In a world where people get judged for straying from the norm, Atika embraces her uniqueness and individuality.

“I was 10 when my mum introduced me to my first heavy metal band, Iron Maiden. From then on, I started to explore the local heavy metal scene and began attending gigs in Singapore. I would also go to Malaysia to attend gigs overseas.

When you listen to heavy metal, you can’t really hear or catch the lyrics. But when you search them up online, you realise that the lyrics really mean something. Listening to this ‘angry’ genre of music has helped me a lot with my anxiety and depression.

I started experiencing anxiety and depression when I was 10-years-old. Being the only Malay girl in Chinese Dance, I was bullied a lot in school. Although I was accepted by my friends and teachers in the CCA, I was ostracised by people of my own race.

The comments they made were so nasty and degrading. They’d say stuff like, ‘You confirm eat pig.’ This was far from the truth. When we were in Hong Kong for an event, my Chinese Dance teachers made sure the food I ate was Halal. I felt understood and accepted.

At a gig, you go into the mosh pit and crowd surf. And whenever someone falls, you pick them up so that no one gets hurt badly. At an event that is supposedly violent, I’m being well taken care of. But in primary school, I felt so attacked.

By the time I went to secondary school, kids didn’t find me weird anymore. There was more exposure and acceptance of the arts, so I was sort of looked at as cool. Some of the bullies started to act nice around me but it was too late. I didn’t care to be their friend anymore.

I think having uncles who were in a band in the 80s, and a mum who made me listen to metal when I was growing up, help explain how I look. My fashion is very much inspired by 80s metal. I love to express myself through striking hair, bold makeup and loud outfits.

But when I walk alone in public, I get stared at as if I’m an alien because of how different I look. Even when I get compliments, I’m not really sure if they are genuine. Maybe it’s because of what I went through in school, but I’m not used to getting compliments.

It gets frustrating sometimes. I know I should be over my childhood traumas, but they just circle around, you know? I just feel weird, like I’m constantly being judged for being different all my life.

But this is me expressing myself, and self-expression looks different for everyone. So be as colourful and bold as you like. You shouldn’t care about what other people say and just do you.” – Atika

Interview by: Cindy Abner