The Golden Rebirth of Agnez Mo

Watch out world because Agnez Mo is coming. The singer-songwriter and actress from Indonesia has a story to tell and a message she hopes will inspire the world. Her story starts off fairly humbly as Agnes Monica Muljoto was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to athletic parents. Her parents, Ricky and Jenny, would’ve loved to get her involved in sports but entertainment was more of her thing. They’d bring her along with them to sports complexes but Agnes would end up singing and dancing around the room. Once they got the hint, they enrolled her in after-school programs for singing and dancing. Eventually, the young Agnez Mo entered a talent search competition and her career took off from there.

From that point on, Mo began working in the entertainment industry (as Agnes Monica). She started recording music, including a few children’s albums and starred in soap operas. The transition from child star into adulthood seemed to happen naturally for Mo, and it’s probably due to her positive and upbeat nature. When Mo set her sights on the international music scene, things also happened rather organically. Music producer Timbaland had been watching her on YouTube. In 2011, he invited her to Miami to begin working on some music. That collaboration resulted in “Coke Bottle,” a high-energy tune featuring T.I. Mo shares how meticulous Timbaland was during the entire production, and also admits his attention to detail made her feel less self-conscious about her own dedication to perfecting her music. See, Agnez Mo does it all: In addition to writing, singing, and producing her own music, she’s also heavily involved in the video production process.

After moving to L.A., she had to almost start over from scratch. Despite being a major star in her native Indonesia and winning critical acclaim and awards (including 18 AMIs: Anugerah Musik Indonesia, Indonesian version of Grammy), L.A. was a different beast. But, the change gave Mo time to reflect and really hone her craft. At this point, she became more involved with her music. She believes that collaborators need to have the “same core function” and they need to have the “same energy, chemistry and vibe” for the music to really connect. Some of her favorite collaborators are her close friends like Jim Beanz.

One of her newest collaborators, Chris Brown, shares the same vision. The two met the way many people do nowadays, through social media, and hit it off. According to Mo, Brown found her on Instagram, and after talking, they realized they knew the same people and followed each other. The two then met up for a studio session where they played music for each other. Mo let Brown hear some of the stuff she was working on, and he let her hear some of his new music. The two decided to work on some songs together, and their studio sessions turned into “On Purpose” and “Overdose.”

True to form, Mo came up with a video treatment for the “Overdose” record and shared it with Brown, who happened to really like it. The video tells the story of two lovers who seemingly are from different worlds, but fate brings them together. It’s a quite powerful video filled with crisp cinematography and eye-catching visuals: a common theme in Mo’s videos. Despite dating rumors, by the way, Mo and Brown are just friends that make great music together. In fact, friendship seems to be a major theme in Mo’s work life. Her new label, 300 Entertainment, courted her by taking a personal, intimate approach to the partnership. She says that label execs took the time to reach out to her directly. They wanted to know who she is as a person and an artist. That type of attention means a lot to Mo who describes herself as a “big family-oriented person.” (As a matter of fact, we thanked her for doing this interview and photo shoot literally right after she returned to L.A. from Indonesia, and she responded: “Thank you very much for such an extraordinary collaboration with all of you, thank you also for the support for me, I love all of you.”)

She affirms that, for one to be successful, it’s “not about what you say yes to, but what you say no to.” She had received many offers from other big-time labels but 300 Entertainment felt like the best fit. She also knows that many artists don’t have the balls to say no to a giant label but that’s just another way Mo sets herself apart from the rest.

Staying true to herself has always been Mo’s main priority. If she just wanted fame, she says, she would’ve stayed in her native Indonesia. Mo wants more than that. Oftentimes, she thinks about her legacy more than her paycheck. She wants to inspire everyone, young and old. She knows that, for many people, having big dreams feels like a luxury while nowadays, especially, many people are just trying to survive but she knows her life mission is to stoke the fire that lives in everyone. Her management has received emails from people who have admitted to being inspired by Mo and her journey. So Agnez Mo is holding on. She wants to show everyone that their dreams are legit: “Dream, believe, make it happen.”

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Interviewed by Leonye McCalla

Photographer & Videographer: Catherine Asanov (@catherineasanov)

Stylist: Andrew Philip Nguyen

Hair: Matilde Campos

Makeup: Dillon Pena (for TheOnly.Agency - using NARS Cosmetics)

Editor: Eiko Watanabe

Special thanks to Media Pollution (@mediapollution - www.mediapollution.tv) & Backyard Bowls (@backyardbowls - www.backyardbowls.com)