Almost all 90s girls in Indonesia grew up with Cinta. They were obsessed with her, and some even wanted to be her. The star of box-office smash Ada Apa Dengan Cinta? (AADC, 2002) was Dian Sastrowardoyo. It’s her biggest role to date. The movie was watched by 2.7 million movie lovers and was credited with reviving the local industry after a decade-long slump. Its footprint persists in pop culture here. Earlier this year, the sequel to the coming-of-age movie was premiered. Film goers yearning to relive their high school days flocked to the multiplexes and AADC 2 became one of the most popular Indonesian movies ever, with 3.6 million tickets sold.
Fourteen years after her career breakthrough, Dian remains a national obsession. That she is now a wife (to businessman Indraguna Sutowo) and mother of two (Syailendra, 5, and Ishana, 3,) does not seem to make her any less of a girl crush. There was huge enthusiasm surrounding every aspect of the AADC 2 campaign, including meet-and-greets and screenings. Each of Dian’s activities is followed by 4.1 million pairs of eyes through Instagram.
What’s next for someone who has become a pop culture phenomenon? For Dian, who majored in philosophy and mastered in business, the choice is entrepreneurship. She has joined forces with three high school friends - Tana Suwardhono, Reina Wardhana and Jessica Halim - to start 3 Skinny Minnies, a healthy weight-loss catering service. They provide meals with only 900 calories per portion for women, and they have recently launched The Boyfriend Diet, with 1,600 calories per plate.
“All of us like to eat and cook, but we had a problem finding healthy food that tastes good,” Dian says. “We started cooking at home in small batches and we’re slowly growing the business. Now, we serve up to 120 customers a week.” Dian and her business partners have exciting plans ahead for the business. As young mothers, the natural next step is designing healthy menu for children, and collaborating with schools for distribution.
After starring in 10 major movies, Dian says she is taking her a whole new approach to her acting career. “I used to wait for directors to offer me new movie projects, but after my long acting hiatus, I have a new perspective in seeing my career as an actress,” she says. Dian stepped away from the spotlight for five years to build a family. After Drupadi (2009), her comeback project was 7/24 (2014), a drama comedy in which she shared the screen with Lukman Sardi.
“During my break from acting, I became a corporate worker,” she says. “I dug out my certificate (Dian took philosophy at University of Indonesia, and continued her Master’s degree studies in business there) and applied to companies for jobs. I became an analyst and worked my way up the mid-management level. Being a corporate worker made me realise what it’s like to be judged by performance alone, and not by looks or talent.”
Her corporate experience has helped her become more proactive in approaching other figures in the local movie industry. “Nowadays, if I meet a director or a producer that I don’t know, I come up and introduce myself to them. I don’t care too much about what ‘clicks’ they belong to, I just feel that we have to work together as an industry,” she says. “The same goes to crew members on set. The people I used to work with 10 years ago may not be the same ones that I work with these days, so I make it a point to greet them first. I continuously remind myself that I should never have that sense of entitlement.”
In fact, Dian wants to remain a “newbie”. Her recent movie project, Kartini, sees her playing the distinguished titular role opposite Christine Hakim, Acha Septriasa and Ayushita. “It was such an emotional journey for me. The shooting process was a tough one, and I had to be away from my kids a lot, but I’m glad it all went well.”
Her next gig is an action movie where she, for the first time, plays a villain. Also starring Julie Estelle and Iko Uwais, the movie is due to come out in the next year or so. “I’m still in the process of learning martial arts moves for the movie.” She jokes about being the oldest on set, so she tells everyone to be gentle with her.
Besides constantly challenging herself as an actress, Dian is also devoting some of her energy to social entrepreneurship. Last year, she started Beasiswa Dian, a scholarship programme that finances exceptional young women to attend top state universities in Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta. Last year, the programme took six ladies under its wings, while this year they added two more. Beasiswa Dian works with a foundation that provides scholarships for rural children to go to school.
“I believe that if we empower young women, we benefit not just them but the children they will have in the future. Every woman is a teacher in some way,” Dian, who works with two cousins and her manager on the programme, says. “It’s amazing to meet these girls, who dream big. One girl from Bantul, Central Java, wants to be a doctor. Another one aims to get a scholarship to Japan!”
So far, Dian funds her charity personally, but she is working on bigger plans to help more girls achieve their dreams. When she works with big brands on endorsement programmes, a condition in her contract states that a part of her fee goes to Beasiswa Dian. “We’re launching our website soon, and we’re planning to collaborate with corporations to help more girls. I want to see more ‘Dians’ out there.”
Read more about Dian's take on aging and attitude in acting in the October Issue of Prestige Indonesia, out in newsstands now.
Photography Ronald Liem
Fashion Direction Peter Zewet
Styling Koko Namara
Makeup Ryan Ogilvy
Hair Kiefer Lippens