By Sakira Hermawan
Many Indonesians are familiar with the name Agnes Monica, now known internationally by her stage name “Agnez Mo.” Her path to success from Indonesia to beyond is one that many youth grew up listening and even looking up to. She first set foot into Indonesia’s entertainment industry in 1992 at the young age of six with a children’s album called Si Meow – which indeed centers around cats – and then followed with two more children’s albums. Her rise to popularity was built with continued experiences like being the host of many TV programs and starring in a few soap operas, while also still working on her music. As she accumulated more awards that labeled her as a “favorite” due to her many works, her popularity and fame were cemented into the Indonesian public. At that point, Agnez Mo had her eyes set on another goal: a global debut. Since 2011, Mo has created albums featuring English songs and has collaborated with international names such as Michael Bolton, Chris Brown, and French Montana.
Personally, as an Indonesian who could only speak English, I remember being told I was similar to Agnes Monica, Indonesia’s shining icon who went to great lengths to follow her ambitions. While I was never a singer, actor, or dancer – although I’ve certainly tried to be in the karaoke rooms – I felt a great wave of contentment hearing that I was like her. Even though our only connection is that we both speak English fluently, knowing that Indonesian success and Indonesian joy is possible and that maybe I could achieve it, in my own way, was reassuring and so validating. Seeing a woman of Indonesian culture who is also part of the Indonesian minority – she is part of a minority religion and ethnicity – take on not just Indonesia’s public eye but also the world’s, showed me and many other young Indonesians that there are no limits to success.
Being able to hear, see, and read about Asian representation and, more specifically, ethnic representation is empowering. Global perspectives on the entertainment industry are so heavily directed to Western media that it indirectly suppresses artists rising from other countries who also want to share their voices. Music and art are forever evolving. They have no strict definition. Bringing representation allows more culture and ideas and concepts to influence how we currently view art. This is good! Just as Agnez Mo saw no limits, art has no limits. Do not allow art to be left at a standstill. Let’s lend our ears and eyes and invest in a more empowering and dynamic industry. We, too, are worthy of success and recognition. We, too, have dreams. We want to be seen; we want to be heard. Icons like Agnez Mo tell us that we can be just that and even more.