‘Positive Pop’ Singer Ava Max On Her Albanian Heritage and Being Bullied

Ava Max during her interview with Khaosod English on April 26, 2019.
Ava Max during her interview with Khaosod English on April 26, 2019.

BANGKOK — With whopping combined views of 300 million from two singles alone, Ava Max is belting out 2019’s bubbly pop earworms.

Khaosod English sat down with the 25-year-old American singer during her first trip to Thailand for a chat about her Albanian heritage, positive pop and her signature asymmetric haircut – which she has dubbed the “Max Cut.” Petite at 160cm, Max’s personality was big, bubbly and excitable.

“This haircut symbolizes strength and doing what you want, regardless of what anyone thinks,” she said, showing off her bobbed hair on one side and long locks on the other. “I just started getting really weird looks and everyone was telling me not to keep it. I’m just like, wow, people are judging everybody.”

Born Amanda Ava Koci in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, her breakout hit in August 2018, “Sweet But Psycho”, reached #1 in eight European countries. Her latest single, “So Am I”, has a clear anti-bullying message.

“My parents came to the States. They didn’t know the language, they didn’t have any money. They worked really hard to get to where they are now,” recalled Max, the child of Albanian immigrants. “They taught me to never give up and they instilled really strong ethics. We have really strong women in our community.”

“I grew up being bullied a lot in school and I never fit in at school. I thought it was not normal, but it is normal to feel different because we are different. We are unique, and we’re all amazing,” she gushed.

Just as empowering is “Not Your Barbie Girl”, one of Max’s lesser-known songs with only 4.5 million views on YouTube. It’s a timely update to Aqua’s 1997 hit “Barbie Girl” in an era of #MeToo (“You can’t touch me there, you can’t touch my body / Unless I say so, ain’t your barbie, no”).

“Growing up I liked [Aqua’s “Barbie Girl”] and I really didn’t understand the lyrics because I was so young. But then as I got older…I was like, ‘I’m not anyone’s Barbie Girl!’” Max explained. “I just felt like writing it completely differently. And we kept the same melody and chorus and basically just changed up everything else and gave it an empowering feel and lyrics.”

Although she’s yet to release a full album, Max says she hopes to keep making similar “anthemic music.”

“I feel that the world needs more positive messages in music and I personally do too, on some days!” she said.

In the run up to Miss Universe 2019, Thai fans were all about the Albanian beauty queen Trejsi Sejdini (“Oh my goodness, that’s incredible!” said Max). Judging by replays of Max’s pop hits, she’s yet another Albanian to have snagged Thai hearts.

Thai fans of Trejsi Sejdini at the Miss Universe 2018 preliminary rounds on December 13.
Thai fans of Trejsi Sejdini at the Miss Universe 2018 preliminary rounds on December 13.

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