From an unexpected encounter to a meteoric rise to stardom, Bara Valentino’s path in Indonesia’s entertainment world is both remarkable and intriguing
There are moments— rare, but not impossible—when the stars align perfectly to turn our dreams to reality. In those moments, it becomes clear that all the odd twists and turns of life led us toward the path meant for us to walk. And that’s precisely what happened to Barakatullah Valentino Peter, better known as simply Bara Valentino. While the Afghan-born Bara was vacationing in Indonesia, his current manager spotted him and offered him a chance to become a model. At first, Bara didn’t think much of it; but later, he realized it was the perfect stepping stone toward his true passion: acting.
Bara made his modeling debut before finally transitioning to acting in 2018. He rose to prominence playing Rama, depicted as the perfectly devoted husband, in the 2021 drama “Love Story the Series.” Audiences couldn’t help but connect with his charming character, which helped establish his newfound stardom. In an exclusive interview with DAMAN, the actor delves into his journey through Indonesia’s entertainment scene.
DAMAN: A lot of people think that you are Indonesian. Can you tell us where you were actually born?
Bara Valentino: I was born in the Jaghori District in Ghazni, which lies in the eastern part of Afghanistan, in 1997.
DA: So, how did you come to work in Indonesia?
BV: It’s a long story. I came to Indonesia to go on vacation. And when I was out shopping, I met the man who would eventually become my manager, and he invited me to become a model. I wasn’t interested at first. But when I got back home, I thought this was a good opportunity because I have wanted to be an actor since I was a kid. Then I agreed and started the casting process, the photo shoot, and finally became an actor.
DA: How did your family react when they learned you would work in Indonesia? Did they have any objections to your decision at that time?
BV: In the beginning, they did not agree with my decision. They wanted me to finish my education, then work as an employee and get a good job. That is how most Afghans think. But when the opportunity came, I wanted to live my dream of becoming a model and an actor. I think my life wouldn’t be happier than it is now if I followed my parents’ dream. So, I decided to be what I wanted to be and live my dreams. Five years later, they’ve seen the results and supported me.
DA: What convinced you that working in Indonesia would be a good idea?
BV: As I said, I initially came to Indonesia for vacation, not to live. After working in the country for two years, I fell in love with the job and the people. They are so friendly. So, I prefer to stay here for now—maybe even forever.
DA: What sort of challenges do you face as a migrant working in this country?
BV: The biggest challenge is the language. While my friends tell me that my Indonesian is already fluent, I still struggle with it when I have to speak in the language while acting. Many words are so difficult to pronounce. This is what I have encountered so far.
DA: Can you tell us about how you transitioned from modeling to acting?
BV: I first learned acting from modeling and from going to a lot of auditions. Then I learned about expressions from working on commercials. I eventually started doing daily TV series and learned even more about acting, including expression and language. When you have a long scenario, you can’t help but learn, memorize and find out what you should do, right?
“The key to my success is to always ask for my parents’ blessing, to work hard and–finally–to always be grateful”
DA: Having experienced both professions, which do you like better: modeling or acting?
BV: Honestly, I love both. Through acting, I can learn to do good expressions and speak Indonesian—not just how to pose. So, doing both jobs is great!
DA: You also owned an Acehnese noodle restaurant and even cooked yourself for a while. What is the story behind this business?
BV: That is true. At the end of 2020, I started an Acehnese noodle restaurant while working as an actor. It was an interesting and exciting time. It was during a pandemic, but we thought the risk was worth it, and it did well then. I learned how to cook directly from the chef. There were only two employees: one made the drinks, and the other cooked. When it got crowded, my two partners and I stepped in. There were five of us serving. I cooked Aceh noodles, Aceh fried rice, martabak and canai bread. But not long after that, I started filming in Bogor. Since we had to stay there, I couldn’t handle the restaurant anymore. So, I had to let it go. Next year, I plan to open another Aceh noodle restaurant.
DA: Your F&B experience led to an offer to host a culinary show. What was that experience like? Especially as you got the chance to try many different cuisines and host a show for the first time.
BV: Many foreigners might find food in another country challenging, but not me. From the moment I arrived in Indonesia and tried the food, it suited me—that’s why I love Indonesian food. At one point, I got the opportunity to be the host for “Makan Receh” on Trans7 and “Bikin Lapar” on Trans TV. Being the host of these culinary shows introduced me to many cuisines I had never encountered in my eight years in Indonesia. Even though I’ve tried different foods from different regions in Indonesia, it’s still not enough. Every day the menu is diverse. It’s fun to work while eating.
DA: What do you like most about Indonesian food?
BV: I love sambal! In every Indonesian dish, there’s a different kind of sambal. Afghanistan has no sambal because the people there don’t like spicy food. Afghans like sweet, savory or salty flavors. There is only dry chili powder or green chilis. This reminds me of a story from when I first came to Indonesia. My friends and I tried to eat sambal for the very first time. And while I was fine, my friends had diarrhea for almost two weeks. They are actually still traumatized and don’t want to try sambal again.
DA: What are some of your most memorable experiences while working in Indonesia?
BV: When working on “Love Story the Series,” I shared many great moments with the crew and director. And when I said goodbye, we all cried, and everyone seemed sad since we’d been working together for two years by then. That’s the most unforgettable experience I had here.
DA: What are some of the highs and lows of your career as a model, actor and presenter?
BV: The highs are when I can learn and try new things. The lows came when I didn’t have work. Expats are expected to renew our temporary residence cards or KITAS regularly. If the renewal is due when I am not working, it’s really tough for me.
DA: Of course, being an actor requires you to always be in top shape. How do you keep yourself healthy and fit?
BV: First of all, I make sure to get enough sleep. I stayed up late not too long ago, and the next day, when I had to go on set, I felt a little weak. Second, maintain your stamina by eating plenty of protein and vitamins. Eat vegetables and meat. That’s a must.
DA: What keeps you motivated to do your best?
BV: My parents. I’m also excited to fight for them because they are always proud of me and my work as I try to find a halal way to make a living. And the key to my success is to always ask for my parents’ blessing, to work hard, and— finally—always to be grateful.
DA: Last but not least, are there any other major goals you’d like to achieve in your career or personal life?
BV: Buy a house and get married. Hopefully, next year, God willing. I want to continue working in the entertainment industry and open my own business.
PHOTOGRAPHY PANJI INDRA
STYLING ISABELLA HARAHAP
PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT DITO LAKSONO
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