I’ve had enough of is building chemistry between me and my co-stars.” Although the actor doesn’t mind spending more time on set, after spending 13 years of getting to know various co-stars, he has had enough of the process. “We need to get to know each other, you have to break the ice… It’s fun for new actors. For me, I just want to go on set, remember my lines and start filming. With new actresses, when I’m nice and friendly because I need to get to know them before I start filming, it’s often mistaken for flirting. I’m not flirting. I’m just doing my job. I’m not interested in anything else other than doing my job. That’s all.”
For Zul Ariffin, being an actor, you have a mission to make sure people enjoy the film and can’t wait to watch it in the cinema. You have to make sure the audience is excited to watch the teaser, and trailer. “That’s your job as an actor, it’s marketing. At the end of the day, this is show business.”
Creative Director: Abdul Aziz Draim
Concept & video: Lira Jamaluddin Assisted by: Eliza Thomas
Styling: Ai Lim
Art Direction: Khai Ramli, Ying
Make-up: Clara Siew
Photographer: Aiman Yazid
Clothes: Dior, Prada and Brunello Cucinelli.