ELDERS say behind every successful man, there is a woman.
Then, there are also people saying behind every successful person, there’s a mentor.
That mentor can be a father, mother, brother, sister, husband or wife.
Yudhi Seriestha is just one of those fathers-cum-mentors who have played a big role in the success of their children.
A singer and musician from Indonesia, he migrated to Sarawak in 1983, before tying the knot with Catherine Sigit, a Bidayuh woman from Kampung Tematu in Bau.
Yudhi and Catherine have four children. One of them is Miss Malaysia World 2014 Dewi Liana, who made the country proud by winning the Miss World Talent title in London recently.
Being a singer and musician, Yudhi had the power and passion to raise one of the most talented models and singers in his daughter Dewi.
Under his watchful eyes, Dewi has achieved her dream of competing in one of the world’s most glamorous beauty contests — the Miss World pageant.
The real spark
Yudhi managed to do it because he understands something simple which many around the world still find hard to grasp — women’s liberation.
He is indeed the spark behind his daughter’s fame.
He raised her to believe she has just as much right not only to education but also freedom to express herself to the world through entertainment and modelling.
In an interview with thesundaypost, he spoke of his daughter with love, respect and pride.
While some fathers still think girls should be taught to be obedient, humble, quiet and submissive, Yudhi had different plans for his first daughter.
He named her Dewi — an Indonesian name meaning goddess.
Talent spotted early
Yudhi said he noticed her daughter’s singing talent when she was less than two years old.
He recalled Dewi came into his vocal training studio and picked a microphone to sing a Malay song titled ‘Oh Ibu’, made popular by Mamat Exist in early 1991.
“As she grew up, she became multi-talented, singing opera, classic, pop and jazz as well as doing catwalk, acting, composing and writing lyrics,” Yudhi beamed.
And he played a big role in inspiring Dewi, from a young age, to take up singing and join talent contests.
Because of his passion for music and desire to have her daughter’s talents noticed and tested, Yudhi entered Dewi for her first singing competition in 1999 at the age of 10.
She went on to win the Kuching Junior Karaoke competition before lifting the Kuching-Samarahan Junior Star Talentine title.
Yudhi also coached Dewi to the first runner-up spot in the state-level and the second runner-up spot in national-level competitions organised by Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) in 2011.
He was also behind Dewi’s entry to Season One of the ‘Mentor’ singing reality show in 2005 where she became the youngest finalist at 16.
Yudhi’s influence and inspiration also resulted in a podium finish for Dewi at the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) in Hollywood, Los Angeles, last August.
In the competition, Dewi won the gold medal for classical opera, three silver medals for contemporary, world music and variety category (vocal), a special prize under the Industry Award and a medal for classical champion.
Today, Dewi is known around the country and the world following her triumph in the Miss World Talent competition, where she defeated Miss Scotland in the final.
And the driving force behind her success is, of course, her supportive father. Yudhi has been an advocate for entertainment — singing and playing music — long before Dewi was born.
During his stay in Sarawak, he has been very active in promoting acoustic music, hoping it could be further developed by musicians in Kuching.
And it turned out that Yudhi’s efforts had not been futile as acoustic music is now very much in demand in Sarawak.
Yudhi is also a vocal teacher who studied for four years at Studio Vocalia RRI (Radio Republik Indonesia).
While in Kuching, he has conducted vocal classes at his CY Studio in the 80’s and Impressatio Studio in 2000.
The right approach
How was Yudhi able to raise his daughter to become such an eloquent, passionate and inspirational singer and model?
He recalled when Dewi was little, he didn’t treat her as a young daughter but a close friend in whom he inculcated life wisdom and lessons.
But beyond any outlandish parenting tips, he attributed Dewi’s success as a singer and model to not clipping her wings or limiting her opportunities on his part but simply allowing her to be the girl that she is.
The most valuable gift any father, including Yudhi, can give their daughters to show they are just as capable as men, is to give them an education.
Like most fathers, Yudhi believes education allows an individual to be completely independent and ultimately successful.
He also agrees that not only is education crucial to an individual’s future but it also leads to success.
From the early days until now, Yudhi has been his daughter’s mentor, coaching her on her voice and directing her stage movements before any performance.
“Normally, I instruct Dewi to practise breathing before she sings, and teach her the movements while performing on stage.
“I also select the songs and recommend the right titles for her to sing during special functions,” he said.
Yudhi said he also looked into Dewi’s performance schedule and discussed with organisers on the time for Dewi to perform.
“Although there are times the organisers misunderstood me, my real intention is to ensure that Dewi gives a good performance each time she is on stage,” he said.
Yudhi also did the planning for Dewi before she won the 2014 Miss Malaysia World crown.
He said as a father, he felt proud and happy with Dewi’s achievements, especially representing Malaysian at an international event like the Miss World beauty pageant.
“I gave her my full support in the Miss World beauty pageant finals in London and I’m so proud she had won a Miss Talent title, defeating contestants from over 120 countries.”
Yudhi said before the event proper in London, he would ensure that his daughter continued with her vocal training, went to the gym and took care of her health with proper dieting, nutritional supplements and vitamins.
He pointed out that he would continue supporting and motivating Dewi to scale greater heights.
“I’ll always give her my best advice in whatever field she chooses, especially singing.
“Now people know Dewi is not just a talented singer but also world-class — which is a source of pride for Malaysia on the international music stage.”
Dewi is the first Malaysian to win the Miss Talent subsidiary title at the Miss World pageant.
Wowed the judges
The 25-year-old wowed judges and the audience at Excel London ICC Auditorium as well as the millions of viewers at home with her powerhouse vocals during a live sing-off at the glitzy pageant with Ellie McKeating of Scotland, who chose to showcase her talents with traditional Gaelic vocals.
Dewi, a passionate classical opera singer, sang ‘Don Juan Triumphant’ from the renowned musical — The Phantom of the Opera — to defeat McKeating.
However, Yudhi is not complacent with his success in bringing Dewi up to the world stage. In fact, he is even motivated to continue his journey in the entertainment world, at the same time, contributing to the development of music and entertainment industry in the state.
“God willing, I want to have my own recording studio and discover new singing talents because in Sarawak, there are lots of potential talents but they lack the opportunity and exposure to the right training.
“It’s also my dream to have my own production house, given that I have written over 50 scripts for TV dramas and various movies,” he said.
He said through songs (video clips), dramas and movies, Sarawak, which is very rich with diverse cultures, could be showcased and promoted to the outside world.