DA MAN Darling: Millane Fernandez

Saucy Songstress

After making it big in Europe as a teen pop diva, the prodigal daughter has returned to Indonesia with a ton of talent and a lovely head on her shoulders. The little sis of star actor Nino Fernandez, Millane is branching out in the country of her birth.

Photographs: Andre Djuanda

Styling: Peter Zewet

Article: Refa Koetin

With an Iberian surname and German, Indonesian, Chinese and Dutch blood running through her veins, she is the poster child for global citizenship. DA MAN Darling Millane Fernandez admits, however, to a preference for her Indonesian heritage. “Deep down inside, my heart is really Indonesian,” Millane tells DA MAN. “Especially since I eat Indonesian food all the time,” she adds with a chuckle.

Born in Jakarta, the 24-year-old multitalented beauty moved with her family to Hamburg, Germany at the age of 11. At her new home, she became involved in the pop scene. As a nubile 14-year-old, she competed in a nationwide talent competition in Germany, beating thousands of other competitors including another finalist that she remembered as being “…a very sexy girl, 18, blonde and everything.” Never mind, young Millane won the competition anyway.

Almost overnight, she became a star in Germany as a cute, young singer and dancer, and her first single, entitled “Boom Boom” sold over 100,000 copies. At just 14, a lot of people considered Millane to be too young for her true passions in music such as jazz, soul and bossa nova. Nonetheless, in showbiz it’s often best to listen to those with the experience, so while never letting go of her true passions, she listened to the music industry people and sang pop songs. When asked how she felt about doing something she didn’t really love, Millane is philosophical about it. “Of course it was kind of hard because you have to sell something that isn’t you, but in some ways I’m very thankful that even though I was only 14, I could act professionally and people would never notice that it was not really my music.”

The young star performed in the first round of the 2001 Eurovision Grand-Prix, and sang at “The Dome,” on “Top of the Pops,” “TV-Total,” “VIVA Comet,” “Interaktiv” and many other renowned stages. Following her flying start, Millane played the lead role in the musical Time After Time, going on tour with a German TV production crew, singing in gospel choirs and performing with artists such as Dave Dee, Mongo Jerry and Graham Harrison. A few years later, no longer a teeny bopper, she produced numerous successful albums working with Pierce Vaughn. Her music became much more authentic, deep and diversely rich in vocal quality. Aside from her true passion of singing, she also pursued other interests like dancing and fashion design back in her school days.

Growing up

School wasn’t easy for a teen pop icon like herself. She realized the need for education and did what she had to do by going to school, but like every other teenager, it was not always easy. “When I was singing, the promotion was a lot, so sometimes I couldn’t go to school for a month, going on tours to Spain, Greece, Holland, Switzerland and other places, so it was really hard to go to school. Although I had someone around to help me keep current with my studies at school, sometimes you just really need concentrate and actually be present at school to be good,” Millane recalls.

She made every effort to be a good student as well as an up-and-coming pop star, but sometimes she felt left out due to her jam-packed schedule. “For me, it was like, everybody was having their holidays and weekends, but I had to work. For a 14-year-old girl it was a challenge definitely, to see that my friends can do whatever they want and I have to work. I love my job, that’s not the thing. It’s just the portion I think, for a 14-year-old,” the songstress adds.

Eventually, she made it through all that in fine shape and reflecting back upon those times, Millane was glad to have went through all that and become a stronger person. “I have never regretted anything. Nothing is perfect and you can’t always have what you want and make it work.”

Artistic talent

Aside from inheriting a lot of talent from her parents, she also got something else that has gone a long way in helping her become what she is today, and that is her family’s aptitude for music. Her mother—also a multitalented individual—is a painter and a dancer; and Millane’s father is an engineer who also plays the guitar and has a great singing voice. “When he went to study in Germany, my father sang in pubs in order to pay his rent and fulfill other financial needs.” The talent obviously runs in the family. Her dad probably has had the biggest musical influence over her in the early days. “Since I was little, my dad taught me how to sing and so I know a lot of oldies like Don McLean and Johnny Cash; all of the old songs like bossa nova, jazz and even country.”

She also took after her mom’s dancing. “My mom is more the dancer, she used to dance professionally. She’s like everything that is artistic.” Millane is an established dancer herself. She did contemporary dance for about eight years and when she was a kid she used to perform Bali’s traditional Pendet dance.

Returning to her roots

After her years of success in Germany, Millane decided it was time to get back to Indonesia and, in doing so, promptly won the MTV VJ Hunt. That was 2007, when she was just 20. While she enjoyed working as a VJ, it could never replace her true passion for singing. “I definitely learned a lot, but I think my passion is more in singing music, and I know that I would be better off singing instead of hosting or moderating something.”

Early in 2010, she starred in the Broadway-style show Gita Cinta: The Musical portraying the shy country girl Ratna. Although she admits struggling to mask her foreign-accented Indonesian, the three-day show was a huge hit, and she hopes that success will be followed by similar musicals on the stage.

Environmental concern

Millane is also a person of strong convictions and incredibly down-to-earth despite all her showbiz success. One such conviction is for environmental issues. She is particularly concerned about wanton pollution and litter. She believes that one way to cure the chronic flooding in Jakarta is to clean up the polluted rivers and create a new mind-set among the people to quit littering. Millane likens it to loving and caring for the country. “I always say ‘Indonesia is very beautiful,’ but sometimes people don’t appreciate what they have. Most people in other countries wish they had the beauty of Indonesia, but some people just don’t get that. I think you really just have to look outside and see that you’re not just living your life without anything to adore or look at. Look to your left and right, everything is so beautiful!”

Loving her career

“I’ve been given so many free clothes,” she says with a giggle, when asked about what she thought were the best things that ever happened to her. “I’ve met big stars that I never imagined I would meet. I met Lionel Richie and Alicia Keys and they would always go ‘oh, you’re so cute’ and that made me feel great.” There was also another time where she had a friendly PlayStation competition with Missy Elliot in the backstage area before a show.

Nowadays, after a hard day of work, Millane likes to enjoy a good traditional massage to unwind. “I can’t get enough massages. I love massages. In Germany, those are very expensive and difficult to find. Now that I’m back in Indonesia, I can have a lot of massages any time. When I’m having a massage, I feel like I’m the happiest person on earth.”

Millane has a bright future and one day hopes to have her own recording studio. “Definitely I want to have my own studio, so whenever I want to record something I can just go there in my pajamas and start recording.”

She also writes her own lyrics and composes her own musical arrangements for her songs, but modestly insists that she’s just like everyone else. “I’m just a normal person who, like everybody else, is trying to be happy, healthy and satisfied, because otherwise my life would be a waste.” Having modest and sensible goals in her life, Millane Fernandez is determined to keep producing authentic music that meets her own standards. Millane’s roots are in different continents, her influences are diverse, and she’s taken advantage of her emotional and musical range to produce an impressive body of work, which only looks to be the beginning.

For the full fashion feature with high-resolution images, exclusively from DA MAN, pick up a copy of the DA MAN December 2010/January 2011 issue.