Faye Wong Biography
Faye Wong, or Wang Fei (Chinese: ; pinyin: Wang F?i) (born August 8, 1969 in Beijing) is an extremely popular singer in Asia, especially in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and to some extent in the West.
She is believed by critics and fans alike to be the most commercially and artistically distinguished female vocalist in recent Chinese music history, with a following so large and devoted that media in Hong Kong Taiwan and mainland China often place the title ti?nhou, (??; roughly translated as Heavenly Queen) before her name while Japanese fans call her "Diva of Asia". Shy and intensely private, she is one of the very few people widely popular on both sides of the Taiwan straits despite her aggressive avoidance of the media. According to the Guinness World Records, she has sold 9.7 millons copies of all her albums as of March 2000, earning her the title of the best selling canto-pop female. Not only openly admired by well-known celebrities around the world, her fashion in movie roles has had her labeled a gay icon among the gay community. She has acted in several TV shows and films, most memorably in Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express, a role that garnered her international acclaim, as well as the award for "Best Actress" at the 1994 Stockholm International Film Festival; and her most recent movie 2046, starring as an android and one of Tony Leung's love interests. She is known not only to many Final Fantasy fans for her Final Fantasy VIII theme "Eyes On Me", but also as the spokeswoman of such brands as Head & Shoulders shampoo and Pepsi-Cola. She was chosen by Zhang Yimou to record the theme song for the critically acclaimed film Hero.
Born in Beijing, People's Republic of China, she was originally named Xia Lin (??), adopting her mother's maiden name because the Wong family was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution (her grandfather was once a congressman for the Republic of China). At the age of 15, several years after the turmoil ended, her name was changed to Wong Fei (??). She inherited a talent for music from her mother, who was a soprano, and recorded several low-cost albums in high school covering the songs of Teresa Teng, her personal idol.
In 1987, she moved with her family to Hong Kong and began her musical career after a brief stint as a model. She signed a contract with Cinepoly and released three albums under the stage name Shirley Wong (???, pinyin Wang Jingwen). Containing a large number of covers of songs by artists from the US and Japan, these albums attracted little attention and a lukewarm response from critics. Frustrated with her career direction, she decided to take some time off in 1991 and travel to New York for vocal studies and cultural exchange. This brief hiatus would prove to be important for her artistic development.
During her absence, Cinepoly released a few compilations repackaging songs from her three albums, thereby keeping her somewhat visible at the record stores.
In 1993-95, an EP was also released annually: Like Wind (??), Faye Disc (??), and One Person, Two Roles (??????). Then in 1996-97, Faye took a break of her songwriting talents for a while and sang ten original songs in Cantonese all written by lyricist Lin Xi and various composers, such as Wong Ka Keung, Adrian Chan, and Chan Xiao Xia, before her departure from Cinepoly. Afterwards, she decided not to release Cantonese albums in future. Under these circumstances, the company published eight of these songs in the next two EPs entitled Toy (??) and Help Yourself (??). Although the EPs contained new songs and were welcomed by fans, they received cool critical responses. The other two songs were included in later compilations; the last to be released was Scary (????) in 2002.
Ever since her rise to fame, Wong had been frequently cooperating with musicians back in Beijing's rock circle. She consequently fell in love with fellow Beijinger Dou Wei, her musical partner and a prominent musician/rock star in his own right. One morning, Hong Kong paparazzi captured a picture of her dumping a chamber pot with disarrayed hair and sleepy eyes in a slummy neighbourhood. This photo caused a stir in the HK entertainment industry in whose eyes the contrast between her diva status in Hong Kong and a life in a small, shabby, less than sanitary house in Beijing was quite astonishing. Many from then on saw Wong as a woman who would sacrifice anything for love. In June 1996, after being pregnant for several months, she finally married Dou.
Their daughter, Dou Jingtong (???, lit. meaning "child of Dou and Jing" [from Wong's first stage name Jingwen]) was born on January 3, 1997. The baby's voice appears in the song "Tong" on the 1998 album Scenic Tour (??), as well as the title track of the album Only Love Strangers (?????) released in 1999.
However, the paparazzi, particularly those from Hong Kong, were the first to detect alienation between the two, especially during Wong's concert tour of Japan in March 1999. Several days later, they caught Dou with another woman inside a restaurant in Beijing. Asked who she was, Dou immediately answered, "She is Gao Yuan (??). My lover". Wong was already famous in the mainland by 1999, so this news caused a shock in the entertainment industry across the Chinese-speaking world. Due to the relatively conservative social values in Chinese society, overwhelming media coverage appeared, ferociously condemning Dou's infidelity. Reports and rumours were flying around, including one that said Gao admitted she and Dou had been lovers for years and had never really separated even after the wedding. Wong's enormous group of multinational fans maintained relentless attacks on Dou for a long time. However, he declared that all had been set up by Wong's agent and company from the very beginning. Their friends in the Beijing music circle also declined to comment. On the other hand, Wong remained silent and secluded during the whole time and never talked about it in public later on, with a few exceptions when she mentioned the future life of her daughter, whom she won custody of after the following divorce.
