JACLYN Victor is probably remembered best for her rendition of Gemilang when she won the 2004 Malaysian Idol finale. But Victor, or Jac as she’s commonly known, has gone on to win a string of local and international awards. This includes Ikon Malaysia in 2007, which also featured Dayang Nurfaizah and former Akademi Fantasia winner Mawi.
In September last year, Jac released her third album, Jaclyn Victor III. She was also the first recipient of the Anugerah Yasmin Ahmad award, presented at Anugerah Skrin 2009 for promising newcomers, for her role in the film Talentime.
The Nut Graph interviewed Jac by phone in December 2009, and also met her for lunch at a banana leaf restaurant in Petaling Jaya.
TNG: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Jaclyn Victor: I was born in General Hospital Kuala Lumpur, 4 Dec 1978. My mum’s dad worked with FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia), so I spent a lot of time there, growing up. We even had a house there. We also spent a lot of time in Brickfields with my relatives.
Our house was in Kepong Garden. I went to primary and secondary school in Taman Ehsan.
Can you trace your ancestry? Where were your parents and grandparents from?
My tata (mum’s father) was born in Pahang. My mum’s mother was from Kerala in India. She came over when she was 25 years old and married my grandfather. I’m not sure when their parents came to this country from India. Tata’s parents died before he was 10. My mum is the eldest child of seven; one passed away as a baby.
My dad’s father came here from India. He also passed away when my dad was about seven or eight years old. My dad’s mother was born in Malaysia. My dad was the youngest in a family of three.
What is your strongest memory of the place you grew up in?
After my grandfather retired, we still visited FRIM a lot. We would go to the waterfalls, go hiking … it was really fun.
I was not an angel of a child; I think I was quite naughty. I was very into sports. Academically, I wouldn’t say I was very studious; I was always running around in the school field playing hockey or being involved in athletics. I have three younger brothers, and we were all quite naughty kids. I remember racing with the bicycle, fighting, wrestling.
I was also always playing the piano and singing. I didn’t think much about singing, it was just something I did all the time. I’ve been performing since I was about 10 or 11 at church. My dad passed away in 1988 [when I was nine years old]. I don’t think he really knew that I could sing.
I was my tata’s favourite child. He would take me around and show me off all the time, and tell everyone, “This is my granddaughter.” After me, my brothers came along and I was still the only girl.
I have a lot of cousins, so a lot of memories are of staying over in each other’s houses, going to church together. We would stay over on Friday or Saturday and come home on Sunday after church. It was good fun growing up. You don’t have as much, but you just don’t think about these things. You don’t miss things you don’t have. Me and my cousins, we still lepak and hang out in Chinese coffee shops.
After my dad passed away, it made a very big impact on my life. I grew up very quickly after that.
How do you connect with these memories as a Malaysian?
Maybe people don’t think as I do — I really think there is a plan for us, and God really knows what he wants for us. I still don’t know whether I’ll be singing for the rest of my life, though I would like to … I’m just grateful for how my life has turned out so far.
Life will throw you good and bad [experiences]. It can’t be good or bad all the time. I think things happen for a reason. I might not be the person that I am if not for the past. I don’t dwell on it too much, although it’s there in my mind. Life has been very kind, even though at times, it didn’t seem that way.
What aspects of your identity do you struggle with the most?
I think I’m very blest and lucky that I’m still surviving in this industry regardless of whatever race or colour I am.
I think Malaysians have come a long way. On Facebook, sometimes some will ask, why don’t I speak or sing in Tamil? But then, others on the site would defend me — the Indian, Malay and Chinese [Malaysians] would speak up for me.
I’m trying my best to reach out to everybody. I speak in English and Malay and I try and mix it up a little. I try to please everybody, even though I know I can’t because there’ll always be a small percentage out there [who won't be happy].
Describe the kind of Malaysia you would like for yourself and future generations.
What we have right now is truly great, I’m not complaining. [But of course], there are still a few places that we could improve. We could be together even more. We could learn to love and respect each other even more. Nobody ever said, “There is a limit — you can’t love or respect each other more than that.”
Once you have respect, I think everything should fall into place and there really wouldn’t be any trouble. We live in a country where there are so many races. To say there won’t ever be any trouble, that would be fooling ourselves. But there must be a lot of mutual respect.
I would like to have great-great-great grandchildren who feel that this country belongs to them as much as it belongs to anyone else. In any small way, if people are being discriminated for any reason, that should be stopped — that would be ideal.
When I was a kid, there was this certain appeal about just leaving this country. My aunt married an American and worked overseas when I was seven, and I really wanted to follow them. But today, after travelling a bit and visiting many places, I still think Malaysia is so good. For someone whose main goal in life was once to leave, I still feel that Malaysia is the best.
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