Photographed by Clarke Tolton
It's a story older than Grauman's Chinese — a girl steps off the bus from out of town and tries to find a place for herself in the big, bad City of Angels. The difference in this girl's story, however, is that she's from way, way out of town, and she seems to have found a place almost from the moment she arrived.
Yunalis Mat Zara'ai — who you probably know as Yuna — landed in the good ol' U.S. of A., thanks to her spectacular success as a MySpace-promoted musician. Though she's from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, social networks (and her amazing music) earned her an international following and a call up to the entertainment-industry big leagues here in L.A. Since landing, she's left a mark not only through her unique sound, but her style as well (including her fantastic hijabs). It all landed her a coveted spot on our annual 30 Under 30 list of L.A.'s rising stars.
Here, she talks about her life in Downtown L.A., a 'hood she first chose because she didn't know how to drive (yeah, we know!), but later learned to love. It's just a few snippets from the story of a lady who, like so many, has come from the other side of the world to make her home here with us.
Photo: David Crane/ZUMA Press/Corbis.
"I've been living here in Downtown for three years now. At first, it was because my management office and their studio is located in here. Since I don't drive, I figured I'd just live around the corner. But as I found out, there's everything right here — food, clothes, street art, Little Tokyo. There's also a lot of different types of people [who] live down here. It's a melting pot. I love it!"
Photo: Courtesy The Last Bookstore.
"Around here, I've got Kapsoul on South Spring Street. They sell a lot of vintage clothes and toys — oh, they also sell my little terrariums there (I make terrariums, btw). I also love walking around inside The Last Bookstore. It's a maze! You've got to try this place called Flying Sticks near Santee. Go there, and order the steak baguette. You'll thank me later."
Photo: Courtesy Arashi Sushi.
"Honestly, I don't really go out that much — I'm working so hard. I do love hitting the beach in Santa Monica, though, and I'm always going to the movies. ArcLight Theatre is my jam! I take advantage of Arashi Sushi's happy hours and order a ton of rolls for cheap! I get the same thing every time I go there — the seared ahi tuna. So good!"
Photo: Courtesy Cinema Fashion.
"When it comes to fashion, I love Cinema near Santee Alley. They [have] the most amazing clothes and shoes. I'm also always in Virgo for their vintage selection and newer pieces. I discovered the Arts District some time ago. I had an interview there, and they took me around. Not to sound out of it, but I never knew there was such a place — I guess that can happen in L.A. Now, I absolutely love the area and all those cafes, restaurants, and cute little boutiques. But you know what's very therapeutic for me? Target on Figueroa. There's something comforting about [being] surrounded by everything and anything you could ever need."