Rima Melati has been a household name in the Indonesian entertainment industry for more than four decades and will soon use her experience to take part in an event for a cause close to her heart.
While the actress and singer won’t be singing any tunes at the Diva Reunion concert in October, the former member of the all-girl group Baby Dolls, who were popular in the 1960s, will give a short talk about breast cancer as part of “pink month” celebrations to help raise awareness.
Rima was at the Hard Rock Cafe, Jakarta, on Monday, to announce the news of the concert, which will see 20 female singers take part including Titi D.J., Rieka Roeslan and Vina Panduwinata.
The concert will be held at the Jakarta Convention Center on Oct. 16.
Rima, 73, was born Marjolein Tambajong and has featured in more than 40 Indonesian movies, such as “Violetta” (1962), “Tali Merah Perkawinan” (1981) and “Bebek Belur” (2010). She has also appeared in Indonesian television shows “Kesucian Prasasti” and “Candy.”
Rima spoke to the Jakarta Globe about her current work, quitting showbiz and her stage name, which was apparently inspired after a role by Audrey Hepburn.
When did you become a breast cancer awareness activist?
I have been the chairperson for the Jakarta Foundation of Breast Health (YKPJ) for two years. Our foundation is concerned about breast cancer that might kill both women and men. Men can get breast cancer too, did you know that? But it’s only dangerous if you discover it too late. So it’s very important to detect [the illness] from an early stage. And we see it as our job to give as much enlightenment as possible to our society about breast cancer.
You are a breast cancer survivor. Did you find out about your cancer quickly?
I didn’t. I noticed there was a lump here [in my left breast] but I didn’t know it was cancer. I kept touching it and it grew bigger and became redder. When I finally went to the doctor, I was at stage 3B. I had to have surgery as soon as possible to remove the cancer.
It was 23 years ago that you found out you had cancer. Was it difficult to find any information about it?
There was no information about it. Our doctors didn’t even have the technology to only partly remove the breast. I was about to have my left breast removed completely, but a friend came to me and told me to do the surgery in Amsterdam. So I went there with my husband and children. I was helping Garuda Indonesia with PR work at that time, so they gave us free tickets. We were there for about a year and a half. Other than proper treatment, family support is crucial for someone with cancer to be able to survive. It’s alright to remove part of your breast if it’s beneficial for your health. My left breast is now smaller than the other one, and I use a fake breast so my clothes will still look nice. It’s okay. Now look at me. I’m okay.
Have you been busy with the campaign?
Yes. I travel around Indonesia to speak to people about living a healthy life. It’s the only way to prevent cancer. You have to live healthy because you want to.
What are your tips for young women and men to avoid breast cancer?
Work out regularly, and it doesn’t have to be tough exercise. Drink water. Eat healthy. If you eat bread, opt for whole wheat. Don’t eat deep-fried food. Don’t eat noodles, but if you do, check the expiration date. If you eat meat, don’t eat the fat. And when you shower, always check your breast for unwanted lumps. If you find a lump, go see your doctor immediately. If you hit 35, the check-up becomes necessary, especially for women.
Care to share your daily menu?
I eat a lot of vegetables, home cooked. I only eat meat occasionally.
Do you have any upcoming plans to do a movie or a sinetron?
No. For a special appearance in a movie, it would be alright, but I don’t want to do sinetron anymore. It takes up too much time. I just want to travel right now. All of our children have moved out with their families. My grandchildren have graduated from university, except the one who lives in the United States. So I think I want to quit doing entertainment now.
Tell us about the origin of your stage name. How was Sukarno involved?
Oh it’s such a long time ago. I think I was in my 20s and I hadn’t had any children yet. I used to have a friend at the palace and he would let me get the fuel for free. One day, I drove around and made a stop at the palace to fill up on gas, and Bung Karno was there. He was having his tea. He called me over. I was afraid that he was going to be mad at me for getting the gas for free, but he just called me to say that he didn’t like my name. ‘Lientje, it’s too Western, it’s ugly,’ he said. He said I should get another name.
I always loved the name Rima because I’m a huge fan of Audrey Hepburn. In ‘Green Mansions’ she plays this character named Rima. And I have a friend with a very cute baby girl named Melati. I really liked that name. I asked Bung Karno what he thought about it and he loved it. ‘Use that! You should use that name!’ And so I did.
Veteran actressand breast cancer survivor, Rima Melati is doingher part to raise awareness of the disease. Antara Photo