(Video) My meeting with Maya Buskila was canceled three times before we actually met.
The first time, she had to go to Haifa to autograph the new Maya Buskila daily diaries for the new school year.
The second time she came back exhausted from the recording studio.
The third time she forgot that she had to show up at a birthday party for the Music Channel, where she started her meteoric rise to the top of the pop scene today.
In the meantime, during those three days, her clippings folder expanded as she was mentioned some 20 times in the media: “Maya won’t perform on the Sabbath anymore,” “Maya loses five kilos (11 pounds).” Then there was: “Ashkelon City Hall decides not to allow Maya Buskila posters to go up because she is dressed (or not) too provocatively.”
Other reports were on where her new single is positioned and a whole host of unimportant information like what she ate, where she drank and how her relationship is doing.
If all that doesn’t convince you that Buskila is the hottest phenom this year, then just take a quick look at the Internet. For every mention of Maya there are hundreds of comments. Either they love her or hate her. There’s nothing in the middle.
Pop star Maya Buskila prepares for photo shoot: Ynet video
On the "con" side: “Maya Basilicon;" “She’s a screamer;” and “Ninette’s the best” (referring to a fued between Bouskela and Ninette Taib, winner of the "Star is Born" reality show.)
And pro: “Love your body and your voice,” or, “Don’t bother comparing her to Ninette, because Ninette will just lose.”
Reactions are extreme, huge, out there. Much like her public persona.
“It’s amazing how many reactions I get from the public," Buskila says. "I remember telling my mother once: ‘You know, you always tell me that I am a beautiful girl, but I’ve never felt as beautiful as I have in the last year and a half in which everyone is talking about how I look.' People have decided that my lips have been operated on, my chest is silicon, my nose and cheeks sculpted. Wow, I’ve become perfect. Everything is natural, but everyone thinks I’ve had operations to get this way.”
Q: It’s not frustrating to you, after all this hard work, prizes and titles, to have people be talking about your looks and not what’s inside?
In the beginning it hurt me, but today I know that all of this stuff is just part of the whole advertising and exposure. I’m not willing to compromise on my way and people have to understand that a singer is not just a product with a nice voice. A singer has to look good and dress well - put on a good show.”
So you just ignore all the gossip columns and articles?
Yes. It’s not important as far as I’m concerned. I don’t even read it, even though I know exactly what’s being said and the reactions to it. I know they write I’m "perfect, amazing, what a voice," and I know they also write, I’m "ugly, what do I think of myself," and so on. I used to be very sensitive until my managers told me to stop reading it. My mother, as usual, said something very smart: "Not everyone’s going to like you." It’s true. There’s no consensus.
Not exactly. Today there are many new singers about whom there is a consensus for the good and for the bad, or at least, more moderate reactions. In your case, the attitude seems extreme on both sides.
My songs have a strong presence. I have presence. And so the reactions are in kind, extreme. Look, I’ve toughened up this past year and a half. After all, I chose this life, so I’ve got no one to complain to. I wanted to be famous. I wanted to sing my songs, I wanted to fill the bleachers with a crowd, and so I’m also paying the price for that. When you come to understand that, you can be at peace with it.
Who’s your toughest critic?
My mother, who has made me change my mind many times. I even took a song off my first CD because my mother didn’t like it. By the way, when I met my managers, she told me not to listen to what others say, that she had a good feeling about them and that I should go for it. I’ll never forget that.
And what does she have to say about your appearance, coming from a traditional family?
She loves the way I dress. If I go out with something that doesn’t show off my chest, then she says: “You look a little boring,” like she misses the other clothes. Listen, about the way I dress. At first they said I dress provocatively and that it’s ugly, now they say I dictate fashion. They said the same about Madonna for years. I won’t stop dressing or singing how I like because of what critics say about me. So one or two don’t like how I dress. So what? A million others do and I go with the majority.
From a one room apt. to a doorman and a pool
The first time I met Buskila I was sent to interview "the singer with the big cleavage." It was her first time being interviewed, and she lived in a modest, one-room apartment near the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. Today she lives in a spanking new apartment in Ramat Aviv Gimmel with a doorman, pool and workout room.
Back then she said her career was her boyfriend, and now she shares an apartment with Dudi Melitz.
“I’ve always gone out with older men but he’s special. With all the brouhaha around me, he takes it all in proportion and balances me,” she says.
Her surroundings and circumstances may have changed, but there are things that haven’t. Her confidence and her voice are still as large as ever. Back then, her determination to conquer the country and the excitement as she sang out a few bars from her upcoming disc seemed a overambitious to me.
Now she’s in the middle of recording her next album due out around Rosh Hashana.
“The songs and lyrics have been written by Ron Shuval, Ron Rosenfeld, one of the last songs that Ehud Manor wrote before he died, and my cousin, and Shimon Buskila," she says. "It’s like coming full circle for me. Here, this is another example of the media trying to create an issue where there isn’t. Everyone kept asking why Shimon doesn’t write for me. He just didn’t have time. So you can all relax. Now he has time and he’s writing for me. I also wrote two songs, but most of the songs are from unknown artists.”
