God bless our home, reads the framed picture of Jesus watching over us from the wall above our heads. It sits oddly next to the rows of diamante high-heels on the floor nearby. But then, as both the daughter of a Baptist minister and one of Myanmar’s best-known pop-stars, Lung Sitt Ja Moon – or Ah Moon, as she is known to her fans – is somewhat of a contradiction herself.
“You might be waiting a while,” shouts the singer from her bedroom. “It takes me ages to do my makeup.”
I look around the living room of Ah Moon’s apartment. Other than Jesus, the white walls are bare, and the simple, slightly scruffy interior does nothing to give away its pop-star occupant.
“I’ve lived here most of my life – I’ll be heartbroken when I have to move from here,” says the 24-year-old singer as she bounces out of her bedroom wearing a striking shade of purple lipstick. Unlike most Myanmar girls her age, who live with their parents until they are married, Ah Moon lives alone. But her parents aren’t far away: they live next-door, in the compound behind her father’s church in Sanchaung.
“I always think about being a famous pop star and having a big mansion with millions of dollars,” she continues, barely pausing for breath. “But at the same time, I’m a bit scared of it. Am I going to be lonely in a big mansion? Even when I’m in this little apartment in Yangon I still feel lonely, so when I have a big mansion am I going to have somebody I can trust? Here, my parents are just next door, and everyone knows my father is the pastor of the church and everyone knows our family.”
Ah Moon grew up performing at church in Myitkyina, Kachin State, where she was born and, later, at her father’s church in Yangon, which she still attends every Sunday.
“I loved the stage. I loved performing, and I loved seeing the audience. I always knew I wanted to be a performer. This is my dream – I always wanted to be a singer and a dancer. And my parents have supported me all the time – my dad was the one who bought me my first cassette tape,” she says.
Eyeing the high-heels in the corner of the room, I ask her what her father thinks of her revealing stage outfits.
“My father is very open-minded. Of course he has certain things that he’s worried about, but he understands we have different careers. When people say nasty comments to me or say, ‘Shame on you, your dad is the pastor, you’re not supposed to be doing this,’ I just say, ‘My dad is a pastor, and I’m a pop star – we have different careers and my dad supports me, and he lets me choose whatever I want to choose in my life.’ If he was conservative about fashion or music I wouldn’t be here in the first place. I’d be a teacher, or a Sunday school teacher.”
The singer was recently pulled off-stage at a concert sponsored by Grand Royal because her outfit was deemed too revealing by organizers.
“They stopped my song and pulled me off the stage because they thought my outfit was not OK for this country. It was the outfit I wore in my music video for my song “Cheap Sunglasses” – I love that dress because it was in the music video, and I wanted to wear it on stage. I mean, it’s Grand Royal, it’s a party for over-18s, there’s alcohol there and everyone’s drinking. Some of the crowd were shouting things at me, saying I’m a slut and I should be kicked out of this country. I was really shocked.”
Ah Moon, who has a contract with Power Music in America, travels to Los Angeles several times a year to record music, and has performed shows in New York, Europe and Korea. But she says she has no desire to leave Myanmar.
“If I moved to LA to do my music I think I’d be much more free – people will not judge me and I’ll be able to dance or wear whatever I want, freely. But I was born here and I love my country, and struggling from this country, doing what I’m doing, is more interesting to me.”
The singer, who recently performed with American artist Sean Kingston in Yangon, has clearly embraced Western pop culture, but admits it is not always easy being a female pop star in a country as conservative as Myanmar.
“(When I wear) outfits that are sexy and cool and edgy, well, there are still some very conservative people here and they’re going to be judging me,” she says, in her American accent. “Even in the Kachin community, there were some people who attacked me before ... But all of their phones are full of music videos from the West, from K-pop, and they think their outfits are cool even though they’re sexy. So as a girl from Myanmar, why am I being looked at like someone who’s different? I’m not doing something slutty. I’m just doing my routine.”
But she says she hopes to be a positive influence on other young Myanmar women who don’t enjoy the same freedoms that she does.
“I have no problem with people who attack me for what I’m doing because I’m just following my dream. And I want all kids to be able to follow their dreams freely. Most Myanmar girls grow up with their families and girls have to go home really early. If you’re out late you’re not a good girl. Even my friends who are in their late 20s and 30s still have a 7pm curfew. ... You’re a girl from Myanmar, but you’re also a girl from the world, and if you want to get somewhere in the world you need to know what you want,” she says.
“Once, you were born, and soon, you’re going to be dead. When the time comes, you have to ask yourself – did you really do what you wanted to do?”
Editor’s Note: Ah Moon’s new album, Automatic, will be released on October 22.
Photo caption: Ah Moon (center) performs on stage at the Yangon Runway Girl Collection Fashion and Music Festival, featuring Sean Kingston, on October 4. Photo: Soe Ko ko Aung
Article courtesy of The Myanmar Times.
Article link: http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/lifestyle/17028-myanmar-s-celebrity-cribs-ah-moon.html