Do they like me only because of my face?
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160104 The Paper interview
The first time we interviewed Kris Wu Yi Fan was when he had just returned to China, presenting himself with the politeness and reserve of a rookie. The second time we interviewed him was during the premiere of his movie Mr Six which he acted in. This time he was completely different, like the piercing gleam of an unsheathed sword.
The first time he saw Kris Wu, Stephen Chow wondered if this refined and unassuming boy would have an idol “packaging”. Kris Wu demonstrated his acting abilities with two performances to prove his skill, thereby earning a guest appearance spot in Stephen Chow’s new movie <Mermaid>.
Upon seeing a staff enters the room with a bag of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Kris Wu’s eyes lit up and he said, “KFC! Really suited to my taste!” Watching others help themselves to the food but being not able to as he had yet to continue on with the interview, he could only swallow back his saliva. “It’s too tempting…”
“Don’t you have to maintain your figure?” Our reporter asked. “Recently I have been working out, I haven’t been controlling my weight intentionally, they always say that, you’re an idol, you have to control (your weight)…” Kris Wu eyed the chicken and grabbed the front of his shirt saying, “I merely say I try to as much as possible, as much as possible… But, people all have to eat, even more so with a foodie like me, if you don’t let me eat, I won’t be very happy…”
In February 2015, Kris Wu’s first movie <Somewhere Only We Know> premiered and was doing promotions, Kris Wu had worn an oversized coat, along with his neatly styled bangs. In the movie he played the role of a rich and handsome cellist. At that time, reporters mostly knew of him as a “little fresh meat”, and the questions were centered on, “You’re so handsome, what is your biggest worry?”
In December 2015 after the 4th <Mr Six> promotional roadshow stop in Shanghai, Kris Wu appeared almost bare faced, taking off his hat, tight-fitting jacket and Chelsea boots, then putting on a sports brand down leather jacket over his black tee and slipping into a pair of sports shoes and leaving after that. He was not particular about it. Sitting comfortably on the sofa with his arm on the armrest, thinking back on it, he seemed like a relaxed koala.
His eyes, nose, lips are still him, but it is because of his inner self-confidence that shines outwards, that gives the illusion that he has transformed.
“After <Mr Six> premiered, more and more people started calling me “Xiao Fei”, and I was really happy! Because they had started to not only like me as a person, but my character as well!” Kris Wu said it in a sincere manner, unable to hold back his excitement.
“It’s been a long time since we last met, I’m old already.” Kris Wu half-jokingly expressed. Actually 10 months is not a long time, it’s just that time passed by especially quickly, and he has progressed faster than time – in 2015, he filmed 7 movies, attended fashion week, became a music producer, and recently was reported to be acting in internationally acclaimed director Luc Besson’s new movie <Valerian>.
<Mr Six> is the second movie Kris Wu acts in, he plays the role of a young man, Xiao Fei who appears to be rebellious but has the spirit of brotherhood in his heart, someone reminiscent of A Fei from the <Xiaoli Feidao> series. In Guan Hu’s eyes Kris Wu is like that too, although he is filial in front of his mother, there is a hidden wilder side to him. “If you were to merely take him as an idol, it would really be a waste.”
Guan Hu asked Li Yifeng, the other lead actor of <Mr Six>: “Do you Southern kids have no blood-thirst?” We asked Kris Wu the same question, and successfully “ignited” his passion: “I have to disagree, I’m rather bloodthirsty when it comes to playing basketball, if the opponent plays really dirty, then I would be as wound up as him.” We almost forgot that this boy, who was born in Guangzhou, went to Canada at 10, and won first place at 15 in the NBA Youth Championships Southern China region, previously had the dream of becoming a professional basketball player.
