Once better known for her accent than her talents, alluring Cinta Laura Kiehl has blossomed into a lovely young actress and singer. Between studying and giving back to society, she takes time out to model high-fashion clothing and speak exclusively to DA MAN about her future.
Photographs: Timur Angin
Interview: Yudith Ho
Cinta Laura Kiehl found herself in showbiz via a series of fortunate events that began with a very unfortunate one. Five years ago, Cinta had an appendicitis attack, forcing her to rest for several months from her serious training as a budding swimmer and prodigious young basketball talent.
Born on Indonesia’s Independence Day in 1993 in Quakenbrück, Germany, Cinta Laura is the daughter of German father Michael Kiehl and Indonesian mother Herdiana. During her extended break from sports, a dance teacher encouraged her to try out for Top Model 2006, an acting/modeling competition.
She won. And the rest, as they say, is history. During the competition, she was spotted by casting director Sanjay Maulani and was signed to play the lead in Cinderella, a TV series by MD Entertainment. A few months later, Cinta, a natural talent, was bestowed the award of Top Actress at the SCTV Awards.
Since the award, she has been in over 500 TV episodes such as Upik Abu dan Laura (starring alongside acclaimed American actor Jason Daniels), big-screen feature Oh Baby (with Catherine Wilson) and Air Mata Cinta (co-starring Glenn Alinskie and Marcel Chandrawinata), as well as in many commercials representing companies such as Samsung, English First, XL and Pucelle.
“I believe that fame is partly based on luck,” she says thoughtfully. “There are many talented people in the world who fail to make it in showbiz, so it’s hard to justify a reason why someone is famous. But intelligence, determination, professionalism and, of course, talent is needed; without them, someone might succeed but they won’t last.”
Cinta’s successful foray into music has also proven that she has these four traits. Her eponymous first album was a hit, going platinum in just one month. Almost overnight, she became a hot topic in the Indonesian media, although it was less about her talent and more about her strikingly gorgeous Eurasian look and distinctive, almost American-esque accent when speaking Bahasa Indonesia.
“At first I was in anguish. I was frustrated by people’s lack of understanding and tolerance with my situation,” she says. “I was born and raised in foreign countries and I have a German father, to whom I speak mostly English or German. Also, I’ve always been in international schools, so English was my main language. I’d never spoken Bahasa Indonesia properly before I began acting.”
Neither can anyone fault her for not trying to learn. Before her debut role in Cinderella, Cinta went through four months of intensive training provided by her production house to improve her Indonesian. “But I really don’t mind it anymore,” she smiles to herself, “I’ve learned to cope with people’s perception of me and to ignore all the irrational stories they make up about the origins of my accent.”
Giving to the people
Cinta has certainly done a lot of growing up since she first entered the entertainment industry five years ago. She has weathered rumors, misconceptions and stress, sorted out her priorities and learned a lot about time management. Since September 2009, she has strictly dedicated her weekdays to her studies, with weekends reserved for her entertainment career. This year, she went even further by refusing any new acting jobs due to the amount of time it demands, focusing instead on school, promoting her highly successful album and giving back to society.
This young lady takes her cues, not from shallow pop stars, but from seasoned actress Sandra Bullock. “She is really selfless and a fabulous actress. She donated US$1 million dollars of her own money to victims of 9/11 and the tsunami in Aceh,” she gushes. “Now that is a truly noble person.”
Putting her words to action, Cinta has demonstrated that she’s an equally noble person. Supporting her mother’s foundation, Yayasan Soekarseno Peduli, she teaches English to underprivileged children for her community and service projects at school. “I want to eradicate the children’s bad perception of foreigners and help them break the communication barrier,” she states. “The schools are located in a remote region on the foothills of Mount Salak, so it’s important for us not just to educate them, but also to open their minds to the world beyond the boundaries of their homes.”
So far, the foundation has worked together with major corporations like High Desert International, German Aid, Australian Aid and Rotary Club Jakarta Menteng to help rebuild 11 schools in Bogor and assist more than 4,000 children.
Brains and beauty
Cinta has no regrets about the fact that her first priority is education, both that of the children she works with and also her own. “The fact that I’m dedicated to my studies is definitely what sets me apart from other artists.” She currently maintains a 4.0 GPA at school, for which she was invited into the National Honor Society. “My parents have never been too strict about grades, but I guess it’s just in my nature to be the so-called nerd in the family,” she confesses.
On top of collecting academic accolades, Cinta is also a high-achieving athlete in basketball and track and field. “I play the wing in basketball, and [sprints] and high jump in track. My best mark on the track is 13.38 seconds for the 100 meters.” Each year, she competes in the Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asian Schools, against other international-school athletes based in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. “I love competing and meeting new people from the other teams,” she grins.
Cinta’s ideal boyfriend would also have to be someone who is smart and motivated, as well as funny and outgoing. Although, she claims that she is quite happy with staying single for the moment. “I’m young and free!” she laughs.
When Cinta leaves Indonesia next summer to go to university in the United States, she will be leaving her entertainment career behind—maybe. However, unlike most young starlets, she is not afraid of it, indeed, she expresses excitement about it. She wants become a psychologist or lawyer, like her mother.
“My parents want me to take law, they say I am a good convincer,” she laughs. “I am really interested in psychology though, because I want to help teenagers who experience stress or severe depression. I’ve experienced pressures that have made me behave irrationally at times too, so I know how horrible and painful that feels.”
A new beginning
Cinta is confident that saying goodbye to fame and glamour and returning to a more ordinary life of a regular college student will be an easy adjustment for her. “I’m an ordinary girl every single day of my life when I’m at school or with my school friends,” she explains. “So, everything’s going to be fine.” But should the opportunity present itself in the form of a talent scout offering her a golden ticket to Hollywood, she will duly consider it. “What I do [in showbiz] is purely a hobby, so if an opportunity comes my way, I’ll take it,” she says. “But if it doesn’t, I won’t mind either.”
Possessing youth, beauty and brains in abundance, she seemingly has it all. Asked about where we might find her five years from now, she needs no time to come up with an answer. “Beginning my graduate degree in an Ivy League university,” Cinta says, laughing, “hopefully.”
To see the full feature and all the images of Cinta Laura, get the back issue of DA MAN’s August/September 2010 issue by here.