Yuna 300071919
Yuna 300071919
Photo Credit: Raymond Hagans

Yuna Displays Why Representation Matters In NYC During Her 'Rouge' Tour Stop [Photo Essay]

Yuna 002071819 1 715x1079 Photo Credit: Raymond Hagans

Yuna spoke to us about the importance of representation before her New York City show in support of her Rouge album.

Last week, Malaysian singer Yuna released Rouge, an album that represents a bolder, more vibrant and confident her. When asked what the album title — which means red — signifies, she said: "I think it has a lot to do with me growing into the woman that I am today...I think I was very different before. I was very timid and shy, and red was definitely not the color I would go's my favorite color today, and I think represents the woman that I am today — passionate and loving and fierce and angry and brave."

In some ways, it takes a lot of bravery and confidence to create music as someone who doesn't look the way society thinks you should. As a Muslim who possesses certain values and beliefs and presents differently than the majority of popular artists — she keeps her head covered in public at all times — Yuna is constantly challenging perceptions and opening up space for others to seek and find acceptance.

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That broadening of borders — and unconscious act of creating a bridge for Muslims and people of Asian descent into the mainstream and popular music world — was never as apparent as at Yuna's Sony Hall show in New York City on July 17th. The audience was visibly diverse —  R&B and, hip-hop heads, people of various races, and a strong showing of Muslim-faith fans, including an adolescent girl who attended the show with her family to witness firsthand a pop/R&B star who looks like her. This is something that Yuna says she didn't have growing up. She considers that representation invaluable. "I never had anyone to refer to musically growing up," Yuna told us on the phone before the show. "It's kind of nice and refreshing to see when I go on tour, I see all these girls and they look like me, the brown skin, they're Asian, and they wear the scarf on their head, and they come up to me and they're like, I can't believe you're doing this. It's nice to find that connection with all these girls."

When asked who her musical influences growing up were, Yuna gushes over the artists that she was able to identify with and find inspiration from. "Lauryn Hill inspired me to be a songwriter," she said. "In the pop world, I love Jennifer Lopez. Only because she looks like me...the skin tone and everything. I could relate to that. I could see myself in her."

She also named Janet Jackson and Aaliyah as inspirations.

"When I listen to Aaliyah and Janet I'm like, oh wow, these girls are singing just like me," Yuna said. "I don't need to sing like Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey because I can't."

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Yuna looking poised, hip, and cool — with her large hoop earrings, cropped jacket, and red leather pants — during her performance. For the singer, representation matters, and undoubtedly as she glanced out into the crowd during her performance, and heard them scream her name and cheer not just after each song, but repeatedly after she crooned the hook of each song, she felt the love and the validation that she has also given to her fans through her music and message.

The set was made of songs from Rogue, including "Castaway," her collaboration with Tyler, the Creator and "Blank Marquee," which features G-Eazy. Speaking on the new album, Yuna said, "It's very moody, very lush. I would say lush R&B pop. It kind of feels that way. I just want people to enjoy it front to back. all the songs are very dancey, very fun. Compared to the last album, this is much more fun and also it takes you on a journey."

Scroll down to see photos from the show below.


Samantha Hunter resides in Westchester, New York and has written entertainment and lifestyle features for, Essence, SoulBounce, Inspirer, Haute d’ Vie, Black Westchester, DELUX, and Her family and friends say she’s always going somewhere, but you can find her on Instagram at @Sapodillic.