HELLO! Magazine, Issue 75, June 2012
Behind the scenes at a charity show in England, Ning Baizura tells us about the experience and reveals future plans
By Sophia Goh
Ning Baizura walks quickly into the restaurant, looking around for yours truly. She’s running a little late and is most apologetic. She’s also wearing a gorgeous, very on-trend fluorescent top, and I notice heads turning. Of course they are – she looks stunning.
At 37, Ning is a veteran of the Malaysian music scene, but her recent stint as co-host and performer at the 21st anniversary celebration of charity organisation When You Wish Upon a Star, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses, was a first in more ways than one.
Held in Nottingham, England, on 18 March 2012, the celebration was in the form of a variety show at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, and was attended by around 1,500 people.
Performers of all ages and from all walks of life were featured, among them the Drako Flying Angels – “a group of kids who are amazing acrobats,” explains Ning – a professional opera singer, three septuagenarians, and a guy named Jason who performed with the diabolo.
Organised by Nicky Agnew, the sister of Ning’s husband Chris Dalton, the show took two years to plan and put together, and Ning was thrilled to be a part of the entire process. “I was happy to be there,” she says. “I was part of the production and giving my input as much as I could, plus it was my first time hosting a show like this.
“It was really interesting because, also for the first time, I got to see the production of a variety show and I got to work with different people. I gained a lot of experience.”
“We wanted to get the best of the best,” she adds. “It was such a beautiful thing because everybody came with an open mind and an open heart and big, sincere love, and you could see they just wanted to be on stage and perform. Everyone did it for free; nobody demanded anything.
“I didn’t go in as Ning, supposedly the star from Malaysia. I went in as myself and gave as much as I could. It’s a new area, and for me, it’s the beginning of something new. The last time I performed there was in London in 2000, and it was for Malaysians who were living in London. This is a completely different ballgame.”
In addition to co-hosting alongside British TV personality Zoe Tyler, Ning performed three times – as the opening act, when she sang ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ with the Take 5 Choir as well as her song ‘Wishing On a Star’; a jazzy rendition of the Michael Bublé song ‘I’m Feeling Good’ accompanied by the Take 5 Dancers; and the show’s closing number, the Katy Perry song ‘Firework’, which she performed with the entire cast.
“I felt proud in a sense because I like to see a show where people are entertained and amazed by the talent, and it was good because Nicky really liked the ideas that I gave,” she says.
When HELLO! first found out about the event, we asked Ning if she would document the trip for us in photographs, and both she and Chris, who by the way is responsible for these lovely shots, graciously agreed.
A few weeks later, on this beautiful, sunny morning, we catch up with the singer over coffee to talk about the experience, venturing into new territories and her plans for the rest of the year.
Now that you’ve tried producing for the first time, do you think you’ll do it again?
I would love to do it again. Perhaps I’ll do something like that here in Malaysia, but it would be a big challenge. We’d have to get people to appreciate a variety show, which is a completely different thing. And I’ll need to find a foundation that really has a history and that has impacted people’s lives. Producing really is something else [laughs]; it takes a lot of dedication and patience.
What was it like working with the kids?
Oh, that was wonderful. It’s always a pleasure working with kids. They’re talents. Not everybody wants to sing; a lot of them want to dance and do other things that you don’t expect them to do, you know. It’s amazing.
Chris has been working with you for a while now. Tell us about that.
He’s been working with me for a year, and we’ve learned so much trying to work together and build the company. He’s helped me a lot and it’s been a really good experience for him. In the beginning it was a bit hard because we needed to learn each other’s work habits, but after a year, we’ve established all that. Chris is a very regimented person when it comes to work, and he’s taught me a lot in that sense. Now he’s going back to work, perhaps in June. I’m sad that he’s leaving but he doesn’t know that. He thinks I’m happy [laughs].
What made him decide to take this time off work?
