A LITTLE more than 15 years ago, Jaclyn Victor, who had been toiling for years as a singer, became an overnight sensation when she won the very first Malaysian Idol competition in 2004. To this day, she still remains one of the most sought after Malaysian singers, not only delivering hit song after hit song, but also dabbling in acting (Talentime, Appalam and Cuci, The Musical). But she stayed true to her craft, and has not only recorded songs in English and Bahasa Malaysia, but also a couple of songs in Tamil. Hailing from a humble background, losing her father when she was very young, being brought up by a single mother and finding fame after entering a talent competition – Jaclyn’s life story has all the makings of an inspirational movie. Recalling what made her decide to audition for Malaysian Idol, Jaclyn said that she was encouraged by her mother and her friends. “At that time American Idol was a big show, and a lot of my friends said: ‘You should take part. You could win. This will be easy-peasy for you’. “I always wanted to sing, that was for sure. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to do it professionally at that time. As a child I was aware I could sing but I did not think much of it until people pointed [it out]. I did not think I could do it professionally, but I knew I wanted to sing. I imagined singing with a choir. I used to listen to a lot of gospel stuff back then.” “However there was one big stumbling block. “I used to be extremely shy. Standing up in front of an audience and singing used to be nerve-wrecking for me.” Jaclyn said she has never really overcome her stage fright. “I was with a band for eight years and it is something you just have to get through. When you are on stage you are a performer, and people saw different sides of me. On stage I was a performer, off stage I was very quiet. “I consider those eight years my ‘college’ or my ‘university’ [education]. When you play live in a band, people make song requests, and this is where I learned to be versatile. My band also played all sorts of music, we did not stick to one sort of genre.” That experience helped her learn to appreciate all sorts of music including country music and rock, which she loves. “When people think of Jaclyn Victor, it is [me singing] Gemilang, mic over the head belting out ballads. Actually I don’t know what my forte is because I love singing so many different kinds of genres. And that maybe helped me [perform] different kinds of music, which is what they wanted us to do on Malaysian Idol.” Despite her powerhouse vocals, it is surprising to note that Jaclyn never got any professional vocal training. “I sang at home. My neighbours were probably rolling their eyes every time I came home from school because they knew I was going to start singing my head off,” she laughs. “When you are singing in a band, your vocals, your belting, comes from you. There is no knob you can turn [to] go louder or softer. You really have to learn by yourself and have a lot of energy to be [heard] above the music.” Fifteen years after her Idol victory, Jaclyn is still mentioned as one of the best vocalists in Malaysia. “I don’t have a secret for lasting this long. I just have had opportunities that I jumped on along the way.” In the past, she has collaborated with local rapper Point Blanc and US band Beat The System. “They may not be my songs, but I am featured and these are things that keep [me] out there. I am happy to work with anybody.” Right now she is busy trying to put out a new single. But she admits it is hard balancing motherhood (she has two children aged below five) and her career. “I don’t have a system or anything. I just do what I have to do.” She admits that she should be utilising social media more often to promote her brand. “It is important to be relevant in the industry. I should have put a song out yesterday. The last song I put out was two-and-a-half years ago. To not put anything out for so long is not good for anyone. “[But] even though I didn’t have a single or album out recently, I was always busy doing something. Jaclyn’s journey to stardom resonated with so many people. “I don’t think my life story is very remarkable. I had been through some stuff at a very young age but that has taught me to be who I am. “I think it is important to tell people that everyone has their day. Even when you are down in the dumps, you are not going to be there forever. There is always something to look forward to. If you work hard, with a stroke of luck and if you have faith … it will be okay. There is always someone in a worse situation or position than you. That is how I look at it. “Whenever I am asked to talk to young adults or children, I always find a way of connecting (the talk) to my story. You never know who you are touching, I suppose. If I could use my story to inspire others, then why not.”
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