Rui En on being on Instagram & why it's ok if you think she's virtue signalling with her posts

GDLL: We spoke to the actress about her involvement in charity, particularly on helping low-income families and speaking out on mental health.

Mandy How | December 04, 2022, 08:01 PM

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GDLL stands for Give, Donate, Laugh, Love. Trust us, we know how that sounds.

With the amount of "Who cares?" in our comments sections, we thought, “Hey, we know people who do.”

For every weekend during this festive period, we are featuring local personalities who care, and the ways they do so.

Depending on whether you grew up watching Channel 8 shows, your impression of Rui En might vary quite widely.

Photo by Russell Ang

Readers born before the 2000s might be able to trace the trajectory of the actress' rise to fame, from being one of the seven princesses of Mediacorp to being the subject of negative headlines.

But the Rui En we met in November 2022 was placid and unbothered, possessing a touch of humour.

In fact, after taking a step back from the entertainment industry, the 41-year-old now unironically thinks of local reporters as "monks" and "nuns".

"It's a very stark difference between Singapore's media and overseas media. You are already considered very kind. I have to say this, really, " Zaobao previously quoted her as saying.

But there's one more facet of Rui En that's not explored as often: the do-gooder in her, even in her earlier days more than a decade ago.

No soft toys for her, thank you

In October this year, the actress donated blood for the first time to celebrate one year of being on Instagram.

She took the opportunity to urge her followers to do the same, should they be eligible.

The actress didn't go alone, too: she went with quite a few others from her fan club, RBKD, and in total, the group managed to donate nine bags of blood.

If you're thinking that it's not common occurrence for a celebrity to do charity with her fans, yes, you're probably right.

The whole thing came about quite naturally, though.

Rui En recounts to Mothership,

"And the way that started was that previously on my birthday, so that's like, January, for some reason, I will get a whole bunch of gifts. I will get a whole bunch of cards, I will get a whole bunch of like, you know, letters and everything, but I felt like the gifts that I was getting like soft toys. [...] So basically, items that for me, you know, I don't really like soft toys.

And I just felt like, okay, instead of putting all your money and effort into like buying these gifts for me, how about let's do something meaningful? Because I don't want you guys waste your money on things that I'm not going to use, right."

And so she suggested: "Let's do charity."

Their first session took place on Dec. 30, 2010.

Since then, the actress has gotten into the habit of commemorating milestones and celebrating special occasions by doing good with her fans.

Past initiatives include making and distributing care packages to the elderly for Chinese New Year, as well as for healthcare workers during the height of the pandemic.

Photo courtesy of Rui En

Photo courtesy of Rui En

Photo courtesy of Rui En

The logistics of it all—procuring sponsors, organising the manpower etc.—were taken care of by RBKD.

Photo courtesy of Rui En

Photo courtesy of Rui En

"I've been very blessed that I have a fan club who's very efficient, logistics wise," Rui En says.

The club has done this so much that they've built a network of contacts and sponsors, she adds.

Position of privilege

Photo by Russell Ang

Even before the volunteering work with her fan club, the actress had already been volunteering with Beyond Social Services, an organisation dedicated to helping children and youths from less privileged backgrounds.

Photo courtesy of Rui En

Rui En has no qualms about admitting that going to rental flats was a "huge eye-opener" for her, as an entire family could be squeezed into a one-room flat.

She continues by acknowledging her position of privilege, and having to learn about a segment of society that she didn't know existed.

"Because to me, it was like, okay, Singapore, you know, at the time I was younger, right? And I just assumed everyone was like me, which was obviously ignorant."

One of the experiences that left a deeper impression on her, however, was her time with a children's home in Sembawang.

The children were there because they were mandated by the court to live there, or simply because their families weren't able to take care of them, Rui En explains.

It was Christmas period then, and she had gotten Singapore Idol winner Taufik Batisah to sing for the young residents.

"And to me, that was just like, just watching their eyes light up was actually for me, very special," she recalls.

In this case, being a recognisable celebrity has only helped to make her involvement more impactful.

 "I think when you feel abandoned and you feel left behind, and if I can come in and show you that I do want to talk to you, I'm interested in what you have to say, and I'm gonna get someone that you idolise to come and sing for you. That's the least I can do."

But despite the smiles she may bring to the children's faces, Rui En remains honest with herself about the change she can bring about.

"[...] It meant so much to me that I was able to kind of like, go down there. And to be honest, I can't do anything, like I can't change their lives, right.


I can't change the actual physical situations. But if I can do something like that [getting their favourite singer, letting them know there's someone to talk to]—I would feel like at least what I do is meaningful."

Mental health and social media

If you've been following Rui En on Instagram, you might have noticed another cause that the actress has been speaking about: mental health.

She observes that there's "still a little bit of stigma surrounding it," especially in Asian countries.

"And I just feel like, for me in my position, if I'm able to talk openly about what I struggle with, [...] my main thing is I want people to feel less alone."

It was not the easiest step to take for someone—a public figure, no less—who had no Instagram account of her own until 2021.

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Rui En (@wilderseas29)

The actress recognises a certain level of vulnerability when it comes to opening up online.

Often, there is a fear of being judged, or being accused of being fake and creating drama.

She said: "[...] But I decided that I don't want to just be an actress and a singer, and just have that legacy. I just feel like for me, it's important to use a platform that my acting and my singing has given to me."

It was also partly due to her own struggles that the actress started using social media, as ironic as that might sound.

"Because I think I've been in a place before where I just felt like I was so alone. And I felt so lonely. And I think that when I realised that hey you know, look, I'm going to start an IG [account].

If I can use that, to help at least one person feel less alone, I think that's all I want."

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Rui En (@wilderseas29)

On virtue signalling

Instagram is also the reason why you might have heard more about her charitable endeavours in the past year.

But some might feel that charity shouldn't be made public, as it constitutes a form of virtue signalling.

To this, Rui En responds evenly,

"I would have to then ask back a question, which is that if I already share so much of my life, my mind, you know, my thoughts and everything that happens in my life, if I already share that on social media, and I don't share about charity work simply because I'm afraid of what people think, isn't that also being a hypocrite? It doesn't make sense."

Another aspect that's important to her is leading by example—taking action instead of just talking about it.

If her publicising leads others to think that she's virtue signalling, or simply trying to get some good press, well, that's a price she's willing to pay, she says.

Moreover, after 20 years in the industry, negative comments have become "part of the game", and something she's accepted a long time ago.

No desire to help? No problem

But Rui En believes that even those without a platform, or those without privilege, can give back in their own way.

Even the lazy and indifferent can contribute in their own way, Rui En tells us.

For a start, one must acknowledge that it is "very natural" to feel like they have no desire to anything for anyone but themselves.

There's no need to force anything, either: "First of all, I wouldn't want you to do anything that you don't mean, or that you actually don't want to do," she says lightly.

"Why don't you just tell yourself like it's actually okay that I don't feel like doing it and maybe next year I will, or maybe like five years down the road? But in the meantime, can I do something small, can I not do something that's money and time intensive?"

Some options that she lists include donating blood, helping out at a soup kitchen, or buying a food item and leaving it at a donation point.

The point, she explains, is that it doesn't have to be a huge action that involves a lot of time, money, or labour.

"Because I think that when people think about charity they think that it has to be big and very huge right, then it matters. It doesn't. A little little step actually would still make a difference."

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Special thanks to House of Anette for the interview space. 

Top image by Russell Ang.