My Jakarta: Susan Bachtiar, Teacher and Editor in Chief of ‘Hello!’ Magazine
Close your eyes and make a wish. Ladies, did you wish that you look as good as Susan Bachtiar at 37? Guys, did you say a silent prayer that one day while rolling down Jalan Sudirman you don’t wreck your car stopping for a hitchhiker that looks like this? Susan, who stopped modeling full time in 1998 so she could commit to her passion, teaching, takes a break from her hectic schedule to tell us how she juggles being an editor for a celebrity magazine and teaching children. The budding photographer also explains her zest for life, learning and taking on new challenges.
How long have you been with Hello! Indonesia magazine?
Since June. But I’m still a teacher. I’m a kindergarten teacher. I’ve been an English teacher since 1996.
I’m the SK-II ambassador for Indonesia, for a skin product from Japan, and ambassador for the Indonesian Heart Foundation.
We just had our Jakarta Red Run 10K last Sunday.
Did you finish it?
Yes, of course. The 10K race was a new experience because I’m used to being on Sudirman and Thamrin in a car, but being out there running on the street, listening to my iPod and looking at the tall buildings was really nice.
I really, really enjoyed myself.
Why teach? I mean, you’rea model, actress and the editor in chief of a magazine, but it seems like the classroom is where you feel most comfortable.
If you would have asked me when I was a kid what I wanted to be, I would have said doctor. But I failed the entrance exam.
During the Suharto regime, it was hard for people of Chinese descent to enter a state university. God works in mysterious ways.
I always wanted to help people by being a doctor, but now I’m helping people by exchanging knowledge.
Where do you teach?
Just behind the Hello! magazine office here at St. Theresia. I teach twice a week. When I was still modeling and working as an emcee, I taught every day. I’m very passionate about education.
How did you end up at Hello! Indonesia?
My best friend, who also works for a magazine, said ‘You take nice photos. Now why don’t you try to write?’ So she helped me a little and voila, I had a story about Boracay in the Philippines published in Femina.
The MRA group then offered me the job as editor in chief of Hello! magazine.
At first I was worried because I don’t have a background in journalism, but I have this thing about learning new things, and I thought, I’ve just learned how to write articles so why not?
So you wrote one article and then you got the job as editor in chief?
[Laughs] Of course not. Everything happens for a reason. I don’t think they offered me the job because of the article.
Hello! magazine is a celebrity magazine and I’m a celebrity. But they offered me a challenge and I took it.
That doesn’t scare you?
It scared me at first but, again, I’m the kind of person who takes on challenges. If I start something I have to finish it.
Give me one ‘do’ and one ‘don’t’ for Jakarta.
Do go to a traditional market. Don’t go to a supermarket. If you go to a traditional market you will be amazed at how cheap everything is.
When’s the last time you went to a traditional market?
I usually go with my mom to Pasar Kopro, a traditional market in West Jakarta, on Sunday. I buy traditional cakes like kue cucur, kue celorot and other kue kampung.
Where can we find you at 10 p.m. on a Saturday?
At home enjoying a good movie. Have you seen ‘The Cove’? They just bring all the dolphins in there and then butcher them.
Hello! is not a gossip magazine but a celebrity magazine. What’s the difference?
Here’s an example. There’s a competitor of Hello! magazine that claims that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt got divorced.
Hello! magazine is the only magazine that has reliable sources. We knew that they were OK. We’re against that kind of gossip.
Have you ever been the subject of celebrity gossip?
No, not so far. The media isn’t interested in me. I’m just a teacher.
You said that you were learning Dutch. Why?
My grandfather, who was also an English teacher, spoke five languages. My mom and dad, auntie and friends can speak Dutch so I practice with them.
Take one thing from another city anywhere in the world and put it in Jakarta.
I would steal Central Park from New York and put it in Jakarta.
Name one flaw the city has that you’ve learned to live with.
I’ve lived here 37 years so I can say that I’ve learned to live with the traffic.
Luckily, they’ve invented things like BlackBerry, iPhones and iPads, so if you’re already old like me there’s no reason to be grumpy and complain about the traffic.
Do you think you’ll always be a teacher?
I hope so. For me, teaching children is fun. It always makes me feel younger. It makes me smile every day.
Sometimes they can be little devils, but you never know when they are going to say something funny and new.