Hirzi privatised his Instagram account with 99k followers, but it’s not because of the death threats he received
A different take on the funny man.
If you’re not sure what Hirzi Zulkiflie does, chances are, he doesn’t know it too.
In the past 12 years, Hirzi has dabbled in a variety of work, including acting, television writing, television producing, creative directing, being a stand-up comedian, and of course, being a social media influencer.
Jack of all trades, master of none?
While being a jack of all trades may sound like a feat to most people, that, however, used to be the reason why he was so insecure.
“I was very insecure about it because I couldn’t put a label on myself. The thing is, when you’re a jack of all trades, you’re never a master.”
But as the 30-year-old got older and gained more experience, his perception of being a multi-hyphenate has changed for the better.
And finally, he managed to give himself a title perfect enough for him to be able to deprecate himself.
“Over time, the overarching label I’m comfortable with is ‘artist’. An artist who does his own work, who edits his own videos. Basically, some who’s cheapened to play other people lah.”
Survives on 40 minutes a day
Behind this jokester that we all are familiar with, however, lies a self-slave driver.
Here’s what he has done in just the month of May alone:
- Became the creative partner and stall ambassador for Praffles at the Ramadan Bazaar
- Became the product ambassador for Sofnade meatballs
- In the midst of producing a YouTube chat series with fellow YouTuber DeeKosh
- Produced the second season of The Benzi Project alongside online personality Benjamin Kheng
- Dropped a Hari Raya music video
This, of course, is just what he could remember off the top of his head.
“I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting some stuff right now, I’ve been relying on just 40 minutes of sleep these days.”
“Nothing [else] going on in my life”
But why does he live this lifestyle which, he stressed, he doesn’t encourage his young followers to follow?
Apart from wanting to provide for his family a little, he semi-joked that he works hard because there is “nothing going on” in his life.
“Ben Kheng said I am secretly addicted to the chaos. I think there’s some truth in it because I have nothing going on in my life. I don’t have a love life nor am I pursuing to get a house soon. So work really gets me driven.”
Aside from that, Hirzi says he works hard because he feels the need to constantly improve himself.
“I’m the kind of person that if you tell me I can’t do something, I will do it just to prove that I can.”
On his friendship with Munah
But when the rare opportunity to rest does come along, he spends his day simply sleeping and having a social media detox.
“I will sleep for a good 10 to 12 hours. And then, I will lay on my back to give myself a good social media break for two to three hours.”
If he’s lucky, he would also catch up with his best friend and former MunahHirziOfficial partner, Munah Bagharib.
Back when they were both producing videos for their YouTube channel, the pair would see each other every single day, albeit for work.
“Since we left, we became the best friends we each wanted to be. I see her less now, but each time we meet, it’s just pure friendship.”
But true to his workaholic self, Hirzi said that he’d rather work with Munah seven days a week than to enjoy their friendship every other month.
“It’s because I am a loser, but I’d rather see her seven days a week and work.”
But believe it or not, Hirzi hasn’t always been this vocal.
In fact, he shared that he used to be a shy and introverted boy who would prioritise his studies over anything else.
“I was such a loser that nobody would talk to me. I didn’t even dare to open my mouth or approach people.”
Fortunately, that all changed when he entered secondary school.
As he was entering a new phase, he thought it was a good opportunity to restart his social standing and he did just that by joining his school’s drama club.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
“Drama club just exposes you to be your loudest self and apparently, my loudest self is quite loud lah. Cannot seem to shut up since HHN last year.”
What it means to be an “influencer”
Although he may sometimes joke about the term “influencer” (he poked fun of it several times throughout the interview by saying the word in an exaggerated Singaporean-Chinese accent, if you must know), he knows how impactful his role is to his followers.
And the reality of being an impactful influencer hit him hard the same day he graduated from university in 2014.
The day he graduated from university was also the day Hirzi and Munah had a meet-and-greet with their fans during YouTube FanFest.