I really needed a helping hand, someone to help me organise my concert basically, and he was getting bored of his routine, so we discussed it and we thought, perhaps he could just take time off. Then he got into the routine of really liking working with me and six months became a year. After my concert in December last year, our priority was to finish this charity show and then see what happens. Having said that, it’s not easy for the both of us to rely on just my job. We need another source of income so we’re going back to that. You have to be realistic, right? My work is very unpredictable and it goes up and down. But Chris has helped to establish a few businesses for me as well.
What sort of businesses?
Now I’m attached to MEDIShape, which is a non-invasive beauty spa, and I’m not just the ambassador, I’m also a partner in that business. I actually tried them for about six months first. There’s also Neubodi, which is lingerie that gives you really good support. I’m part of the business and I’ve opened a shop on the first floor of Bangsar Village 2. Then I’ve got another one, which is Dr. Backbone, a health product that helps you with your posture. This year, I feel like I have to be more of an entrepreneur. When I first talked to you, I was still trying to figure out how to establish myself and how to get companies to believe in me, and it has all paid off. These companies approached me, and I believe all this is the ‘luck’ that comes after a lot of hard work.
That’s quite a lot on your plate.
Yes! Because I’ve also got my own company, and hopefully, later this year, we can launch my fragrance, the Ning Signature Perfume.
And you’re still performing as well…
Yes. I’m a bit pickier with my events now because I can’t do everything, and I realise there’s a certain image that people expect me to uphold, which I need to expect of myself as well. Also, hopefully by the end of the year, Chris and I can really start planning to have children. I do want to be able to conceive before I’m 40. People say technology can help a lot but I want it to be as natural as possible. I also think I’d like to do something with children’s books and work from home when I become a mother, although at the same time, I think I’ll still be very active and continue to perform. I can imagine myself getting bored at home and will probably crave being on stage [laughs].
With all that you’re doing, do you think you’re setting an example for other artistes in a way?
I don’t know. I realise that some people label me as a role model. But, if at all, I’ve always been a positive person, so I would tell newcomers to keep doing what they’re doing, look at themselves as a brand, and see how they can market themselves. Not only will it make a difference to them, it will also help them to create better businesses for themselves. At the end of the day, you have to see how you’re going to impact society. For me, I always ask, whatever business I’m going to do, what impact is it going to have? Is it going to change women’s lives? I don’t look at other industries apart from health, fitness, beauty and showbiz because I think that’s what I know best.
As someone in the spotlight, how do you deal with rumours in the media?
The beauty of technology nowadays is you can deal with it yourself on Facebook and Twitter. You can’t stop people from asking all sorts of questions, but you can always answer people directly if you don’t like what they’re asking. I don’t think the media has been unkind to me. Since I got married, I think there’s been a sense of security, so they’re not looking into petty things anymore. Sometimes people bring stuff up, but it’s unavoidable, and we live with it. Even those who aren’t famous sometimes have people talking about them. I’ve always believed in being hands-on, just accepting and facing it, and it’s not a big deal. I think social media is the best outlet for anybody to reach out, give advice and clarify themselves. I love doing it, and I know I need to connect with my fans and tell them what I’m doing. If something is personal and I need to keep it to myself, then I don’t talk about it. I believe in talking very positively. Life sucks sometimes, but you don’t have to take it onto Twitter.
There was this report once that accused Chris of having an affair…
That was so silly! I think that rumour started because he had meetings with clients, and people were, in a sense, considerate enough to inform me [laughs]. It was a bit ridiculous, especially for Chris. We cleared that up but I think it was just my fans being very, very personal, and maybe worrying that Chris was trying to two-time me.
It must have been a shock for him.
Yeah, it was a big shock. At first he was a bit upset, to be honest. I mean, how could you not be? He said, I’m running a business here, who are you to question me, my faith and my beliefs, and my love for my wife? But we managed to overcome that. That went on for two or three months, actually. There was even a photograph of a random girl that some blogger just started spreading around. I wasn’t upset. Perhaps they wanted to see what my reaction would be. I said, if people are concerned about your marriage, there’s nothing to be upset about. But let me tell you that I’m certain what Chris was doing was for the business.
So he realises now that he’s also in the spotlight.
He is, all the time! Now that he realises it, he’s able to handle it better.