M’sian singer Yuna hopes her music speaks for itself
M'sian singer Yuna on fronting Uniqlo line which targets women who dress modestly:
Since her move to Los Angeles five years ago, Malaysian singer Yunahas gained a strong following in the US.
Fans fell in love with her dreamy, soulful voice in hits like Falling and Come Back, which are from her second international album Nocturnal (2013).
But it is not only her music that has piqued stateside interest.
As a hijab-wearing Muslim musician, the 28-year-old is a rarity in the US music scene and her modest yet chic style has become a talking point in the industry.
The New York Timeseven labelled her "the poster girl for a group of young Malaysian Muslim women, dubbed hijabsters, or hipsters who wear the hijab".
Not one for labels, the Kedah-born Yuna, whose real name is Yunalis Zarai, told The New Paper yesterday: "I'm not hiding the fact that I'm Muslim and a singer-songwriter.
"I don't like to be put in a box or labelled a certain way, but if people can relate to me in that way, then, why not?
"I'm hoping my music speaks for itself. I don't want the element of shock where people go, 'Oh my God, she's Muslim!'."
Yuna was in town for a concert at the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands last night. Tomorrow, she performs in Kuala Lumpur.
The founder-designer of fashion and lifestyle label November Culturealso fronted a Uniqlo campaign in July.
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The Hana Tajima For Uniqlo clothing line, designed by her good friend, UK-born fashion blogger-designer Hana Tajima, targets women who would like to dress modestly. It is available in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
This marketing move, as well as Swedish fashion giant H&M's recent advertisement which features its first hijab-wearing Muslim model Mariah Idrissi, is something Yuna celebrates.
"I think it's empowering and inspirational, what Hana Tajima is doing.
"I'm all about empowering others to feel comfortable in their own skin and giving them the means to do so with the right clothes," she said.
"The world is slowly accepting the fact that there are people who like modesty and that not everything is about sex appeal.
"We have these values that we hold onto and we want others to accept us for that. We don't want to be seen as sex objects.
"Just when you think all hope is lost when you watch MTV or the MTV Video Music Awards, a positive change is slowly taking place."
The direction of Yuna's music is also evolving. Her new album, slated for a February release, will see a more "mature and urban" sound.
She has worked with US artists like singer-producer Pharrell Williams and electronic act Owl City and her latest celebrity collaborator is R&B star Usher.
"I wrote a song (and) I thought (it) would be great if Usher featured on it. I reached out to him and he said yes.
"He is super sweet, down-to-earth and always smiling.
"I respect that he is a person who is in a place in life where he's content and wants to try new projects. I admire his courage in exploring things with me because I'm not like other artists," she said.