Yuna’s Album ‘Chapters’ Explores Love, Heartache, and Self-Discovery

Photographed by Gizelle Hernandez. Dress by Meshit, stylist's own earrings, Yuna's own headscarf.

Slay, Yuna, slay

The following feature appears in the June/July 2016 issue of NYLON.

“I feel like I finally know what being a woman is all about,” Yuna says over breakfast at her neighborhood café in Los Angeles. She’s talking about her new record, but also about the past two years of her life, which brought the end of a relationship, as well as a whole lot of emotional and artistic growth. “I wrote somewhere around 80 songs for this album,” she says, “but the songs I was writing were vague, typical, basic. I was writing without thinking. It wasn’t until I gathered myself and cooled off that I figured out how to bring out the best in me.”

In May, Yuna released Chapters, her third and arguably most self-assured studio album to date. “The last record was about falling in love and it was very happy and uplifting and colorful,” she says. “This album is dark. Some of the songs are upbeat, but they’re about me finding myself and embracing my womanhood.”

Born and raised in Alor Setar, the capital of the Malaysian state of Kedah, Yuna grew up an only child. She began writing her own songs at 19, and continued to do so while she studied to become a lawyer. In 2008, with a growing local fan base behind her, she started posting her songs (in English and Malay) to MySpace, in the hopes of making it big in the United States. By 2012, she’d put aside her law degree, signed a recording deal, and moved to California.

“Back home, we are pushed to be doctors, lawyers, brain surgeons,” she says with a laugh. “Now all my friends are getting married and having babies, and I’m doing something insanely different. In the last few years I’ve definitely had to remind myself that I need to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.”

Photographed by Gizelle Hernandez. Coat and turtleneck by Meshit, stylist's own earrings, Yuna's own headscarf.

While the themes in Chapters play to Yuna’s strengths—exploring issues of love, heartache, and self-discovery with a deeply personal and infectiously positive attitude—the album’s self-possessed vibe and old-school R&B and hip-hop influences are new for her. “When I started working with [my producer] Fisticuffs, I knew nothing,” she says. “I came from the folk and acoustic world in Malaysia, but living in L.A. you’re immediately connected to hip-hop music. You can’t escape it. So I learned about Straight Outta Compton and N.W.A. I learned about Eazy-E. I studied.”

Along with Fisticuffs, Chapters also features collaborations with DJ Premier, who produced the album’s first single, “Places to Go,” and Usher, who guest stars on “Crush.” “He was wonderful and very particular,” she says of the latter. “He wanted to know my background, where I was coming from. It was really nice because it shows that he obviously cares about his craft. It was overwhelming, though. We had to really think about how the song was going to come out, and how it was going to look if a Muslim woman was singing about love and he was on the track. He really thought about it.”

Talking about her religion is something that Yuna has become plenty familiar with in recent years. Since coming to America, the singer’s faith—and her headscarf—have become a source of constant attention. “It’s something shocking, apparently,” she says with a laugh, “but the majority of the people in Malaysia are practicing Muslims. We still love music and we still live our lives like normal people do. Where I come from, music is so huge—it’s the fabric of our culture. Art is embedded in everything we do. I think in America, we’re only familiar with Muslims in countries with conflict, but I come out here and meet American Muslims, and I can relate to them. I’m a normal girl, and I have a belief system just like everyone else does. I feel like I exist to remind everybody that there’s a yin and yang in everything.”

Photographed by Gizelle Hernandez. Styled by Sue Choi. Jacket and top by Hatta x Yuna, Yuna's own earrings and headscarf.

Now that Chapters is done, Yuna is refocusing on finding that normalcy, and nurturing her other love: fashion. Most recently, she relaunched her lifestyle brand under the name November Culture, and this August she’ll release Hatta x Yuna, a clothing line in collaboration with designer Hatta Dolmat for Asian online retailer Zalora.

“Online shopping is huge in Malaysia, so we wanted to do something really different,” she says. “It doesn’t look like everything else they have in Asia. It’s international, but it still feels very Los Angeles.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Yuna has been releasing music videos for each song on the new record, Beyoncé-style, and will be touring in Europe this fall. “The last two years have been challenging, so I’ve been trying to do as much as possible—music, fashion, just collaborating with friends and making stuff. Now it’s all coming together. I’m so excited about all of it."

