The immeasurably talented Dutch artist Romy Dya shares her talent with the world in her debut album I FKN LOVE MYSELF.
A singer, songwriter, producer, advocate, there is no end to this woman’s talent. Her deeply personal album explores the issue of self-love and takes us through her whirlwind of a journey that she’s experienced to get this level of acceptance.
We recently caught up with the artist and got deep with her on topics such as new music, her childhood, and the effects of social media in the modern age.
You have just released your debut album I FKN LOVE MYSELF. What does this record mean to you?
I’ve been going through this whole transition of loving myself since I broke up with my ex, which was three years ago. When we broke up, he told me “It was always hard to love you” and I was like “How can you say that to someone you’ve been with for 12 years?” It made me mad, but I understood it because I was always hiding my curves and not loving myself.
I was always complaining about myself like “Oh I’m too fat, I have to lose weight” and when I lost weight, I wasn’t happy either. Then I understood it was a mindset. I then started doing mirrored therapy which was telling myself in the mirror I was good enough, and that I loved my curves and the extra rolls and whatever, you know? Even with my cellulite and stretch marks, I was like “I love you!” but it wasn’t easy at all.
Last year, I did a mummy makeover and I was talking about self-love, and people were like “No you can’t talk about self-love if you do a mummy makeover.” I see it as you are doing it for yourself and if you are doing it for you, you are doing it for the right reasons.
I did it because I thought I deserve the best, after two kids I couldn’t fix my stomach anymore. Of course, maybe I could have kept it that way but I wanted to change it as also when I was performing I could feel that loose skin and was bothering me and it hurt when I was jumping around and I was like “No, I want to get rid of it” so I did that. It was a whole thing where people were like “No you’re talking about self-love and loving yourself, and that’s not self-love.” I think that’s bullshit and that is one of the reasons why I had to tell myself “I fkn love myself”.
I do all this stuff for me and it also is about a lot of trauma I have been through for instance sexual abuse. One of the songs is called “Unspoken” and it’s about sexual abuse and you know that it made me who I am. In a relationship the guys would always tell me “Oh you’re so difficult” but I’m not difficult, I’ve just been through a lot and if you understand me more, you’d know this is what made me who I am.
Now instead of seeing myself as a victim, I am thankful to everyone that hurt me. I know it sounds weird but it made me stronger and I became a stronger woman now so that’s why all of that, and the relationship that didn’t work out and all of this I made into one package and that’s why it’s called I FKN LOVE MYSELF because I also love my flaws and traumas that I’ve been through and that is what has made me.
What is your favourite thing about Romy Dya?
My favourite thing about myself? That’s funny because I used to hate it. I used to hate my hips and think “Oh it’s too big, I need to lose weight” and when I had two kids I gained even more and now I’m loving it. It used to be something I didn’t like about myself but now I’m like “I’ve got curves, I’m going to show it to the world!”
It’s funny because my grandma when I did the Mummy Makeover was like “Why didn’t you get rid of your hips?” and I was like “No! I love the way I am”. I’m half Indonesian and half Dutch and all the Indonesian women are tiny so for them, I am ‘fat.’ I’m just being me; I don’t want to call it a name. Of course, people call me curvy nowadays but I’m just me.
Do you find it easy to show vulnerability within your music, or has it taken the time?
It took some time, but I was always very open in my songs. Especially about sexual abuse, that was very hard for me. It was also very hard to sing it. Nowadays I am doing some online performances and when I have to sing that song, I’m almost crying every time. It’s very hard but I’m happy that I can finally share that story with people, and it helps them. I’m still getting messages from people all around the world who are telling me “Hey you’re helping me, especially with this song.” Even with the album, they are telling me it’s so empowering. I want to reach more women just to tell them “You are good enough!”
There’s so much jealousy when women are around each other but most of the time it comes from insecurities. I was like that too so that’s why I am saying this. I was like “Oh look at her blah blah blah.” Talking bad about other women I used to do back in the day to feel better myself. That’s why it is so important to look within and see that you got to change your mindset and love yourself. When you’re talking about other people, most of the time it is insecurities and jealousy.
