Yuna may be big enough now to be known by just one name, but she stays so down-to-earth and gregarious, you wouldn’t believe you were in the presence of an international celebrity. And when she sings in her soulful voice, you can hear that it’s coming from a vulnerable and honest place. From behind the scenes of her cover exclusive with Marie Claire Malaysia in Los Angeles, she opens up to Azza Arif about the challenges of living away from home, her current projects and her journey to mega-stardom.
“I’ve arrived, Azza! Shall I come up?” A familiar, soulful voice through my phone in the early hours of Thursday. Yuna had just pulled up the driveway of my hotel. When I get to my lobby, she greets me with a huge smile and a warm hug, and tells me she drove herself over, and that her manager will make his way down slightly later. She’s wearing an undone, oversized shirt over a black turtle neck top and killer black boots. Her scarf is immaculately tied into a chic turban, and her flawless face is makeup-free—she is naturally gorgeous. We start to talk about her life here in Los Angeles, as she had made the City of Angels her second home ever since her career took off.
What were her first memories of L.A? “Hollywood Boulevard of course! I remembered walking down Hollywood and was just in awe and felt like,” Yeah, I’ve made it!” Yuna spends so much time recording in L.A that it made perfect sense to move down from Kuala Lumpur. She talks about how she misses Malaysian food, and that she would be visiting her birth country soon for a short holiday.
Did she feel the pressure of being questioned by Malaysians on why she chose to live in a foreign land and not her home country? “I used to, but not anymore. I think people are a lot more understanding now on why I do what I do—I would never leave my home country if I could do what I do now from home. So for work, yes, I’m in L.A, but when I’m not on tour or recording, my home is KL. I’m just not at that level yet to do whatever I want to do from KL. But maybe one day! We’ll see.”
Yunalis binti Mat Zara’ai was born 32 years ago, in Kedah, Malaysia. She made headlines as one of the very few Malaysian artists to have so gracefully and successfully broken into the international market. And with that, there will of course be those who celebrate her success, and others who don’t necessarily agree with it. “I feel like now I’m pretty immune to it. But when I was growing up I had to deal with a lot of people who had a lot to say about me and I forget the fact that they know nothing about my life. They don’t have a hidden camera on me to see what I’ve been up to, or how hard
I’ve worked. I also come from a conservative community— people are afraid or sometimes they get a little gossipy when one of us does something a little bit differently, but I totally get it. My parents have always taught me to watch out for people who are there to tear down your spirit—In the end, I get a lot of support from those who really know what I’m all about and that’s the only thing that matters.”
For the full article purchase a copy of Marie Claire December 2018 issue, For a digital copy click here.