On getting attached to some songs over others.
“There’s gonna be a lot of rejections in your life, but never stop. Keep going.” Sound advice to a little girl who would grow up to be one of Malaysia’s most influential musicians of all time. And she definitely deserves every moment of that success—this hardworking star has been on the go since she was 20. “So my album came out last year in July, and I haven’t stopped since. And not to mention that I haven’t stopped working since I was 20! And now that I’m in this position where I don’t have anything on my schedule..it feels really weird, because I’ve never had days off before. I remember earlier this year, I felt really tired, like I was exhausted, and I kept saying that Im so tired, I need to rest, and I haven’t gotten enough sleep. I knew it was taking a toll on my health, just the way I was working. I work really hard.” She tells me. “I never used to say this to people, that I am a hard worker, but when I spoke to someone about this, they told me ‘you should tell people that you have been working really hard, and you need to understand that you need to stop, and take a break.’ And I was like alright—because I just keep on going, going, going!”
“And with Ashraf’s (Sinclair) passing, that was a huge wakeup call, which happened even before this pandemic, and so I managed to take a mini break. And even so, the people around me were like ‘take all the time you want, but let me know when you are ready to get back to work.’ This is my life, this is my livelihood, with music and work, and working with brands—everybody has a schedule. But now everyone’s schedule is on hold! So now I'm like, ‘oh wow.’” Yuna continues. “This feels like a blessing in disguise for people who have been working non-stop; and now I can be home and reconnect with why I am doing all of this, and be with my family— my parents are getting old, so I’m really happy I get to spend time with them. I also get to spend time with my cats, and give them attention and love and care. I haven’t been outside for weeks now!”
Speaking of staying indoors, we have had to do things remotely, including the production of this special cover story. The artistic images of Yuna at home was creatively put together by Yuna herself, including makeup, styling and creative direction. And the images were exclusively shot by her husband, Adam, using an iPhone 11 Pro! “It was a lot of fun! I see a lot of videos and phots online where people are just being creative, and I am definitely one of those people who are constantly finding corners in my house to take a photo at, like ‘oh this is pretty, lets take a photo here. There is a shadow from this tree outside of the window that is hitting the wall—lets take one there!’ So I thought it was a cool idea to do a photoshoot at home. And Yuna at home is as real as Yuna can be, because I don’t have super fancy stuff lying around. I clean, I vacuum, I mop! When my cat is peeing everywhere, I’ll be there, just cleaning it up! There is nothing glamorous about me at home.” She laughs. “But for this concept, I get to dress up and play that role of Yuna at home.”
From working on her music at her studio corner in her room in Dior, to vacuuming at home, and chilling with her cat in a full Gucci attire, every shot portrays exactly what she would do at home—including indulging in her childhood favourite snack, the scrumptious Harum Manis. “There was a shot of me at the dining table, eating a Harum Manis, a type of mango which you can find at the border of Thailand. I grew up in Perlis, and we used to have Harum Manis all the time.” Her fun, and grounded concept portray the importance of staying at home, surrounded by everything she loves. “It also sends a really positive and powerful message to people out there; staying at home is very important— It's not just something you are forced to do. We need to flatten the curve and also think about our frontliners who are struggling out there, and we don’t want to overwhelm them with more cases. So it’s also a nice message to send out, that you can still have fun at home and stay inspired. Hang in there! I am sending so much love out there to everyone. And if you need to reach out to me—I'll be home! (laughs). I’ll be on Instagram. Stay safe, and make sure you eat healthy, and keep your mind and soul healthy. There is a Janet Jackson song that I listen to on The Velvet Rope, and there is a line there where she states, ‘you have to learn to water your spiritual garden’. So don’t forget to water your spiritual garden, pray for the best, and help those around you.”
“Being empowered to me is being surrounded by people who motivate you to be better. Empowerment can come in many forms—it can come as the form of a mother, or a complete stranger on TV. For me personally, empowerment means to not pick and choose who to empower. I know that I have people who...don’t see me as their favourite person, or someone who leaves a hate comment for example, I am not going to say anything that will ruin their day. It’s important to keep on showing up, and showing people love, and showing people a positive attitude towards life, and hopefully that will empower them to do the same, and also empower other people."
“These days I wake up, shower, and get ready and do my make up as if I have work to do or somewhere to go! It helps to get all made up for the day even if I’m on my laptop working.”
“I’m always brainstorming how to put out content with my husband.. or even with myself! I actually never get bored at home, I always have something to do!”
“It helps to have a little writing corner in the house. I set some up. One is in our bedroom, we have a little studio set up, and another is the living room downstairs with all my plants. I’ll get these beats (instrumental music) from my producer friends and I’ll listen to them.. and then just start writing.”
“I definitely can not work when Im stressed out about something. Like I can’t work in a messy place. I have to very relaxed, but very motivated and feeling very creative. And definitely no interruption! It kind of needs to be in my calendar where I just be like ok, Saturday is my writing day. Let me be!”
“When I listen to the finished product and go “Yes, I can imagine listening to this on the radio.” If I don't get to that point, I’ll revise it again and again until its perfect—to me at least!"