Your first disc featured songs by Tzvika Pik and Arkady Duchin, and now unknowns. Isn’t it supposed to work the opposite way?
I guess everything works opposite with me. Many years ago I had a contract with Helicon records and nothing happened. When I went out on my own things started to move. There’s no hard and fast rule for me. A good song is a good song, no matter who wrote it.”
On a personal level, what has the last year been like for you?
A little tiring but that’s it.
Look, sweetie, I look at it as a job. I don’t look for all that "stardom" stuff. I get up in the morning and go to work. My friends are still the same friends from Netanya, and aside from avoiding places with lots of people everything is the same.
A little less indifference please? After all, you’re singer of the year on all the radio stations, on Channel 24 (Israel’s TV music channel), and you’ve sold 60,000 discs.
I’ve waited my whole life for this, so I’m not entirely surprised. I thank God that it came when I was 28 and mature and ready for it, because what if it would have happened when I was 18? It might have turned my head. Except for one day when I wanted a day off after performing eight times on Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day), I have no complaints. You won’t find anyone who takes things more in proportion than I.
When are your difficult moments?
When I come home from a performance in Hayarkon Park for 100,000 people and suddenly I feel lonely. Or when I get all nervous when we are recording a new disc. I still have to learn that when you record, not every day is a good one. I have moments with my moods, but that just comes from the fact that I like to be in control. And I can’t control everything.
And speaking of control, this is a good time to mention her managers, businessman Eyal Malul and Roberto Ben Shushan, a modeling agent. They’re also in charge of other hot celebs like Agam Rodberg, Moran Attias, Linor Abergil and the new Game Boys group.
The story of how Buskila was discovered is well known in Israel, but here’s a recap: She was singing in a karaoke club and Roberto was listening. He called Malul and they decided on a new start-up venture. They pushed, prodded, and marketed Buskila to where she is today, including the newspaper mentions, the shows and events.
Among other things, whether on purpose or not, they’ve created a few mini-scandals, among them a few disparaging remarks about Ninette Taib. A fan war quickly ensued.
“Ninette is a friend and I never said anything bad about her. The only thing that Roberto said was that ‘Maya would never go on ‘A Star is Born.’ The darling reporter went ahead and tied it to Ninette. Believe me that if Nina hadn’t got a recording contract already, Roberto would take her on, too.”
Another spat was over a music awards show, where her manager purportedly said she wouldn’t show if she wasn’t going to win anything.
“My agent would never and could never give such an ultimatum. He’s not the prime minister. He’s too smart to say such a thing. I have no idea who would spread such a disgusting rumor.”
Do you realize that this whole PR machine behind you makes you out to be some sort of a Barbie doll with no mind of your own.
Yes, I’ve heard that. I’ve got two managers who are like family to me, and my best friends. If I didn’t want it to happen, it wouldn’t happen. I think people have forgotten an important word in this world: trust. If giving someone you trust a free hand means I’m a Barbie doll then that works just fine for me. People can say what they want, but you can’t argue with (my agent’s) success.”
People say you shouldn’t have won the title “Woman of the Year” in music, with on ly one hit song and just a big PR machine behind you.
Why, because I was up against Ehud Banai who has more experience than I do? In one year I did what most people don’t. What’s wrong with that? And if we’re going to be accurate, there were four hits from that album. That’s a lot and I worked hard on it. It was fast? True. It’s fate.
So what’s the advice for all the other Maya Buskila hopefuls out there?
Ambition, faith and a lot of luck. I feel as if God was stroking my head.
Aside from a whole host of titles like “singer of the year” and “woman of the year” for the Music Channel, a gold ringtone (cell phone download) and dozens of performances a month, Buskila has also been the object of particularly sharp portrayals on the satire show “Eretz Nehederet”. Surprisingly, Buskila is happy about it.
“It’s a compliment and wonderful. If you’re being mimicked, it’s a sign that you’re on the map. And I’m on the map. I think everybody knows that ‘Maya Bombila’ is not me. It’s just the clothes, the hair, the lips. She suddenly seems so pretty to me, Alma Zack. She does it in such an adorable way, funny, but not hurtful,” Bouskela says.
But it’s not like radio commentator Shelly Yehimovich who comes off as just a know-it-all. ‘Maya Bombila’ comes off as an idiot.
Whoever reads the articles about me or knows me knows that I’m no idiot. People know she just took an image and exaggerated me. People understand the concept of the show is humor. It’s a show to make people laugh, so who do you laugh at? Famous people. Yalla, why not? I hope she’s still doing it next year.
Are you afraid that it will all fizzle out if your second album flops?
I’m not in a place of fear. I don’t go there. I’m busy with being creative and the "what now," not the "what if." My first disc could have been a flop and my fourth might be, too. I don’t shy away from anything, and I’m doing the same things that I’ve been doing all along. I go with my own truth, and whoever accepts me, great, and whoever doesn’t, doesn’t. I am who I am.”