Guys, as usual I was cracking my head over what topic I wanted to write about next. My "bears harvested for their parts" article was very depressing but I strongly felt that the cruelty bears in captivity endure need all the help and exposure they can get so I wanted to raise awareness. This one's about Yuna because I just returned from shooting her for "Yuna Inspired". Here's the article taken from my Star column today...which ran with the shot of Yuna and me standing back to back but there were so many more fun shots taken on the trip so I've included them here. Enjoy!!! 🙂
(Yuna tweeting on the streets of London)
WHEN I first saw singing sensation Yuna, the word ‘unexpected’ popped into my head. She was wearing a funky leather jacket, boots and a green tudung!
Don’t get me wrong. She was fully covered, as you would expect anyone wearing a headscarf to be, but she broke the stereotypes of traditionally-clad women we have seen either in the kitchen or holding corporate positions in Malaysia.
She was neither a housewife nor a corporate professional, though she graduated with a law degree from Universiti Teknologi Mara. She could have become a lawyer, but fate had something different in store for Yunalis Zarai, whom fans fondly refer to as Yuna.
If you have not heard of her, let me fill you in. She has become Malaysia’s most influential singer online, with a fan base exceeding 710,000 on Facebook and over 40,000 followers on Twitter. I remember reading one of my friend’s messages on Twitter “I could listen to her voice all day” and that was when curiosity killed the cat.
I decided to look her up on YouTube. I was genuinely taken aback when I heard the opening lines of Rocket. She has this rare purity in her voice and her songs were almost therapeutic. I was thinking to myself, “Wow. She sounds like a cross between Fiona Apple and Norah Jones.”
I was not surprised to hear The Fader music label, based in New York has already spotted Yuna’s raw talent and is planning to launch her album internationally. The Fader magazine, which is part of the Fader group of companies, was the first magazine in the United States to put Eminem on their cover, before the rest of the world started to catch on to who he was. So, these are exciting times for Yuna and the rest of us watching her from the sidelines as she takes her first brave foray into the US market.
As luck would have it, an opportunity came up in Malaysia for my production house, kyanite.tv, to conceptualise a project called Astro Hitz ‘Yuna Inspired’ Powered by DiGi. The idea was simple. Yuna was going to organically build a song from scratch with her fans.
She puts up a verse on her Facebook wall every week with a missing line and everyone is encouraged to send in their lines via Facebook or Twitter. She then handpicks the winners who stand to win cool Canon cameras up for grabs.
At the same time, we are filming never-before-seen footage of Yuna’s life from KL, London to New York, which you can catch on www.yunainspired.com as well as Astro Hitz daily. Incredibly, we even shot Yuna on her MAS flight to London!
(Friends of Jojo and Yuna....Singer/songwriter Shayna and Photographer Nadirah in East Village, NYC)
When I was in her apartment in New York, I heard her manager telling her, “You have a meeting with Russell Simmons. Bring your guitar and don’t be late.”
My stomach did a flip-flop. I was nervous for her because this man was like the Godfather of hip-hop. In fact, USA Today listed Russell Simmons on the top 25 list of most influential people over the last 25 years in the US.
When Yuna met him, it took her a good few seconds to answer one of his questions because she said, “He has this commanding presence. He just controls the conversation.” Well, she must have done something right because the music mogul himself tweeted about her when she left the building saying, “An amazing new singer just came by my office and blessed me with her music.”
If that is not all, Yuna just finished a publicity shoot in New York with a world-class photographer who has shot stars like David Beckham, Diddy, Jennifer Lopez and the late Michael Jackson so I am keeping my fingers crossed that she will make her mark internationally.
(This is Zul Luey. He takes extraordinary shots like the black and white ones you see of Yuna!)
Filming her life here as well as in the US was not just about the glitz and glam. We wanted to capture an accurate representation of who Yuna really is. She has performed in front of royalty but she was more than happy to stand in the cold and eat pizza at her favourite roadside stall in London.
She is incredibly attached to her family and if you read her tweets, you would definitely have seen various versions of “I miss you Mum! Hi Dad! Wish you were here!” In fact, we filmed Yuna going back to her roots in her kampung in Perak, which was such a stark contrast to checking into the elegant Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London or walking down Fifth Avenue in New York.
(Yuna and crew at Times Square)
No matter the setting, she managed to remain Yuna who wears multi-coloured headscraves, loves her friends, adores her family and continues to surprise us with her songs. I hope she doesn’t change.
Jojo Struys is a TV host/producer and twitterer @jojo_struys. She is currently producing/directing Astro Hitz ‘Yuna Inspired’ Powered by DiGi which can be viewed on www.yunainspired.com as well as Astro Hitz Channel 705 every Sunday at 930pm, repeating throughout the week, Friday 645pm and midnight, Sat 12pm and 930pm etc.