Karaoke in Parangtritis, Yogyakarta, is not just entertainment; it is an economic lifeline. Roughly 247 Lady Companions (LCs) work in around 50 karaoke venues. No specific requirements to become one. Only a valid ID (KTP) and being above 18 years of age. The rest is determined by the Karaoke Association or Paguyuban.

True to their name, “companions,” LCs are tasked with accompanying guests with hospitality, from pouring drinks to singing along.

“I’ve been on my own since I was 14… I had to drop out of high school in the first year because of economic reasons,” said Cinta, one of those working as an LC to support herself and her family. Her lack of a high school diploma makes it challenging to find a job that offers a sufficient income.

Being an LC is not easy. Many wrongly associated it as prostitutes, causing confusion on boundaries, like getting contacted by guests after hours or facing the anger of the guest’s legal wife. There are health risks too, such as the potential for “stomach rupture” due to excessive alcohol consumption, as some guests prefer LCs to drink alcohol. That is why Cinta wants to switch careers after saving enough and realize her dream to own a boarding house.

Cinta’s story is just one of the many tales of people striving to make a living in challenging circumstances. Hidden behind the smiles and karaoke tunes, there are stories never been heard.