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Jakarta Post

Love it or hate it: Instagram star Awkarin stirs debate after turning to activism

  • Gisela Swaragita
    Gisela Swaragita

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, October 15, 2019   /   08:51 pm
Love it or hate it: Instagram star Awkarin stirs debate after turning to activism Instagram celebrity Karin “Awkarin” Novilda distributes boxes of food to demonstrators in Jakarta last month. (JP/Donny Fernando)

Instagram celebrity Karin “Awkarin” Novilda has attracted both criticism and praise after taking part in several philanthropic stunts following the recent #ReformasiDikorupsi (#ReformCorrupted) protests last month.

Politician and former 1998 activist Budiman Sudjatmiko tweeted on his official twitter account @budimandjatmiko that Awkarin’s actions were driven by sensationalism, and compared poorly with entrepreneur and philanthropist Tri Mumpuni, who was involved in hydro power electricity development activities and was then awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2011.

“Two examples of good deeds done by two women: 1. Awkarin and 2. Tri Mumpuni. The first one [did good deeds] based on sensationalism, the second one [for] essential reasons. Kindness should be sensational but also essential. One is not enough. Our culture prefers the first one, although our body needs the second one,” he said in the tweet.

He followed the tweet with several other tweets, and ended with praise of environmentalist Greta Thunberg, as well as activist Butet Manurung who advocates and campaigns for the rights of indigenous people through alternative education.

“Greta inspired people by creating a sensation in the centers of the world, Europe and America, for environmental campaigns, Butet did the essentials by living in the forests for years.”

Budiman's statement, however, has led to a backlash.

Awkarin responded to the tweets on her own Twitter account @awkarin, saying that people should stop pitting women against each other.

“Do not compare a woman to another woman to bring down one of them. Mba Dian Sastro, Mba Tsamara Amany, Bu Butet, and I have our own roles in helping this country. We do not need to be compared. What is needed is [for women] to be united and empowered. #SaveTheWorld,” she said in the tweet, referring to actress Dian Sastrowardoyo and young politician Tsamara Amany.

Her view was immediately endorsed by many netizens as well as celebrities.

Dian wrote, “All of us move together in our own ways, and that is touching. I am so proud of this spirit and unity. Girls unite."

Script writer Jenny Jusuf challenged Budiman.

“Do not compare women. What about yourself, what have you done?”

Awkarin rose to prominence as a YouTube and Instagram persona in 2016. At first she came across as a celebrity people loved to hate or hated to love, often publishing content including her romantic relationship with her boyfriend as well as her glamorous life with her friends.

Last year she announced on her social media account that she would "retire" as an Instagram celebrity because she felt tired and longed for a "normal life". She also said she wanted to use her last bite of fame campaigning for good causes. 

On Sept. 24 this year, she became one of the very few mainstream celebrities that openly supported the #ReformasiDikorupsi cause, especially certain aspects such as freedom of speech and women's rights.She and her team joined the student protest and distributed 3,000 meal boxes to the protesters. She also arrived after the protests with her team to pick up trash.

Not long afterward, Awkarin flew to Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, to inspect the site of peatland fires and spread the message of how awful the situation was. There, she met with children affected by the haze, planted trees and helped the firefighting team. (swd)