Photo by Rachel Dennis


"What do girls even do together?" This question, or some iteration of it, is frequently posed to me once someone finds out I'm bisexual or hears me mention my girlfriend, or if I make any reference to being interested in girls. I would be annoyed by it, but I have empathy because I know how hard this kind of information can be to find. In fact, the details of how two people with vaginas have sex isn't very widespread information. And, I know that I didn't really have all that much information about girl-on-girl sex before, well, actually having it myself. It's precisely this kind of situation that queer sex educator Stevie Boebi is trying to fix.

Boebi has gained a big following for her informational YouTube videos about how to use a strap-on, how to scissor, how to fist someone, how to choose a vibrator for yourself; any question you could have, she will get you an answer. She doesn't shy away from topics that people wouldn't be quick to ask someone about IRL, either, like BDSM. And she covers the kind of things that are definitely not what we're taught in sex education classes—likely not even in the most progressive curriculums. A study from GLSEN notes that only 4 percent of teens reported learning anything positive about queer sex in their sex ed classes, and points out that in some states, it's actually prohibited to mention queerness at all.

Particularly when it comes to sex with two vaginas, the lack of available public education leads to a general lack of understanding of how we have sex, which then leads to a lack of understanding in the queer community, too. "I just think that lesbian sex is so oversexualized, and we're the least educated," said Boebi when I asked her recently why it's so important for her to spread knowledge about queer sex in particular.

Boebi said that she started out on YouTube making videos about technology, but after she came out as a lesbian, her audience flipped from mostly male to mostly female, though she would prefer a less rudimentary gender breakdown ("the algorithm only deals in binaries, sorry," she quipped).

Ultimately, her sexuality led her to change her content entirely, because she wanted to educate people who couldn't find answers to their questions anywhere else—even on the internet.

"I started getting a lot of what I called 'stupid questions' from very confused teenage girls saying, like, 'How do I do it? Can I get AIDs from fingering someone?'" Boebi told me. They were questions that probably should have had easily Google-able answers, but, when Boebi looked for lesbian sex education content to send to fans who were asking her, she came up empty-handed. "I couldn't find anything. I think I found, like, two articles on Autostraddle, and that was it," she said. "And then I was like, Well, shit! If no one else is going to do it, then I guess I will."

Boebi's audience is mainly comprised of 13- to 24-year-olds, so she keeps in mind that she's helping people who may not be experienced, or even out yet. She uses her own experiences to inform her work sometimes, but also researches extensively and talks to people she knows who "have fancy Ph.Ds in sexology and shit," who can answer her questions or point her to resources she should be referencing.

Boebi's charm is in her relatability; even if she's talking about things we've been conditioned to feel shame around, she does it in such an open and honest way that all that shame disappears—as it should. She does this by perfectly meshing professional talk with jokes and sarcasm, and even uses characters based on star signs. She knows the importance of taking on taboo topics, because there are so many people who won't otherwise find answers to their questions. "I don't actually struggle in my everyday life asking people if they've ever been anally fisted before," Boebi joked with me. "I'll take that burden."

And keeping her tone light and humorous is of the utmost importance to her. "When people are laughing, they're comfortable, and I want people to feel comfortable," Boebi said. "And I want people to know that I'm comfortable talking about sex, and they can be, too." It helps also, Boebi told me, that her audience is separated by a screen, and she's not "in a room with a 12-year-old talking about my labia."

Beyond instructional sex videos, Boebi also deals with other rarely discussed facets of sexuality and physicality. Boebi is polyamorous, and talks openly about it, confronting the stereotypes and the misinformation about the identity head-on. And, she was also recently diagnosed with Ehler's Danlos Syndrome after going years without a diagnosis, and she aims to start working more with disabled queer sex educators to make her work more inclusive of people with disabilities. Though she pointed out to me that her work was already encompassing of disabilities, she "hasn't been a part of the disability activist community for very long," and so she has a lot to learn.

And, though Boebi's happy that she has the platform she does, she wants a more inclusive array of sex educators to join the scene. "My voice is my voice, and it's unique to me, but I think there should be way more," she noted. "Especially people [with intersectional identities]. That would make me so happy if we could diversify sex educators."

And, though Boebi says there's no "ideal way" to educate people about sex, she's definitely on a better track than the public education system, and she makes clear that there's nothing shameful about sexuality—in fact, it's just a part of being human, and a really fun one, at that.

