Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna chooses to express both herself and her faith with clothing such as the hijab.
There’s an expectation for women singers and pop stars to flaunt their bodies in often-revealing outfits. Maybe they simply feel the need to conform to this expectation for publicity, or maybe they genuinely enjoy it and want to express themselves without shame. The latter should always be the case – that’s a part of the body positivity movement.
However, the idea of showing body positivity with revealing clothes has created a cultural gap between Western and Islamic views. Many may view the traditional Islamic clothing styles like the hijab as a sign of oppression against women and their bodies.
Many Islamic women, however, argue against this claim. Yuna is a famous example of these women, choosing to express both herself and her faith with clothing such as the hijab.
Yuna: Stuck in between
Yuna – Yunalis binti Mat Zara’ai – talks about some criticism that she has received for her image. In an interview with Steven J. Horowitz from Billboard, she explains:
People say, ‘You should let your hair out; you shouldn’t be oppressed — you’re not in Malaysia anymore. You should show your curves and be proud of it.’ But I am proud — it’s my choice to cover up my body. I’m not oppressed — I’m free.
In a different interview with Channel News Asia, she describes a different-but-similar criticism coming from Islamic and Asian cultures. On the other side of the cultural gap, people with more conservative views have given Yuna criticism on her clothing, as well, for being too revealing according to tradition.
This leaves Yuna in the space “in-between” cultures, as with most TCK individuals. She does not completely conform to one culture or the other, but rather lives in the grey area where cultures mix and she can be herself.
Appreciating different cultures
Despite the critics, Yuna’s background as a Third Culture Kid (TCK) may have helped her realize how fluid culture can be. Yuna was born and raised in Malaysia and moved all around the country as her father was a government servant. Because of this, she was exposed to many different cultures alongside her own, which she learned through her family telling stories of passed loved ones. Yuna made a very insightful comment on these experiences during her interview with The Nut Graph (written by Koh Lay Chin):
We are firm believers of being Malaysian; we appreciate [being Malaysian]. We are proud Malays but we are proud to be living with other cultures and races. We are proud Malays but we appreciate others as well, and we are very courteous people.