I want to empower women like “Take a look in the mirror, you are gorgeous!” Also always comparing yourself to other women on IG all-time – stop it, you are beautiful as you are! If you want to change anything, do it for you and not for anyone.
What are your opinions on Social Media in the modern age?
I have a love and hate relationship with social media, but as an artist, you do need it. What I see around me is a lot of men and women especially compare themselves with other people because of insecurities. I think it’s very dangerous if you don’t love yourself enough and you are following all these beautiful people on Instagram. If you don’t love yourself, you’re always going to be comparing yourself with other people. I’ve been there too that’s why I am saying this.
I’m not a fan of it but on the other hand, there is a beautiful side of it too, as you can be an example to other people and follow lots of people. Nowadays you have a lot of body-positive pages and I think that’s very good. On the other hand, what I see with body-positive pages is they’re always talking about how you shouldn’t have plastic surgery.
Let me put it like this, if you are going to change every little thing about you, you do have a problem. I think with everything there is a certain boundary, you should be careful with it. For me what I see with my music and my story is you can reach a lot of people and inspire them. If you use it the right way, there is nothing wrong.
Can you talk us through your musical journey? How did you get to where you are today?
I was 4 when I knew for sure I wanted to be a singer. I told my friends that I would travel all around the world and be a superstar. When I was 4, I started to sing, and practice every day. When I was 10, I started writing songs, when I was 15, I got discovered on the internet. Back in the day before Soundcloud, it was called Sound click – that was a long time ago. I started working with different producers and especially with a lot of rappers doing ad-libs and singing hooks and stuff like that.
When I was 19, I got pregnant with my first child and he’s 14 now. A big boy already! That’s when I wanted to focus on being a mummy for a while and then I started studying Law. I started studying Law and a couple of years later I was still like “I just want to do music!”
I got signed to this record label with a producer, but it didn’t work out. Eventually, I wanted to quit music, that was when I was 31. And I thought, “I’m getting too old now, it’s not going to work out anymore.”
Then I started working as a lawyer for the City of Amsterdam and I was just working there for two months, and this producer called me and said “Hey I have this song with Martin Garrix and David Guetta, Ellie Goulding is supposed to do it but I think you could kill it.”
In my head, I was like “After all this time he’s calling me?” I didn’t believe in music anymore, and next to being a lawyer I also have my music school because I wanted to develop young talent. You know help other people how to write songs, and how to sing and everything so I worked 80 hours a week. He called me and I was like “We’ll see what is going to happen!” I had so many demos from him all the time as he’s one of the biggest producers out here in Holland. I had demos from Sia, Rihanna, Bebe Rexha, every time he told me I had to try it as well but of course they chose them and never me so I was like why are they going to choose me this time.
Eventually, when I went to the studio I was like “OK God listen if you want me to do music give me a sign!” Well, he gave me a clear sign so that song was when I could finally do music full time. It took a little time, but within a year I started to do music full time. I think a year ago I was confident enough to show my production skills as a producer. That’s how I came up with the album as I didn’t want to wait for anyone. It’s very hard as a woman in the industry because they are going to look at your figure, your age, and when they hear that you’re a single mom they’re like “Oh No!”
Honestly, I had to overcome all of that and all the naysayers and all that stuff. I started to produce it myself, record, write and even home mix it myself. I was just tired. Even though I had this song with Martin Garrix it was still like “Yeah she should be a featuring artist but not just an artist by herself.” That’s also why this album was so important for me. I believe in myself more than anyone else and I think that’s so important. You can achieve anything if you just put your mind to it.
What challenges have you faced as a strong woman in this industry?
I remember when I went to L.A for the first time in 2018. Me and my ex had just broken up that night and I bought a ticket to L.A and went there without any luggage, without a plan. I just knew that I needed to be there as that’s where I could work with the right people, and eventually, I did.
I’m coming from Holland and English is not my native language and I have an accent so to keep up with those songwriters it was tough if you worked with the top of the world. I learnt a lot from that. What I have seen in the music industry is that especially men are trying to take advantage of you. It’s not an easy world and for me, it was like “No, I don’t want that – I’ve got two kids.” I’m happy I didn’t take the short road because I didn’t want to lose my dignity. Some crazy things happen.
