Behind every successful artiste is a strong support system. Star2 speaks to those who are among the closest and in constant contact with a star: the managers and personal assistants.
Does the ever-smiling, always poised (and polite) Datuk Siti Nurhaliza ever get angry?
“People always ask when can they see Siti angry? There’s only one thing that makes her, well, not angry, but tegas (strict),” reveals Rozi Abdul Razak.
“She doesn’t like last-minute work. If you forget to inform her on something about (work) until the very last minute, she’ll be a bit strict. She likes to know what she has to do in advance.”
Truly, few people could say they understand Siti better than her manager and personal assistant of 17 years, Rozi.
The 42-year-old, who is also Siti’s sister-in-law, has known her since the singer was 12 as they went to the same school together in Kuala Lipis, Pahang. “We’re like sisters,” she says.
Rozi, who is five years older than Siti, headed first to Kuala Lumpur and started her career here as a reporter.
When Siti took her first steps into the music industry, beginning with an audition for singing competition Bintang HMI in 1995, Rozi and Siti’s older brother Saiful Bahri Tarudin worked behind the scenes until she started establishing herself as a recording artiste.
Rozi, who was still working as a journalist then, left Utusan Malaysia in 1999 and fully committed herself to the songstress’ career.
“When I got married to Siti’s brother, I made the decision to help with her career seriously,” she shares.
“I felt a sense of responsibility. She is a part of my family and with a background in journalism and being able to do public relations work, I could help her career.”
She adds that Siti’s family was also more at ease knowing that a family member was taking care of her.
Today, Siti is Malaysia’s No. 1 singer and has won countless local and international awards, and part of that success must have something to do with Rozi, I tell her.
“I don’t know about that,” she brushes off the compliment. “Siti is very hardworking and very eager. If the artistes don’t want to work, I can’t force them.” She reveals Siti has never once missed a discussion she’s involved in.
Asked what misconceptions people may have about her job, Rozi responds: “Many people think that an artiste manager’s career is very glamorous. There isn’t much work that goes into it as we seem to just accompany the artiste wherever they go and get to be a part of these glamorous events.”
A manager has a big role to play in an artiste’s career. For instance, when it comes to producing an album, Rozi explains she puts out requests to composers six months in advance and compiles them for Siti to listen, proposes the concepts of the album’s cover, suggests outfits for photoshoots, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Essentially, she oversees the creation of the album from beginning to end.
Her working hours vary each day. There have been times Rozi left for work as early as 4.30am and returned home only at 2am.
“Sometimes, even after an artiste has gone home to rest, as a manager, there’s a lot more that I have to do,” she says. At times, she doesn’t get her weekends off too, depending on Siti’s work. And she has worked for four months straight without a holiday.
While she has no formal education in music, Rozi says: “With the management skills I have developed and working with production houses over the years and doing a little writing here and there, these are the skills that are needed for me to work at Siti Nurhaliza Productions (the singer’s production company).”
Speaking of writing, Rozi wrote the emotional ballad, Jaga Dia Untukku, which earned a nomination for Best Pop Song in the Anugerah Industri Muzik recently. She also came up with almost all of Siti’s album titles.
Apart from music, the life of a singer or any public figure is not without its share of gossip. So how does a manager handle news like this?
Most recently, rumours of Siti’s pregnancy began to swirl last November. “Although at that time everyone wanted to hear from her as the rumours were in the papers, she didn’t say anything – that was something we discussed together.”
A month later, the singer confirmed she was indeed pregnant but had a miscarriage.
“We had a strategy, after getting back from the hospital, when she was feeling more calm, she uploaded the news herself on Instagram. I advised Siti that everything about the matter must come from her mouth.”
Rozi, who was inundated with phone calls and messages, also got the singer to prepare a standard quote for the media after the news broke.
“You must discuss with one another when it comes to important matters. You must know the pros and cons, think about the consequences and choose the best solution.”
Come April 1, Siti will be celebrating two decades in the music industry and she’s still at the top of her game.
“I’m happy that Siti has remained in the industry for 20 years now and it’s a very sweet thing because we started from the bottom.”