Headline: Siti's inspiring journey
Publication: NST
Date of publication: Jan 6, 2012
Section heading: Life & Times
Page number: 010
Byline / Author: By Hizreen Kamal

HER rags-to-riches story has been told many times over, but who is the real Datuk Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin? Hizreen Kamal gets a clue from History Channel's special biography series.

FROM the tender age of 9, she discovered the meaning of providing for her family. Life was not easy for this girl from Kampung Awah in Kuala Lipis who helped her mother sell sardine puffs in her village and had dreams of becoming a singer.

But with perseverance, hard work, talent and a bit of luck, she turned her dream into reality and along the way, received recognition for her achievements throughout the region in her 16 years in the industry.

Last July, she took home the Planet Muzik Awards' Most Popular Artiste trophy for the 10th time, besting artistes from home, Indonesia and Singapore.

Yes, this is the story of our country's No. 1 singer Datuk Siti Nurhaliza Tarudin. She not only shines in the vocal department, but also in record producing, songwriting and TV presenting. She recently became an entrepreneur, launching her line of beauty products, SimplySiti.

But who is the person behind this rags-to-riches story? Powerful vocals and enthralling showmanship aside, how did it all begin? As an artiste who admires singer Celine Dion, famed for her hits, including The Power of Love, how has love played a role in her life?

On Jan 11, History Channel (Astro Channel 555) will feature an hour-long biography special on the Queen of Pop.

At a recent press preview of the documentary, an interesting snippet that included Siti's debut solo concert in Singapore's Indoor Stadium in 2005 was shown.

Red Communications founder Lina Tan said Siti's show was held on the same day as a concert by superstar Mariah Carey, another of Siti's favourite performers. "Guess what? Siti's concert outsold Carey's!" added Tan, who considers Siti a national treasure.

Will the documentary highlight the controversies surrounding Siti?

The aim of the documentary, said Tan, is to recognise her contributions to the country and to show the world that Malaysia has a gem, apart from inspiring the young to go after their dreams, just like Siti.

"Siti is as iconic as the Petronas Twin Towers, a great symbol to Malaysians. She also symbolises our aspirations. She has achieved so much that we can learn from her. She came and she conquered."

Viewers will be pleasantly surprised to see another side to Siti.

At the launch of her biography recently, Siti said: "Only those closest to me know how I deal with stress. Make-up artiste Nurul Shukor's interview will reveal how I let off steam when I'm under pressure."

On the making of the biography, Siti revealed that it was difficult for her to provide pictures of her growing-up years.

"My family did not own a camera back then, so there were not many pictures of me. But thanks to friends and neighbours who had photos of my family and I, we could feature them in the biography."

The documentary takes a look at Siti's incredible journey from a simple village girl to the entertainer she is today. Executive-produced by Tan and directed by Bernard Chauly, it explores Siti's life through interviews with her family and personalities from the industry such as Rozi Abdul Razak (sister-in-law, manager), Jennifer Thompson (producer of Anugerah Industri Muzik), Zainal Alam Kadir (journalist-writer-TV host), Adnan Abu Hassan (composer-musician), Michael Ong (fashion designer), Christian Alexanda (Australian singer-composer) and Bryan Bouro (Australian record producer who produced Siti's first English language album, All Your Love).

Singapore's popular and wacky TV personality Najip Ali was also interviewed for the documentary. He shares with viewers his first encounter with Siti, who auditioned for Asia Bagus in Singapore nearly two decades ago. The then 14-year-old did not make the cut, though.

When Siti won Bintang RTM in 1995, record companies were clamouring for her. A year later, her eponymous debut album was released. Response to her debut was a little slow, but then again, she was only 16. She may have appeared naive, but she held firm in her beliefs. Against industry standards and expectations (she reportedly refused to wear sexy clothes for magazine photo shoots), she stood her ground.

Juggling work and school at the start of her career, she almost pulled out of the 1996 Juara Lagu. Thankfully, she didn't as her song, Jerat Percintaan (composed by Adnan Abu Hassan), won Best Song, and turned this fourth child of eight siblings into an overnight star. She was just 17.

After the song competition and with school over, there was no stopping Siti. Her father, the late Tarudin Ismail, decided that her career was to be managed only by a family member. Under his strict guidance and the watchful eyes of her brother Ayie and sister-in-law Rozi, Siti's career grew in leaps and bounds. By 1997, Siti had made a remarkable breakthrough in Indonesia and well-known in many parts of Asia.

When she finally found the man of her life, she faced disapproval from many quarters. Though she managed to win her family's approval, her fans were harder to convince.

She eventually won her fans over the best way she knew how - through her beautiful singing voice and heartfelt stories.

While her husband Datuk Seri Khalid Mohamad Jiwa, or fondly known as Datuk K, supports her involvement in the making of the documentary, he, however, refused to be one of the interviewees.

From the documentary, it's clear that Siti's late father remains close to her heart. "I couldn't hide my emotions when I talked about the passing of my father. Tears would just well up in my eyes. I tried to contain my sadness, but I couldn't," she said.

Interestingly, the premiere of her biography will coincide with her 33rd birthday.

"I never thought I would be given this opportunity to share my life story on History Channel, especially when the previous subjects featured were the who's who in the country," said Siti humbly.

The other biographies featured include that of our fourth prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, legendary director-actor-singer-composer, the late Tan Sri P. Ramlee, and entertainer extraordinaire, the late Sudirman Arshad, making Siti the youngest to be featured in the biography series.

"There are other artistes who are more deserving than me. Nevertheless, I'm grateful. I hope the story of my journey in the local entertainment scene will inspire the young who hope to make it big someday," said Siti, who had no hand in the editing of the documentary. "I have yet to watch the finished product."

Siti's next project involves expanding her SimplySiti products to Indonesia and the Middle East. She's also planning a concert this year and a series of showcases for her All Your Love album, which has sold some 10,000 units to date.

* Siti Nurhaliza premieres on Jan 11 at 10pm on History Channel (Astro Channel 555). Repeats on Jan 12 (8pm), Jan 14 (6pm) and Jan 15 (9pm).

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