Dewi Sandra: Standing on
solid ground

(JP/Dian Kuswandini)

Life gives us a thousand reasons to cry, but a million reasons to smile, singer Dewi Sandra Killick believes.

When marriage troubles took away her smile, pulled her down and pushed her around, Dewi wept, but before long she realized that God would never let her sink.

“I went through it all. Once, I cried so hard my eyes were swollen,” Dewi says of the tough days after her husband, singer Glenn Fredly, filed for divorce last month. “I fell to the lowest of low points and got stuck there. But being at that point made me realize that I had no choice but stand up and climb again.”

Dewi is not one of those celebrities who steers clear of reporters when it comes to rumors of divorce. She bravely opened her door, walked out and talked to them.

In doing that, she showed she is not afraid to demonstrate that, “It’s OK to fail; it’s OK to fall. A human is like a switch – sometimes you’re on, sometimes you’re off. There’s nothing wrong about being mellow.”

Being as mellow as she says, Dewi surprised many people with her latest single “Kapan Lagi Bilang I Love You?” (When again will you say “I love you”?), from her new album Wanita (Woman). The mellow song has caught people’s attention, leaving them wondering: “Is this really that cheerful and energetic Dewi Sandra?”

This response comes as no surprise – her past four albums were characterized by bouncy R&B songs infused with a joyful mood. But this latest single is a far cry from those: It pulls at one’s heart strings with an acoustic melody and sensitive lyrics that question the man who has lost interest in the woman he previously pursued.

“This song is actually to indicate that kind of man who shows his love only at the beginning [of a relationship], but then stops and turns around to leave. So hey, where has that romance gone?” asks the 29-year-old Brazilian-born model and presenter.

As to whether Glenn is the man she refers to in the song, Dewi simply smiles and says, “Well, I can’t say. But if he feels he is, then he can go ahead. I am only passing on [a message].”

Dewi says one lesson she has learned is that she shouldn’t have such high expectations for everything. A perfect marriage, she says, only happens in fairytales. And she has plenty of reasons for saying that. After all, divorce is nothing new for her. Back in 2005, Dewi and her then husband actor Surya Saputra after almost five years of marriage. She found her new love with Glenn not long after that, and married to the Ambonese singer on her birthday on April 3, 2006. Since then, she had more to celebrate on April 3 than just her birthday, until this year, when she received an unexpected gift: a divorce request.

After days of insisting she had to hold onto her marriage, now Dewi is ready to let go, as she realizes it is OK to lose.

“You can’t always win in life. I believe that defeat makes us stronger.” And she relates this life philosophy to when she released her first solo album in 1998.  

“Back then when I started my singing career I didn’t [win] either. People said I was a singer with
only a pretty face to sell,” says Dewi, who was named sexiest female artist in Indonesia and number seven in the world by male magazine FHM in 2004.  

“I accepted the criticism. I said: ‘Oh yes, I still need to improve.’ So I came to [noted vocal coach] Mbak Bertha [McCarthy] to learn singing. And here I am now, still surviving with my fifth album,” says the winner of the 2001 Indonesian Music Award for Best R&B Album.

And for those lessons in winning and losing, Dewi has her late father John George Killick to thank. It was her father who taught her how to fight to win, as well as to accept defeat gracefully – lessons taught through the chess games they played back when she was a little girl.

“It’s something I remember the most [about my father]. Whenever we played chess, he never let me win so that I could learn from my mistakes,” Dewi recalls. “I got angry to him for not letting me win. [I said] ‘Why can’t you make your daughter happy just for once?’ But he didn’t answer and only smiled.”

One day, her father bought her a book on how to master chess. Dewi, who hated reading at the time, thought: “Why the hell did he get me a book on how to master chess? What a weird father.”

But she read it anyway and learned from it, and promised herself she would defeat her father.

“I mastered the game and I finally beat my dad! It was such a great feeling!” Dewi says. She thought her victory would be a tough blow for her father as he was very competitive, but she was wrong.

“My father smiled at me and said ‘well done!’,” says Dewi, whose father is British and mother is Betawi (local inhabitant of Jakarta).

“All those times I was complaining and angry whenever I lost the games, while my father showed his graceful attitude when he got defeated,” So yes, she adds, those chess games helped make her the person she is today.

“Now I know, my father taught me to fight for what I want. If you want to win, you have to work hard,” Dewi says, adding, “But there’s also another important lesson too: It’s also OK to lose. And I want to be like my father whenever I lose: I want to be graceful and show my smiling face.”

And from here, we know why Dewi looks so strong whenever she gets a tough deal in life, including in marriage. Even though she says “my love for Glenn is so huge, and he’s supposed to know that”, Dewi has promised herself to accept even the worst in her marriage and to be the strongest at goodbyes. No wonder then we’re still seeing Dewi’s smiling face now.

“My life is like my chess game,” she says. “Win or lose, you will see me smile.”

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