By Pravin Nair

Vanessa Reynauld is Growing into Her Skin—and Voice

You know what they say: Success is the best revenge.

To describe her as an Old Soul comes as no means to overzealously age her. The singer herself understands this. At 23 years old, Vanessa Reynauld sits on her makeup chair, dressed in all black, unkinking her hair, she remains thankful for where she is at this moment in time. Having experienced a slurry of bad experiences since her days in school, she utters with clear confidence, “My name is Vanessa Reynauld. If I were to describe myself, I’d use the words bubbly and positive.” This is how she carries herself amidst the world around her.

At 23, the singer has found levity in living her life. Happiness is the path that she has chosen despite the pangs of disdain life has dealt her. From what things were to where she is now, Reynauld recounts her past. “I began singing at four years old. I was just a little baby!” she shares resoundingly. The singing took her parents by surprise, she adds, explaining that it was at a wedding dinner when she held her first microphone. “They had an open floor for the guests to perform and I rushed at that opportunity. I remember singing “The Moon Represents My Heart” by Teresa Teng, a favourite of my parents.”

MSYD, Top, Skirt. STYLIST’S OWN, Inner Top.

Seeing their child expressively carry out a ballad in front of a crowd at four years old left her parents starstruck. Rather than being doubtful of her gift for singing, her parents urged her to hone her craft. In lieu of classes, Reynauld’s first spectators—her parents—also happened to be her coaches and biggest supporters. “This voice is truly a gift. It is not a brag by any means, but I did not have to attend classes to achieve my desired sound,” she elucidates. As she grows away from her adolescence and into her adulthood, she has begun defining herself through a rugged sense of style. This change, she remarks, is one that she found apparent as she became more acquainted with hip-hop and R&B. Drawing influences from the singers that she has been listening to as of late—namely Rihanna, Jhene Aiko, and Summer Walker—her outlook too has begun reflecting that of her role models. She has since evolved her wardrobe to a monotonous shade of neutrals and blacks, with oversized silhouettes that accentuate her desired look. “I’ve developed a street-style look over the years,” she affirms. “It’s what I’m really into right now.”

In her heydays, power ballads were her go-to. Vocalists like Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Beyonce, and Whitney Houston blared through speakers in her childhood home. Becoming acquainted with these tunes and lyrics, she developed a need to achieve a similar voice for herself. “The loud beltings in their music were very desirable to me and I practised days and nights to achieve a similar sound,” she explains. Her disposition for live performances was then carried on to talent shows in school. As she takes a moment to retell her story, she is awash with melancholy. Being racially ambiguous and not fitting into the desired standards of beauty, Reynauld became the subject of much scrutiny. “I was shamed for the way I looked. My body was the topic of many discussions. But so was my hair. I was always kept behind my peers in group activities so as to not block them out.” Being young and impressionable, and hearing comments like these coming from her peers left her dejected. Talent shows were no longer an activity she wanted to take part in. Shrinking herself, Reynauld only came out of her chrysalis after high school.

Making TikTok videos of Malaysian inflections during the pandemic, she began to garner the attention of many fans overnight. “I actually began posting covers of songs on my profile. That did not bode so well. It was only after I began making skits that I got the attention of an executive at Sony Music Malaysia.” Since then, Reynauld has published a slate of covers and a series of music videos. Life for the young singer, in quite a literal manner of the sense, changed overnight. Earlier in the year, having performed at Sing! China, Reynauld cites the experience as being “an enriching one”. Living in the country for a number of months and performing with a voice coach, she found the experience to be one that was truly formative for her career. With an upcoming single peeking on the horizon, she concludes the interview in hopes of exploring the depths and possibilities of songwriting. “I’m 23 and I love singing these ballads, but I’d also love to sing songs that also reflect the complexities of what it means to be 23. This is what I wish for my future. Soon!” She chuckles, sweet and kind, saying goodbye to everyone on set as she exits the studio.

Photography: Wee Yang
Styling: Sarah Chong
Art Direction: Shane Rohaizad
Coordination: Nikita Nawawi
Hair: Juno Ko
Makeup: Jenn Teh
Photography Assistant: Adrean Wong
Styling Assistants: Lorraine Chai & Astrid Zulhaime