Record Winner

“Friday, November 16, 2001

AT JUST 22, Siti Nurhaliza Taruddin has amassed more awards than any other local entertainers who have been in the business longer than she has. Even the Malaysia Book of Records ca?t keep up with her.

The book states that her record stands at 52 awards, but already that figure is outdated. She has garnered another seven? five ERA awards and two more from the Malay daily Berita Harian (the amount of fan mail she gets has multiplied so rapidly that it was no surprise that Berita Harian named her Most Popular Artiste five years in a row). With four songs in the running for TV?s upcoming Juara Lagu competition, the figure will most probably have to be updated again before the year ends.

Even Pos Malaysia got into the act by electing Siti its Ratu Setem (stamp princess) in conjunction with the recently-concluded Pesta Setem Malaysia 2001, with the hope that sh?ll inspire young people to take up stamp-collecting as a hobby.

But for Siti, she is almost embarrassed at her winning streak. Apparently she was caught muttering a prayer ? ?Please God, not me again? ? at the ERA Awards in Genting Highlands last month.

No chance; she swept four major awards that night. Her fellow nominees didn?t bother to hide their sullen expressions when the cameras panned in their direction.

?When I won my first award at the Juara Lagu in 1996, I was so excited. Then came the second, third, fourth and so on, I was still very happy, thankful and grateful to God.

?But of late, I just don?t know what to feel anymore. It saddens me to see some people unhappy when I win. They start to question and condemn me outright. It hurts. It?s like I have done something wrong.

?Well, maybe I should not win anymore. I don?t know, I am so confused,? she says.

Regardless of what her detractors say, one can?t fault Siti for her professionalism which has won over many fans despite her conservative persona.

But who is the person behind the clean-cut image? Is she as angelic as she has been made out to be, one so talented and pretty yet has remained untainted by scandal or bad press?

?I am no goody-two-shoes. I am not really all that naive like some of you make me out to be,?? says Siti. ?Sometimes I can do mischievous things but of course I don?t tell.?

A scandal is almost impossible. Siti?s well-guarded lifestyle, unlike most artistes her age, offers no room for even the slightest adverse publicity. The only gossip that can be drummed up is about her long list of admirers, suitors and ?boyfriends? that she regards as fans.

Once, a journalist wrote that Siti refused to be photographed with any male artiste.

?That was a gross exaggeration. All I said was I am not comfortable being photographed with a male artiste because that act could easily be misconstrued. But it?s fine to do a photo shoot if it is related to my work,? she says.

As for her style of dressing ? no cleavage, sleeveless top, short skirt, revealing or tight-fitting attire ? Siti says it?s really her choice.

?I am no katak di bawah tempurung. I keep abreast of the latest trends and fashion. It?s just me, I don?t feel comfortable wearing skimpy clothes. It?s the way I have been brought up, although my family gives me the freedom to dress the way I want to.

?Deep down, I always feel I am a kampung girl,? says Siti, who is the fifth among eight siblings. ?No amount of fame, money and publicity can make me forget my humble beginnings. I miss playing badminton with my friends, cycling together in my kampung and talking about just anything. Every time I ba-lik kampung, I make sure I get to do all this,? says the most famous anak from Kampung Tempoyang in Kuala Lipis, Pahang.

Graceful and gentle she may be but Siti once harboured a dream of being a police officer. This petite singer, who is the current goodwill ambassador for the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, says she loves the rugged outdoors, but confesses that she is the sentimental sort, preferring ballads and tunes that resound with the energy of Alanis Morissette.

Now, after eight solo and seven compilation albums, plus a string of hits that include Jerat Percintaan, Balqis, Purnama Merindu, Cindai and Aku Cinta Padamu, Siti?s contract with Suria Records has expired. She hasn?t decided whether to sign up with a new record company or renew her contract. She is taking her time to think about it. ?I have to consider numerous factors because this is my career and future,? she says.

Siti as the Malaysian Red Crescent Society goodwill ambassador.
Despite gracing the cover of magazines, being the face of Maybelline cosmetics and an endorsement deal with Pepsi, luxury and comfort have never ranked high on her list of priorities.

?I lead a simple life. It would be wrong to say that all this fame and luxury has not changed my lifestyle but I have always preferred moderation. My idea of a good time is travelling and relaxing,? she says.

When it comes to show business, Siti, who started singing at weddings at age 12, doesn?t have to worry about anything else other than singing. She has a reliable production team to organise and manage all her shows. Heading Siti Nurhaliza Productions which was formed in 1998 is big brother Ayie (formerly a singer) and sister-in-law Rozie Abdul Razak (a former journalist).

Ayie is the pillar of strength for Siti, acting as negotiator, manager, driver, financial controller and at times bodyguard. Rozie takes care of her wardrobe, does all the PR work and is Siti?s personal assistant and confidante.

As for all the talk that she is under her brother?s thumb, Siti laughs it off.

?It?s the other way around. I think I control them (Ayie and Rozie). They have to work and be with me all the time. They have to get my clearance before they do anything that involves me. So there is no truth in that. It?s just malicious talk like everything else that you have heard about me.?

How does she react to spiteful remarks about her?

?I turn a deaf ear. The truth will eventually be known. I can only pray that it will stop. Do you know that when I first started out I had this phobia of facing reporters? I always tell myself, I don?t know what they will write about me. Fortunately, most of them have been very supportive and encouraging. I am so relieved that the negative stories died down after a while,? she says.

Her philosophy in life? Tak mati dek keji, tak luak dek puji (not perturbed by insults, and never affected by praises).