"I could make a star out of you. But do you really want it?" "I want to be known all over the world." "All right then, we'll work together to achieve it." From a conversation of Karolina Kuyek, aka Ani Lorak, with Yuriy Falyosa (who later became Lorak's producer).

Yuriy Falyosa graduated from a music school, played the guitar in restaurants to earn a living. Then, after completing his education at a civil aviation college, he worked in Magadan, in the north-east of Russia, which is his native place. For twelve years he headed a department in the Civil Aviation Administration of Magadan. His work in aviation has taught him to be very thorough and painstakingly careful in doing any work he has to do. Before I present my interview with Ani Lorak, Ukrainian pop star, I'll let her producer, Yuriy Falyosa, speak first.
Q: Back in 1992, what is it that you found in Karolina Kuyek that made you think you could make a star out of her?
A: Obviously talent. Then her ability to work very hard. She can work nonstop for 12 hours in a row. Her great desire to sing. She sing in her kitchen, in a shower, in a car, even in a subway carriage. It does not happen often, though, that she rides in the subway in Kyiv. She does it on her visits to Moscow or New York.
: Which problems did you have to overcome?
A: Naturally, there were lots of them. One of them was to teach to talk to journalists. I took videos of her and then showed them to her, she watched, took notes, improved. She keeps a diary and writes down her own analysis of herself. And much more. I wish I could have just one look into her diary.
Q: Too private. Has there been anything that Kuyek, after becoming a pop star and assuming a stage name of Ani Lorak, changed in you?
A: I don't know about changes but working with her I realized I don't want to do anything else. I'll work with her and for her as long as it is possible.
: Any problem now, which you have to overcome or which are just a nuisance?
A: Oh, there are always problems, but here in Ukraine one of the greatest problems is lack of professionalism in many spheres.
Now back to the singer, Ani Lorak, nee Karolina Kuyek.
Her native town is Chernivtsi, in the west of Ukraine. Her mother is an announcer at the Chernivtsi radio station and her father is a journalist. Karolina sang in a choir, took part! in singing contests, was noticed and was promoted, and when she was 14 she signed her first contract (in fact, because of her minority, it was her parents who signed if). The contract stipulated, among other things, that she should not marry until she was 23. Karolina, who took a stage name of Ani Lorak on advice of a friend who was in music business, has taken part in 20 song contests, winning many of them. Two most significant wins were at the Rankova Zirka "Morning Star") Contest in Moscow and at the "Manhattan Centre Studio in New York. Now she is among the top pop stars of Ukraine.
: Recently, you 've been awarded an honorific title of a Merited Artist of Ukraine, a high distinction for such a young person. Does it mean anything to you ?
A: It does, I regard it as an acknowledgement of what I'm doing by the state but it does not mean I'm going lo go political. Basically, I'm apolitical. I just come out onto the stage and say: Hello, my dear friends, I'm happy to sing for you tonight. I try to create an amiable atmosphere at my shows.

Ani Lorak and Leonid Ahutin at the Rankova Zirka (Morning Star") songfest in Moscow.

Q: Does it matter what kind of audience you're singing for?
A: The bigger the audience the better. I know I'm able to get thousands of people, all of them so different, responding to my songs.
Q: Which of the halls you have sung in in liked best?
The Manhattan Centre Studio. Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzerald, Louie Armstrong performed there in their time. It was a great honour to sing there. In 1996, I was awarded the Grand Prix there for a song Without You. I felt the audience did not expect an unknown singer from an unknown country to win a Grand Prix. But they were favourably impressed. I have sung in several concert halls in Kyiv and do not like the biggest of them, Palats Ukrayina. I feel sort of unprotected there. But the feeling passes after a couple of songs.
: Most of your songs are in Russian. Why is that?
: Many reasons. The lyrics for most of the songs I sing are written by my produser, Yuriy Falyosa. I find it difficult so far to find songs in Ukrainian that would fit my emotions.

I nee all kinds of songs that would best reveal what my voice can do. And also, I want to be well known in Russia.
: What kind of music do you like to listen to? What's you attitude to the current three top world female pop stars: Celine Dion, Meriah Carry and Whitney Houston? Any chance you'll be ranked among them?
A: I like soul, blues, funk,. all music that is coming right from the heart. Sometimes I listen to jazz but I find it a bit too ' heavy for me... I'm particularly fond of Stevie Wonder. And Houston too, she's got great energy, perfect voice and I like the way she she moves on the stage. Maybe, it's because she's black. But I have no idols, and though I can borrow something from others, I believe that Ani Lorak should not mutate anyone and remain what she is.
Always doing her best.
: You 've already released two albums, Want to fly and I'll come back. Recently, you 've had another video out. What are your impressions of working with an American video team?
A: Mark Slater, the director, had thousand of ideas. We, together with producer Petr Nical Furmer, went to the town of Uzhgorod in Western Ukraine to shoot fantastic natural scenery there. At first, it was just work and we all became good friends. I like what's been done in that video. Ukraine does look nice in it. I've had letters from Ukrainians thanking me for it. But, unfortunately, to make videous is very costly. And time consuming.
Q: Do you get to see your parents from time ti time?
: Unfortunately, not often enough. Sometimes, I feel I just have to see them, so I get into a car and go all the way to my native town.

