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Hang your dreams as high as the sky” and “never tire of learning” are not only two lyrics from the song Yess!, which catapulted Agnes Monica into fame as a child singer. They are also the tenets that Agnez Mo—the name she now uses—lives according to as she further blazes her trail to success not only in Asia but also globally.

“From being a child star to a teenage actress having starred in TV series and movies, I’ve grown up a lot since then, having had many experiences and influences in the entertainment world both by meeting more-experienced stars who taught me things and also by living through the toughness of this industry from such a young age,” Agnez said. “I can’t help but change how I perceive things, how I write my songs, how I talk to the audience from the stage, and how I embrace my changes and processes.”

However, Agnez never limits herself by doing or not doing things based on others’ expectations and perceptions of what she should be; she follows through on her own path with the limits being only the sky and the responsibilities she has to be a better person. “This topic of who I am comes up a lot especially when it comes to my image as a public figure,” she said. “I’ve found that there’s a difference between taking care of my image and taking care of myself, because if someone is not genuine on the inside, no matter how much he or she tries to protect the image on the outside, that image will be ruined eventually.”

Agnez further explained that she doesn’t take care of her image; instead she takes care of herself by resisting untoward behaviour such as being lazy, arrogant, rude and many other bad habits. These are the phases she goes through in her life: the mental and emotional growth that still happens even today.

The result of such growth on the inside reflects the achievements outside, where Agnez has now made her mark abroad as a singer and dancer who has collaborated with other big names in the pop, R&B and hip-hop music industries such as Chris Brown, French Montana, Juicy J. and many others. Not limited to other derivatives of the entertainment business, she is also spreading her wings into other areas from the ANYE clothing line to culinary businesses and even digital start-ups. It was no wonder, then, that Agnez won “The Top Social Artist” title during the recent Billboard Indonesia Music Awards, besides many other wins she’s accumulated to make her the most-awarded Indonesian artist with more than 100 international honours under her belt.

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However, Agnez realises that there’s always an upside and downside to the things we do with technology and social media. “These two are the vehicles to channel our talents; our talent can’t be social media,” she said. “Focus on developing your talent and then promote it together with your brand on social media as a platform. Many people do it the other way round and make social media their talent, which is more challenging and easier said than done. She further addressed the downside of one’s presence on social media, which is very curated and faces strong demand for perfection—peer pressure is a force to be reckoned with, especially among younger people.

“It can’t be denied that there are those who look up to me as a public figure, so the responsibility is on my shoulders to make sure that I show who I really am,” she said. “It’s OK to be human on social media with no make- up on, or the nerdy Agnez.” She further added that as a community, we need to encourage one another to be honest, especially to women because there is a different pedestal reserved for them. Although the standards and pressures society puts on women are different from those of men, she is glad that nowadays people start to identify these challenges and support women’s decisions—and the women themselves embrace their womanhood.
As such, Agnez bravely moves on forward and says “no” to things that don’t align with the values and plans she believes that God has set for her. “The reason for my success is not what I say ‘yes’ to but because of saying ‘no’; no matter how much money is put in front of me, I won’t do it because it’s not only on myself but also my family,” she said. “The best gift from saying ‘no’ is to be able to sleep soundly at night because wrong decisions could eat you up from the inside.”

To those who don’t agree with her decisions in life, she has learnt to accept that not everyone needs to under- stand or accept what she does. “Just because the majority don’t understand the way you think, it doesn’t mean that you’re always wrong; to those considered to be “weird” or “different”, you are born to stand out,” Agnez said in a closing message. “I finally learned to accept that I’m a quirky introvert who doesn’t really like crowds outside of my little group of closest friends, and it’s not just about your confidence but also the discipline in yourself to accept who you are.”

This story appears in the April 2020 issue of Indonesia Tatler. For the full story, grab the copy at your nearest newsstand, or subscribe here.

Photography by Wong Sim | Styling by Rahajeng Puspitasari | Creative direction by Clairice Halim |  Make-up by Archangela Chelsea |  Hair by Kiefer Lippens | Wardrobe by Balenciaga

About Wong Sim:

With more than a decade of experience in photography Wong Sim’s work with famous figures has been featured on many popular platforms. It was only natural to ask this talented and friendly photographer to capture Agnez Mo’s beauty and charisma for our cover. With his keen eye for details and nuances, Wong Sim successfully painted Agnez Mo’s grace, wrapped in Balenciaga’s latest collection. You can see his amazing works here