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Muslim Pop Star Yuna Climbs The U.S. Charts

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Award-winning singer Yuna is already a star in her native Malaysia, where she has been on the rise since her debut in 2008. She's also an observant Muslim and an entrepreneur. Yuna runs a fashion boutique that sells funky but modest clothes that meet the requirements of her faith. And while she's climbing the American charts with her new album, Nocturnal, she's not compromising her style or her religion. "I'm a Muslim. I don't try to hide it," Yuna says. "I'm also a girl who loves music."

Yuna spoke with Tell Me More host Michel Martin about her music, her heritage and her faith.


Interview Highlights

On life as a Muslim "pop star"

When I first started playing music, I was already covered ... wearing headscarves. And, like, normally, people would expect you to change, toss this part of your life away so that you could be a pop star. But I just wanted to make music, not really be a "pop star" pop star. And there's always people who wouldn't necessarily agree with what I'm doing right now. But ... I'm really happy with where I am right now, you know. I'm a Muslim. I don't try to hide it. I'm also a girl who loves music. And I don't try to hide that as well.

On the risk of reaching to the U.S.

I was doing quite well in Malaysia. ... Everyone was so excited about my music, and they started accepting me as an artist. And coming out here was like taking a risk. But it's something that I really wanted to do for a very long time. Like, I need to do something with my English music. ... Coming out here kind of enabled me to experiment with a lot of different music, and I really wanted to come up with music that the whole world could relate to.

On writing songs in English instead of Malay

I kind of always struggled writing in Malay, because Malay is such a beautiful language. And it gets really hard, you know, if you want to make it into a song. It's kind of tricky. You have to make it sound beautiful, use the right words. And with English, you can be direct, like writing a letter to someone.

On "stay true to yourself," the message behind her song "Lights and Camera"

Being in the spotlight, you know, you tend to kind of forget who you are. And being an artist ... it could be a very superficial job. It could be very pretentious as well. People just ... see the surface of it, and not really getting into, like, who this person really is. And ... they don't know what's going on with this person. As that person, sometimes you kind of lose track of who you are. And usually everything is moving so fast, and, you know, you kind of get lost in everything. So I just wanted to write a strong song about knowing who you are and being yourself no matter what.

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