Wong signed with the recording industry magnate EMI in 1997 after her daughter was born, at a price of (according to the media) 60 million Hong Kong dollars (appox. 7.7 million US dollars) for 55 songs to be released in 5 albums. While most of her earlier albums prior to 1996 were sung in Cantonese, Wong has sung almost exclusively in Mandarin, her mother tongue, ever since. Although the Mandarin market, which includes mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore, is a much larger market than the Cantonese one, Faye also recorded Cantonese versions of a couple of the songs in each of the last four albums with EMI in order to retain her Hong Kong audience. Having gone through a stage of experimentation, Wong stated that she wished to produce "music that I like. I do not care if others don't, though I would be delighted if they do".
In her first public romantic relationship after her failed marriage, Wong took up with Hong Kong singer and actor, Nicholas Tse, whose reputation at the time was the town's leading "bad boy" celebrity. While this May-December romance (Wong is 11 years his senior) delighted local tabloids and gossip magazines, which first reported the affair in June 2000, Wong's protective fan base were decidedly confused and upset over this new relationship. Many felt that Tse was not good enough for her, and voiced concerns he would betray her in the end.
Her fans' suspicions were confirmed in March 2002 when local news media reported that Tse had been secretly romancing Hong Kong actress and singer, Cecilia Cheung, who is also 11 years younger than Wong. Not long after this affair become public did Tse sever his ties with Wong and his career suffered because of it. However, after Tse's romance with Cheung ended only months later in July 2002, Wong and Tse resumed their on-again, off-again relationship to the great dismay of her fans, until she met her current husband, actor Li Yapeng, in 2003.
While she was under contract with EMI and later Sony, she performed in the ensemble movie 2046 which has been in production since 1999 and finally wrapped in the mid-2000s. She performed at fundraising concerts to benefit various charities, including ones that helped those who suffered from AIDS and SARS. She sung on tracks with other celebrities such as Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Anita Mui, and Aaron Kwok. She also starred in a Japanese TV serial, Usokoi, and the film Leaving Me Loving You, with Leon Lai. Meanwhile, her former record companies released several more compilations and box sets of her records (EMI only released a few).
She recorded several solo, non-album tracks, such as the eponymous hit theme song to Hero and a Buddhist song containing similar sounds to some of her work on her album Impatience. In addition, she recorded a recitation of the Heart Sutra.
Relying on photos and other sources, the press reported that she began dating and became subsequently engaged to actor Li Yapeng. It remained a mere rumor to some until their wedding in 2005. Around the time of the wedding, her manager confirmed that she might retire from singing and acting. Later that year, her Hong Kong agent confirmed that Wong was pregnant with the couple's child, her second after daughter Dou Jingtong, whom she had with her previous husband. Li has said that he will support whatever decision his wife makes with regards to her musical career.
On May 27th, 2006, Wong gave birth to her second daughter, Li Yan (??, lit. meaning "captivating"), by caesarean section at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital. Through unidentified sources, media outlets soon began to speculate if the the baby had a congenital condition. In order to curtail media scrutiny on their celebrity friends, Li wrote a thousand-word public online letter, "Thanks (??)", on his Sina.com blog. It sought to end the media frenzy and to explain their feelings on the situation, while serving as an outlet for their gratitude toward the concerned fans and friends. He stated that the family is currently seeking medical care in California for the baby's cleft lip, because the special kind of reconstructive surgeries Li Yan needs are not widely available in China. Li also described his daughter as a special child, with her cleft lip as a mark of an angel. The letter ends with their wish to establish a charity fund for children with similiar conditions as Li Yan.
Recently, she put in an acclaimed turn as a robot experiencing its first emotions in Wong Kar-wai's art-house success, 2046.
The focus of Faye Wong's concerts has always been on her vocal performance. She seldom dances or speaks to the audience, and there are generally no supporting dancers. One exception to the latter was during the song "Tempt Me" in the 1994-95 live concerts, when Faye and a line of male dancers were menaced by a giant mechanical spider overhead.
Another trademark is her unconventional fashion on stage. Her 1994 concerts were memorable for dreadlocks and extremely long sleeves, as well as for the silver-painted tears. Her 1998 concerts saw her sporting the "burnt" cheek makeup, the "indian chief" look, and the soleless strap-on boots. At the start of her 2003 concerts her headgear was topped by an inverted shoe supporting a very long feather, and her makeup for that concert went through several changes of painted eye-shades.
Encores are non-existent in Faye's concerts. Since her release of Miyuki Nakajima's "Mortal World" (??) in 1997, she has always ended her concerts with this song while shaking hands with the audience, then taking a deep bow to a horizontal position before leaving the stage. She usually exits by sinking below the stage via a platform.
She has given concerts in North America and Australia as well as many venues in East and Southeast Asia , including charity concerts. The key features of her three major series of concerts are set out below.