Screenshot via YouTube

The band shared details about their new St. Vincent-produced album that will drop "you into the world of catastrophe"

Sleater-Kinney just shared more information about their St. Vincent-produced album and dropped a new single.

Per Billboard, Sleater-Kinney revealed that their new album, which they've been teasing since early this year and will be their first since No Cities To Love from 2015, will be called The Center Won't Hold. It's due out on August 16 via Mom + Pop Records. "We're always mixing the personal and the political but on this record, despite obviously thinking so much about politics, we were really thinking about the person—ourselves or versions of ourselves or iterations of depression or loneliness—in the middle of the chaos," Carrie Brownstein said in a statement. Corin Tucker further noted that the new album will "[drop] you into the world of catastrophe that touches on the election."

Janet Weiss noted that the band will "explore a different sound palette" with this album, and pointed to St. Vincent as the reason behind it. She said that St. Vincent "has a lot of experience building her own music with keyboards and synthesizers so she could be our guide to help us make sense of this new landscape and still sound like us."

To satiate us until then, the band released a lyric video for new single, "The Future Is Here," which is very grungy. Bump it, below.

Sleater-Kinney - The Future Is Here (Official Lyric Video)


This is so satisfying!

Even Jon Snow knows just how unsatisfying the final season of Game of Thrones was, and he's ready to apologize. Well, a deepfake of him is at least. A heavily-edited version of Snow's speech from the fourth episode—just before the bodies of those lost in the Battle of Winterfell get burned—now features Snow apologizing for the conclusion of the show and lighting the script on fire.

"It's time for some apologies. I'm sorry we wasted your time," Snow begins. "And I know nothing made sense at the end. When the Starbucks cup is the smallest mistake, you know you fucked up! We take the blame. I'm sorry we wrote this in like six days or something," he adds, before signaling to his peers to light the script with torches and "just forget it forever." "Fuck Season 8," he says before the pages begin to crackle and burn.

If there were more lines left to alter, we would have loved to see Snow also tackle how messy Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister's story line ended up, as well as Bran's kingship, Cersei's boring demise, and the water bottle appearance.

Watch the entire deepfake and try to heal the wounds left by HBO below.


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Photo by Darren Craig

It premieres today, exclusively via NYLON

In LP's song "Shaken," the most recent single from her 2018 record Heart To Mouth, she tells the story of seeing her lover out with someone else—ouch. Today, exclusively on NYLON, she releases a cheeky animated music video that pokes fun at the song's heightened drama and perfectly demonstrates all the angst that comes with falling hard for someone.

"She looks at you like I used to/ And I'm just sitting in the corner sh-sh-shaken," LP sings, as the visual—with art by Maayan Priva—depicts the singer hanging out in a bar, watching the girl she likes meet up with another girl. Despite the situation's inherent drama, "Shaken" is less of a ballad and more of an upbeat bop. LP told us she loves the way "this little video captures some of the fun of the song, and its inherent comical anxiety." Sure, heartbreak isn't that funny, but our (sometimes) overly dramatic reaction to it kind of is.

"'Shaken' feels like a bit of a wild card on this record," LP says. "It's the closest I've come to writing a musical, which I hope to do one day." We heartily endorse this idea: Please, LP, give us the queer jukebox musical we crave.

Until that day comes, though, you can watch the music video for "Shaken," below.

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

This cameo has the Beyhive buzzing

I went to see Men In Black: International alone. Which would have been fine if it wasn't for the shock I received when I saw two specific characters on the screen. Unable to keep it to myself, I shared a curious look with the stranger next to me, who was obviously thinking the same thing as me. "Is that them...?" I whispered first. "I think… so," she replied. Then the two men in question started to dance, and we were both sure: "Yep, that's them."

It was Laurent and Larry Nicolas Bourgeois, better known as Les Twins. Fans of Beyoncé will recognize the duo as the talented brothers who often accompany her on tour and in music videos. In Men In Black: International, the two of them play shapeshifting entities—they're more like energy forces than aliens—who pursue Tessa Thompson's and Chris Hemsworth's characters throughout the duration of the film. The twins' ability to manipulate their bodies in ways that are graceful and otherworldly really helps sell them as extraterrestrials and is fun to watch.

So if Thompson in a suit or Hemsworth shirtless weren't enough motivation, here's another reason to go see it. If you look close, you can see them in the trailer below.