While he thought it was going to be a casual get-together with his fans, a question by a fan proved him entirely wrong.
The young girl who was in her teens raised her hands and asked Hirzi for advice on how to come to terms with self-mutilation.
Upon hearing the question, Hirzi requested for all the cameras to be switched off.
“I asked her, what did she do? She then told me that she was a Muslim girl who couldn’t come to terms with her romantic feelings towards girls. I wasn’t fully satisfied with what I said but I told her: ‘You’re going to continue to discover yourself. There will never be a day where you’ll stop discovering yourself. I can’t, for legal reasons, give you an answer that I will be happy with but it will become easier when you build a community around you.'”
As if this wasn’t heavy enough for what was supposed to be a light-hearted fan meet, a male fan also voiced out his heart-wrenching experience of being bullied in school for being “effeminate”.
Today, however, Hirzi tells us that this fan is “living happily” as a transgender, and has kept in touch with the YouTuber throughout her journey.
Shortly after the meet-and-greet, Hirzi left for the States to work for six months.
However, the faces of the two young fans would come to his mind every other night simply because he couldn’t give them an answer he was truly satisfied with.
“I thought to myself, ‘Why is it my responsibility? Why did they have to make me feel this bad? What did I do that made them think it was their right to pass their worries to me?’ Then I realise that when a man wears a dress and is confidently representing women while cross-dressing, there must have been a sense of queer representation that they attach themselves to.”
He then thought to himself, what could he do to make himself feel better when he returns to Singapore?
His answer, back then, was to be the ambassador for Pink Dot 2015 with Munah.
Getting coffee spat in his face
What they didn’t know then was that the both of them became the first Malay-Muslim ambassadors for Pink Dot.
Unfortunately, the move caused both of them to gain a lot of criticism, especially from the Malay-Muslim community.
“I had coffee spat in my face and people were giving me death threats. I never felt safe walking in a Muslim-dominated area like Bugis and Arab Street.”
However, both of them decided to put on a brave front and kept their fears a secret until the closure of their YouTube page in 2017.
The reason for their secrecy? To make sure that their peers who may have been inspired to take up the ambassadorship never feel defeated.
“Every night, Munah and I would drive with no destination for hours just to cry. We don’t want any kids to see our struggles, nobody knew the hardship of what happened. We were going to deal with the fire on our backs and asses. I felt insecure but I had to put on a brave front.”
Influencer with a private Instagram account
The journey they had throughout Pink Dot was not for nought, though.
For Hirzi, he feels that it has made him a responsible influencer.
For one, despite being an online personality, his Instagram page with more than 99,000 followers is interestingly set to private.
This, according to Hirzi, is so that his followers actively and consciously know what they’re signing up for.
“If there’s anything that doesn’t resonate with you, you have the option to unfollow. I will own everything I say and you need to accept the unpopular stance. You choose to click ‘follow’ and I click ‘accept’. That is on you to feel offended.”
Sadly, being a responsible influencer also means having to pass certain sponsorships that would possibly help with his finances.
“I come with my marginalisation and my unpopular opinions. It makes me, me. The me that everyday people are rooting for. Unfortunately, at the same time it makes me unpopular with brands and unfamiliar with the higher tier of the influencer lifestyle. Do I continue being a badass for my people or cheapen myself to be an influencer?”
Passing the torch… soon
And because of all these negative experiences he has faced, the thought of giving up everything in exchange for a more normal life has crossed his mind.
“It bears heavy on my heart to think about it, but I was hoping to pass the torch when MunahHirziOfficial closed.”
Diehard fans of Hirzi shouldn’t worry too soon, though.
He’s not leaving the internet so quickly, because there are still a lot he hopes to achieve and do, à la Beyonce, no less.
“I still have to do my Crazy In Love and Single Ladies album first. And maybe have a pair of twins and a daughter too.”
Top image by Rachel Ng