Every star has to begin somewhere. For a select few, it is a slow, arduous ascension towards an elusive moment known as their “big break”. For the luckier few, claims to fame usually occur in a meteoric way, like that of Taiwanese celebrity and singer, Vanness Wu, who escalated to superstardom when he was scouted at the gym to become one of the F4 members in the successful drama series, Meteor Garden.
Wu has become a household name in Asia through his role as Mei Zuo in the aforementioned drama serial, despite acting having never been his creative discipline of choice. He was born and raised in California before making the decision to relocate to Taiwan in pursuit his childhood dreams with a career in music, carrying only $1,200 and a set of demo tapes.
The obvious struggles came into play and Wu nearly gave up, if not for his mother’s caution for him to remain determined. Mothers know best after all, and Wu’s transformation into an Asian phenomenon overnight was concrete proof.
Though thankful for the success, it didn’t particularly make the starlet happy. “I wasn’t doing what I really wanted to do, which was music. When we finally got around to doing music and recording albums, it wasn’t the kind of music I was truly passionate about. I was I a boy band with three other guys who didn’t like to sing and dance. So being someone who only wanted to sing and dance, it was hell.”
Six years on, a 28 year-old Wu fulfilled his contractual obligations with his management company and made the revolutionary decision to staunchly pursue the music and image he wanted to embody. The then-jaded actor declined a re-sign with his management, and eventually landed a contract with Universal Music.
His career has since taken a path with more passion and artistic integrity than he experienced in his younger days. Wu has released two albums with Universal, one of which saw him collaborating with Bruno Mars and Ryan Tedder before their careers accelerated in a similar fashion. He has also worked with millennial music idols, Beyoncé and Kanye West.
His focus has lately shifted slightly towards acting, with an upcoming film called The Monk in the works alongside writing his next album, both bringing Wu an immense sense of accomplishment. “Writing an album takes time,” he shares. “Acting is also something I love doing. It goes both ways, really. It [his next album] is an album I have a lot of freedom with and that has allowed me to take it back to a genre I love, which is funk and pop. Music is everything. It literally transcends all language and boundaries.”
For more of the interview with Vanness Wu, look to the June/July issue of Men’s Folio, now out in newsstands.