Luna Maya had it all when everything came to a screeching halt. Facing scrutiny from the government, the media and the public, business partners and even “friends”, Luna Maya’s well-publicized scandal left her shocked and confused but ultimately at peace and stronger than before.
DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK
As a dusky, exotic beauty with long legs and almond eyes, Luna Maya seemingly has what every girl desires, but she’s suffered a well-publicized setback in her career. Here, she models fashionable clothes and gives DA MAN an exclusive interview. By Obed Napitupulu
It’s a rainy, flooded afternoon in South Jakarta and Luna Maya has not arrived at the studio. Meanwhile, a team of journalists, photographers and their assistants wait anxiously for one of the most talked-about celebrities in Indonesian history to make her entrance. Then, with an audible gasp heard from the often-jaded image-makers, in walks a ravishing vision of sexual energy.
Luna Maya is wearing nothing but a pair of khaki capri pants, flat shoes, a loose-fitting shirt and a wry smile. We’ve heard all the stories. We’ve heard all the whispers. We think we know what to expect. We think we should prepare by putting on our best diva-deflecting body armor. She gracefully saunters in and sits down, the talk turns to sex. Sex videos and their aftermath, in particular.
What comes across more than any of the details of the case or resulting scandal is the fact that she is so cool and laid-back. There is no diva here. Not only that, Luna has an ease about her, a good-hearted aura—mixed with a healthy dose of alluring sexuality, it must be said. However, life is not all smooth sailing and sexy videos anymore.
For those of you who’ve been on an extended holiday, this is what happened.
In June 2010, Luna and her former lover Nazril Irham found themselves the target of a police probe due to a leaked sex video.
The resulting outcry across Indonesia and the resulting legal action (due to Indonesia’s recently introduced porn laws) has taken a massive toll on both of their careers (Nazril is a superstar pop singer).
Now she’s rebuilding her life, but she doesn’t want anyone to call it a comeback, because she is not trying go back to anything, but insists on moving forward with new things.
As a kid growing up in rural Bali with her “hippie Austrian mom” and her Javanese painter/singer dad (who passed away when she was 12 years old), Luna Maya Sugeng wasn’t exactly in the mainstream of Indonesia’s traditional society.
She admits to being a sports-minded tomboy playing in the mud and fields with her pals and trying to compete with her equally sporty brothers, one of whom would become a pro surfer, Tipi Jabrik.
She has said that she rarely wore makeup or cared about nice dresses. “I grew up in Bali, bodyboarding and surfing … and in my family, everyone is pretty relaxed. Not in the sense that we’re all given unmonitored freedom, but as long as you’re responsible and you prove that you’re on the right track, then you’re OK,” Luna says, and chuckles when talking about her Austrian mother. “My mom, she’s a hippie who loves to travel.”
When Luna was younger and her dad was still alive, the family would take trips to Lombok every few months for rest and recreation.
“Those were hippie-style vacations, nothing fancy,” she reminisces with a smile. “We would hike and trek on and around Mount Rinjani. We weren’t a luxurious kind of family.”
She has two older brothers, the aforementioned Tipi, who taught Luna how to surf, and her oldest brother, Juli, who’s now in a band in Bali.
Nonetheless, as a somewhat restless soul and never feeling that Bali was quite the same without her father around, she left for Jakarta to finish high school, moving in with her grandmother.
“I just wanted to get away from Bali. I got bored of it. Bali is a small island and you get to know everybody and there is actually not much to do. It’s always the same thing … and I said to myself I want to do something else,” Luna recalls.
And make no mistake, she did do something else. By the time she was in her late teens, she was already on the road to showbiz stardom with early jobs as a model and later a big breakout, at the age of 20, on the big screen in the film 30 Hari Mencari Cinta (30 Days Looking for Love).
After that, it was a rocket ride to the highest heights of the Indonesian showbiz industry. But then, it all came crashing down.
She’s not the first celebrity to get in hot water over a sex video, but she’s Indonesia’s first. After the videos became public last year, Luna explains that it “was like a bad rollercoaster ride.”
From there, it was a media feeding frenzy, not seen since Suharto left office in May 1998.
“The gossip media seems like they are just trying to get even. It’s not right. The media should not intervene in anyone’s personal issues in any way. But, again, the harder they try, the stronger I become,” Luna says with a smile.
“At the time, I guess I was pissed off, but I try not to think about it. I have more important things to do than to worry about the media and what they are saying about me. I don’t even watch TV anymore or pick up the tabloids,” she adds.
But when the issue first broke, shock was her first reaction. “I went to work and everyone was staring at me. That’s when I thought to myself, ‘This might be a big problem.’” A problem indeed. Within a week, the hardworking performing artist saw it all grind to a halt. She was let go by all her sponsors and dropped from her regular TV job.
While these sorts of scandals happen in lots of countries around Asia, as well as Europe and America, and often create a media circus, particularly the one featuring Paris Hilton, rarely does it so totally destroy careers.
