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The Meteoric Rise of Malaysian Star Yuna

From becoming a viral music sensation in Asia to collaborating with Pharrell Williams and Usher, the Muslim star has been scintillating listeners while choosing to remain an ambassadress for chic and chaste dressing…

When a girl with an affinity for music starts writing songs at the tender age of 14, there’s a great chance she’s going to make it big n the industry. Malaysian star Yuna, who even taught herself to play the guitar via YouTube, made her entry into Malaysia’s music scene in 2006. The Kadeh-born artiste started performing while she was attending law school, and by also uploading music onto to her MySpace page, she soon became an online success. Mixing English and Malay indie-folk songs, she came to be a firm favourite among young hipsters in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. By 2008, Yuna’s self-titled EP came out and it earned her four trophies at the Malaysian Music Awards, including Best New Artist and Best Song (for the breakout hit "Dan Sebenarnya").

The Only Way Is Up
Yuna, whose real name is Yunalis Mat Zara’ai, went on to record “The Decorate” two years later. As well as including the viral hit “Rocket,” the EP got her noticed internationally, with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons showing interest in her style. Then the year 2011 turned out to be a big one for the singing sensation, as she managed to sign with the Fader label. Yuna, who is now based in LA, was also nominated as one of MTV Iggy's Best New Bands in the World. The singer marked the occasion by playing at the MTV Studios.

The following year was also a distinguishing one, with the devout 1.7 metre beauty presenting "Live Your Life." The Pharrell Williams produced song was an introduction to her self-titled full-length debut, which came out in April. The next step for Yuna, who has played at Lollapalooza and the Soul Train Music Awards, was coming up with her second album, “Nocturnal,” in 2013. Another big collaboration came in 2016 with "Places to Go," which was produced by hip-hop legend DJ Premier. What’s more, her latest and third album, “Chapters,” which was released via Verve Records, came out three months later. The album features “Crush,” a duet with Usher and her first Billboard chart hit. It also sees her official transition from indie-folk to R&B, with “Rolling Stone” even calling the album about a personal break-up one of the best R&B albums of 2016.

 "Yuna thinks differently than a lot of people, she has something to say, and she won't compromise," Verve Chairman, David Foster, said in a “Billboard” article. "I'm much older than her, but I relate to her lyrics, and my stepdaughters, Gigi and Bella [Hadid], they're crazy for her too. She's speaking to a lot of generations."

Making A Statement With Fashion
Fashion plays a big role for the woman who has been influenced by Coldplay, Lauryn Hill and Feist. And even though Yuna has made it big, with fans listening from all corners of the world, she has not sacrificed her religious identity. She stays true to her Islamic faith by dressing modestly and wearing a headscarf. In fact, whether she wears a turban or a traditional hijab draped in some kind of chic style, a headscarf has become her signature. In an industry where twerking and revealing clothes are often de rigueur, her confident sense of style and poise are a welcome change that let you concentrate on the music. “Hopefully, what I’m doing now is changing the way people see the industry. It’s not just about sex appeal,” she said to “Conversation With.”

Yuna, who recently got engaged to Malaysian director Adam Sinclair, even has her own fashion label called November Culture. The online retail store she launched in 2015 sells modest wear, including headscarves. The singer, who is involved in social issues and supports Islamic Relief Worldwide, has also modelled for Japanese brand Uniqlo and Mara Hoffman.

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