How have you adapted to this pandemic as an artist?
Last year, I wanted to perform a lot and then COVID-19 came and ruined it for me. I’m happy it did because I could develop myself more as a producer. That’s when I started to produce more songs for myself and could put hours and hours in production. I even taught myself how to mix so I’m happy about that, to be honest. It was very therapeutic as well, all the songs I wrote it was like going to therapy. I’m kind of tired now though, I think everyone is.
Who are the most important female figures in your life?
Of course, my mum. My mum but also people that I really look up to are Oprah for instance. I think she is amazing, and I really look up to her. Sia is someone I look up to as she is such a great songwriter. I think a lot of people don’t know that she’s written songs for Beyonce and Rihanna. Rihanna also, I think she’s also a great businesswoman because of the lingerie that she’s doing and the make-up and everything. I think it’s so important as an artist that you need to reinvent yourself every time. Beyoncé of course, she’s a great entrepreneur.
How has being a part of the Dutch and Indonesian cultures influenced your music?
To be honest, Dutch music not at all. It’s funny because my publisher is always asking “Romy you should sing in Dutch!” but I cannot express myself in Dutch. I am here because of my kids because they need to go to their school and because of their dad and everything. If my career is going well, eventually I want to move to another country. Probably Bali or L.A because of music and because you have so much more opportunity.
From my Indonesian side, the music didn’t influence me there, but my family is very musical. They’re all playing an instrument, playing guitar, playing the piano, singing a little. That’s how it influenced me. Every time we had a birthday party, we would always sing together
How has your childhood framed you into the artist you are today?
I have been through a lot. I have been bullied. My family wasn’t stable, so it wasn’t easy at home. I love my parents, but they were arguing a lot. They kind of had a toxic relationship and are still together, don’t ask me how! They really love each other and have been through a lot. I ran away from home when I was 14 and went to youth juvenile. Music was always my escape and my therapy. I have been to psychologists and therapists, but it never worked as well as writing it off my chest and creating songs.
Now I’m thanking everyone that hurt me in the past and all the situations I’ve been through. This song “Thank You” is about that, a lot of people think it’s about my ex because I wrote it like it’s about a relationship, but it’s about saying thank you to everyone and all the situations I’ve been through that made me who I am.
Can you tell us more about your label “Uncommon Diamond?”
I started this label last October. One of the reasons was because my son started making music, that’s also something that happened during lockdown. He was 13 at the time, he was sneakily recording on my laptop. I was like “What he is doing?” and heard he was rapping and singing with no accent. I put this video on Instagram and a lot of people I know from the industry like managers and music executives were like “Oh, we want to sign him!” Even Juice Wrlds label reached out to him and said “We want to sign you!”
I’ve seen a lot in the music industry and that is why I wanted to protect him. He still needs to finish his school and all that stuff. This is why I started the record label; he already had a WhatsApp and Discord group with his friends called “Uncommon.” I just had a record out that was called “Diamond” and was like you know what we are going to call it “Uncommon Diamond.”
I want to focus on artists that are more out of the box and other labels would be like “I’m not going to sign that person because I don’t see potential” but I do because I was always a diamond in the rough. That’s why I called the label Uncommon Diamond.
Eventually, I do want to have more artists but first I want my album to be a success and then I’m going to invest in other artists.
As a singer/songwriter/producer/businesswoman – you are indeed a self-made woman as your Instagram bio reads. What would be your advice to anyone following in your footsteps?
What is important is you should always follow your heart, even though it’s not going to be easy. Sometimes women come to me and tell me “I don’t like my job and I want to do this and follow my dream and it’s too difficult!”
It’s not going to be easy but follow your heart because that is what is going to make you happy. You must have the right people around you that motivate you, that bring you to a higher level. If you have people around you that are naysayers, you should change your environment. You should take a step back from that. It’s so important to change your mindset because anything is possible, you’ve just got to put your mind to it.