Ani Lorak in London.
Q: Some critics say you don't release enough songs that get to the top of the charts, though, as far as I'm concerned, you 've got excellent songs to your name that easily stay in memory. I know that your father has recently had a book of his poetry out. What about using some of the poems for making them into songs?
A: My father's poetry is highly philosophical, it's reflections on life and I, being only twenty one, think it's a bit too early for me to sing song like that.
Q: Are you planning to present your future husband to your parents some time soon?
A: I'm not planning to marry anyone yet. There are a lot of rumous, I know, about my relations with my producer. But the main thing for me now is my singing career. When I achieve what I've set myself to achieve, that I'll start thinking about marriage. Frankly, I want to became known in the world. I think I've made it already in Ukraine, next I want to become as successful in Russia. And then - in the whole world, I want to remain a Ukrainian singer who travels with her concerts all around the world.
Q: Sounds ambitious. But if you decide to marry some day, what kind of man would you wish lo have by your side?
: Oh, he must be a protector, an intellectual, an achiever, he must be purposeful. The first woman, as you remember, was created from a rib of Adam.
That's how it is, women should always remember that. Which in no way belittles a woman. She must help her man, understand him, believe in him. Her wisdom is in not overburdening him with her own problems. Husband and wife, they must be good friends, too.
Q: You work so hard. Do you give yourself holidays?
A: Yes, of course. If I want to have a rest I go abroad as a tourist, to relax, to stop being a singer, to be one of so many. I celebrated my twentieth birthday in the Disneyland, in Los Angeles. A funny thing happened there. At twelve o'clock midnight, when we wanted to get into our rented car to go back to our hotel, it turned out we could not do it because the doors would not open. Our director tried to pry one of the doors open with a metal rod. A policeman who saw it, found it suspicious.
But when he learnt I was a singer from Ukraine, he look us in his car right to Santa Monica where our hotel was. All the way there, we listened to the tapes with my songs that I gave him. I also gave him a poster with my picture on it. I had a nice birthday then!... And this year I went to Turkey, stayed at a good hotel with tennis courts, a night club and an excellent restaurant. I love dancing at discotheques and stay up late, can't go to bed early. Everything was so nice, but several hours after I arrived back in Kyiv. I heard on the news that there had been a devastating earthquake, quite near from where I had stayed... And New York night clubs are great - live music for all tastes. I enjoyed one club immensely where a black singer was singing the blues... But work singing is best rest for me. Often enough after a show I go to the music studio for a recording session rather than home to sleep. I feel my voice sounds best at night.
Q: Do you like buying clothes for yourself?
A: Oh, I just love doing that! I enjoy window shopping, too, and I like trying things on. At any place I visit just must buy a new garment.
Q: There must be quite a collection in your possession now. Have you ever thought of putting some of your clothes on auction?
: That's an interesting idea, I'll think about it. The things I stopped liking I usually give to people as gifts.

Yuriy Falyosa and Ani Lorak.

I keep only those outfits that I wear at concerts or those that have some sentimental value for me.
: When you are not on a tour, do you cook at home? And what do you do to stay fit?
A: I like cooking, some of my cooking is much better than at any restaurant. I don't restrict myself in the food I eat: cakes, meal, anything. The Ukrainian borshch (a sort of beat soup with many other things in it) I cook is my favorite dish. But every day, right after I get up I do my exercises. Also, I devote some time to what I call "a spiritual boost" - I stand in front of a mirror, smile at myself and tell myself that I'm strong and can and will do a lot and achieve a lot. Then, I take a cold shower. Perks you up so much. Feeling fit and unrestrained is very important to me. Maybe that's why I don't like wearing pants, I buy them mostly from Cialiano, Dolce and Gabano. But I also have some of my clothes made to measure. My couturier in Kyiv is Oleksandr Hapchuk. I like the style and colours he offers. Bright and fresh. You've just got to shine bright while you are young.
: If you had not become a popular singer, what would you do in life?
A: I could not be anything else but a singer. I was born like that.

Ani LORAK talked wish Heorhiy-Hryhoriy PYLYPENKO,
a Welcome to Ukraine correspondent
Photos by Oleksandr KTYTORCHUK,. by courtesy of Escar-Studio