Don’t Worry Darling: Scha Alyahya Pens a Letter to Her Younger Self As Our April 2024 “Legacy” Cover Girl

…everything is going to be all right. Love, Scha.

Dear Scha,

So you have won Dewi Remaja. Have you thanked Mom yet for pulling out all the stops to make it happen—even filling in the application form for you? After all, the world is going to open up to you in ways you have never seen before. It is an amazing thing but it also means that you are going to have to make tough choices moving forward. You will not get it right all the time—no one does—and unfortunately, you won’t take kindly to those missteps because you’re a self-critical perfectionist. You are hard on yourself. 

You will, however, discover the joy of acting. You will cross paths with so many talented filmmakers and have the privilege to be part of passion projects such as Afdlin Shauki’s Papadom and James Lee’s Histeria. I don’t mean to spoil it for you but you’re getting a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the 22nd Malaysia Film Festival for the latter. That should’ve been a jumping-off point for you to continue honing your craft but, alas, your insecurity will once again get the better of you. You let your issues dictate your decision-making. 

Golden opportunities present themselves and you turn them down, including the chance to be in a film by one of your cinematic heroes, Osman Ali. You didn’t think that you were good enough because you didn’t go to some fancy acting school; that you didn’t have the “knowledge” to take on such roles. What’s worse, you compare yourself to your peers. That still happens today. I recently had the good fortune of acting opposite screen legends Ellie Suriaty and Nabila Huda and I felt really small. This will become a never-ending struggle in our life.

Imagine if you had taken up those offers and challenged yourself. You would have learned something from all those great filmmakers. You would have risen to the occasion because I believe that the more you do it, the better you’re going to be at it. So, if there’s ever an opportunity for you to have another shot, just give it a chance. Do not regret the mistakes you have made (or are going to make) because we are not perfect. Try to take it easy, be more flexible, and constantly tell yourself that everything in life happens for a reason.

Anyway, you haven’t done so badly. People in the present have a hard time believing that we are struggling with self-worth. “But you’re Scha Alyahya!” they say, with surprised looks on their faces. I’m not sure I know what the root of the problem is. Maybe it’s our upbringing. Being born and raised in Sungai Petani, Kedah, we were clueless when we came to Kuala Lumpur to pursue our studies. None of this was planned. Maybe that is the reason; we were not mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared for this. 

I remember when we first got into the industry—you will sadly experience this soon—a lot of people were critical of our physical appearance. They would tell you that you’re flat-chested, your nose is not of the ideal proportion, and you sound like a boy. It’s just one thing after another. You’re going to feel frustrated and question yourself if you’re good enough. You’re going to try to fit into these impossible moulds that they give you but know that nothing would satiate their hunger for perfection because it does not exist. 

I’m happy to tell you that we’re getting good at tuning out the noise. In fact, we’re excellent at it. But it is going to take you a while to get there—a year or two into your marriage after you start receiving nasty comments about your firstborn. You will become almost invincible. Maybe that’s your maternal instinct kicking in, to protect your daughter, your family. Oh yes, you’re going to have a family of your own. Do you remember that guy who hosted the Dewi Remaja finale, Awal Ashaari? He is the man you’re going to marry. 

After two years of seeing each other, he is going to pop the question (on live television!) and you’re going to say yes. But if I could offer you some advice: take more time to think it through. You’re an easy-going person, you’re a perfectionist, and you have never imagined yourself being married. You don’t know if you’re ready to shoulder that responsibility. Could you take care of another person and later your children? I know you really like him; it’s just that you forget to ask yourself if you are ready. 

I did not think that far. The first thing I thought after we got married was, “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.” I thought that I was still too young, I was still figuring things out, and Awal and I were still in the infancy of our careers. I had to grapple with all of these questions for the first six months of our marriage before I realised that it was just another manifestation of my self-doubt. I thought I wasn’t being a good wife because I was always out working. I then learned that women could juggle a lot of things at once. It’s the best thing ever.

Maybe you could’ve spared me those six months had you taken the time to process it. That said, I wouldn’t complain too much if you were to make the same decision I did. I’m blessed with a beautiful family, made complete by two precious little cherubs Lara Alana and Lyla Amina. What are you like as a mother, you ask? You take a hands-on approach to almost everything. You will ensure that Lara does her homework every day before you go to work and you would hold on to the school app as if your life depended on it. 

But Scha, you can let go. It’s okay. You don’t have to come home during work just to see them, you don’t have to feel compelled to always get things in order, and you don’t have to take things too seriously because I’m sure the kids will turn out okay. Besides, it would only do a disservice to your relationship especially when you inevitably make the unfair comparison where you feel like your partner isn’t doing as much as you are. I would say the same principle applies to your career—you don’t have to have a tight grip on everything. 

Sure, the competition is fierce but always remind yourself to not get into petty drama with your peers. Don’t get yourself into that mess. You will get the chance to do almost everything that you want to do, so don’t be alarmed when the time comes for someone else to get a taste. It’s a cycle. What’s more, you will go on to forge friendships with some of them and that sense of sisterhood will go a long way. You will be surprised to know that, through social media, many who criticise and censure us are women themselves. Do not partake in that. 

Know that it is so important for women to support each other because no one else will. Oftentimes we aren’t able to discuss our troubles openly out of fear that we might face even more criticism. We don’t feel like we have a safe place to share our frustrations. We don’t have that support. So, it is imperative for us to express solidarity with other women. We will have a stronger foundation if we’re all united. Together, we can create a community in which we’d feel safe, supported, and ultimately happy. A community that we belong to.

Here’s to the future.

Love, Scha.

Photography: Nelson Chong
Creative Direction & Styling: Ian Loh 
Hair: Keith Ong
Makeup: Khir Khalid
Art Direction: Shane Rohaizad
Styling Assistanst: Sarah Chong, Lorraine Chai
Photography Assistants: Bernard Chong, Siang Lun, Jennifer
Art Assistants: Joy, Limberly