In fact, it’s quite clearly the opposite, at least in the case of Hilton or Kim Kardashian. Their careers actually got a major boost. “I think there are a lot of scandals out there, but the difference is in the way we deal with it. It’s such a big issue, and for me, I think it’s harder being in Indonesia,” Luna explains.
“It’s the culture and the law. Not just the culture; I think it has more to do with the law being unclear,” Luna states.
Having studied law herself for the past two years (and hoping to go back someday, “when everything is settled”), Luna found herself puzzled by the legal system. “The written law is clear, but the implementation of it really left me confused … I’m angry at the Indonesian legal system,” Luna says.
The Twitter wars
That was not the first time she was in danger of being penalized by the system. In 2009, the Great Luna-Infotainment Twitter Wars kicked off in earnest (a group of paparazzi harassed her, prompting her to Tweet: “I hope you burn in hell”) and left her facing possible jail time.
Luna recalls that period and says it left a bitter taste about certain members of the media and the legal system.
But where does the old adage ‘any publicity is good publicity’ come into play here? It certainly worked for others, such as the aforementioned Hilton and Kardashian.
“If you can handle it, it’s OK. But if you can’t, it’s going to be a very big problem,” Luna states. “Maybe because I’m used to it, to all this bad publicity, it doesn’t affect me as much.”
It’s an elusive quality, being able to tune out the gossip of millions of people in your own country; a quality that Luna has undoubtedly refined.
She even says jokingly, “I’m used to it because it happens to me all the time, so I guess I’ve developed an immunity to it … I don’t mean to sound like I’m challenging the media or anything, I’m just trying to move on and make myself happy.”
Luna also draws strength from her Bali-based brothers and mom. “I have a small, but close-knit family, and they’ve all been super-cool and supportive. They don’t judge me,” Luna explains.
Back to Bali
“They don’t call up to get angry at me. They just say, ‘OK, here’s the situation. Just face it. If you need anything, we’ll be there for you and if you want to come home to Bali, you’re always welcome. You still have a home here. You can work with mom. There’s still a lot you can do. It’s not the end of the world.’”
She has been back to Bali a lot, in fact, over the past several months, and her mother has recently visited Jakarta.
Nonetheless, she still calls it a “long-distance relationship with them.”
As a result, Luna mostly confides in her Jakarta-based manager and the friends that have stuck by her.
“I have a lot of friends, but my true best friends are my friends who have been with me since back in junior high [in Bali]. Here in Jakarta, it’s my manager. She’s like my mom. She is real fun and I consider her family.” On the other side of the coin, she adds that the past year also helped her see some people’s true colors.
“I saw who my real friends were. Some people left me without a reason and I was like ‘OK, so you’re not my friend?’ I learned who really cared about me as well, and I feel more relaxed now because I don’t have to make everybody happy like I used to,” she muses.
“I’m thankful for my true friends. They really care for me. When this stuff was all over the news last year, I would never leave the house and now they’re taking me out to take my mind off things. Now, I’m hanging out more, going to the movies, eating out and going to salons getting my nails done and getting cream baths,” the 27-year-old beauty says
So with such support from true friends and a non-judgmental family, she’s now ready to get back to work, but what can we expect? “I’m not making any plans. No plans. I’m just doing what I can,” she explains coolly.
On that front, she says that she is trying to do more work from behind the camera. “I’m trying to get my first movie out as director and producer. I have made short movies in the past and, in 2010, I shot a couple of music videos as a director. But this is my first feature-length film,” she explains with obvious excitement.
“It’s nice to find something new like that, which is also related to my passion without being in front of the camera,” Luna says. “We’re still undecided on the title but it’s a suspense thriller and we’re still in pre-production … I’m hoping it will be coming out in July.”
In addition, Luna is continuing to work on her clothing line, LM for Hardware (lunamayaforhw .com). That company now has 12 stores across Indonesia, and “business is great and we are hoping to expand again soon,” she beams.
Luna and some business partners (7 Sins Group) have also gotten into the restaurant business with a restaurant/lounge in Jakarta called Pride Bar & Dine Kebayoran Baru.
Better and stronger
When asked how it has made her a “better and stronger person,” Luna gets somewhat philosophical.
“I don’t mean to be cocky but I can say I am stronger now… I never think that a problem is a bad thing. Even the worst problem you can encounter still has a positive light to it. I do believe that any kind of problem is good for you. It’s helping you to discover who you really are. I don’t like it when people say it’s a disaster,” Luna continues.
“It can’t be a disaster if there’s something it can teach you about appreciating life more or believing in yourself more or showing you something that’s always been missing in your life. There’s always something. It’s not always a happy lesson, but if you look, you can see the positive side of it.”
And if you haven’t already watched the behind-the-scenes vid for this shoot, here you go:
Clothing and Accessories:
This feature on Luna Maya appears in the DA MAN April/May 2011 issue. To see all the images in High Resolution and the full article, get the magazine.
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