By chance he entered the entertainment industry, but he has the “best” resources amongst actors of the same age group: after returning to China for a year, Kris Wu has gained the opportunity to work with Xu Jinglei, Guan Hu, Feng Xiaogang, Stephen Chow, Tsui Hark, Luc Besson and others directors. During the transition from idol-type artiste to a producer-type artiste, change was inevitable – the swearing and smoking in <Mr Six> was merely the beginning. He then acted in <Journey to the West: Demon Chapter> directed by Tsui Hark and produced by Stephen Chow, where he shaved off his hair and gained weight for the role, dressed shabbily in the movie and had been hit till he was “flying all over the place”.
His personality is showcased in his fashion choices, for example his hairstyle with slanted bangs for Paris Fashion Week, his purple wig at the airport, his love for hip hop culture, besides writing lyrics which showcased a variety of internet slang terms in <Bad Girl>, he said that “(Being) trendy is to accept yourself before others approve of you.” and added, “I’m experimenting on myself.”
Kris Wu is extremely clear that these unconventional, “strange” ways have attracted curious onlookers, and would hurt some of the fans who like him because of his idol appearance. But his choice is “not to give in, remaining completely steadfast.” and doing what he feels is right. “I only have one way of thinking, which is hoping that I will be able to try out different things. I have never felt that I have to stand out, but at the very least I have to be someone with my own distinct personality, (to be) someone I can admire myself.”
“I’m a straightforward person, if I don’t like it I won’t do it, even no matter how much money you give me, I would not want to do it. There were many of such instances in the past, which I all refused, even my mother said, could you not be so direct.” Kris Wu rubbed the back of his head with his palm out of habit, laughing. “But this is me at me most sincere form, I believe that many people like me because I’m different from others in a way, I stick to my own personality, and this is part of why they like me.”
1990-born Kris Wu gave his explanation of Xiao Fei’s “bad” appearance: “His rebelliousness is due to his family background. He is from Hunan, and went to Beijing with his family. He’s very wealthy but is severely lacking in love and care, and he’s also very into the ways of “brotherhood”. What can he do, he raced cars, found women, gathered a bunch of bros, and formed a so-called “brotherhood”.”
“I’m different from Xiao Fei.” Kris Wu shrugged his shoulders. “When I was in middle school, the most I did was skip lessons, and when I left home it was only for a few hours, returning back quietly later on. I wasn’t as rebellious as Xiao Fei, because, I wasn’t as rich as him.” During late nights in Vancouver, many young people would race their own modified cars in mountainous areas by the light of the moon, many of whom were Chinese. “Honestly, if I had a good car I would have a high possibility of being one of them, I didn’t have one, it was the circumstances of life that fortunately held me back. I also wished I could drift, but my car would not be able to take it. If my car were to drift, its wheels would come flying off.”
Kris Wu contributed his own clothes and accessories towards making Xiao Fei’s outward appearance. Many people felt that his overseas experience when he was younger, coupled with his fashion sense, gave him the appearance of a wealthy second-generation young person. Upon hearing this, Kris Wu thought it was funny. “This is a pleasant misunderstanding. When I was young my dream was to have a car of my own, but all along I shared the same car with my mother, and now I don’t have the chance to. It’s not expensive to purchase a car overseas, but our family conditions couldn’t allow us to, at times our lives were really hard.”
“Can you believe that before I was 18, I was really tanned, 20 times more tanned than I am now. Carrying a bag full of basketballs, wearing sports attire from head to toe, always in shorts, not even owning a pair of jeans. Only at the age of 18 did I start to take note of trendy clothing.” Kris Wu pointed at his arms and said they used to be really muscular, upon seeing the reporter’s look of disbelief, his mood dipped, saying, “It’s true, I’d be a dog if I were lying to you.”
How was it going to Vancouver to study at the age of 10, for a kid that was not extroverted?
“I learned to be patient and face living independently.”
“In the beginning I would live at my mother’s friend’s place, and I was very lonely. Every night I would think of my mother and cry. Aunt’s (mother’s friend) son was older than me by almost 8 years, and had already been living in Vancouver for many years. His English was good and he had many friends, and I felt that he was someone of a different league.” Later on Kris Wu lived with his mother, but because of work reasons she had to frequently return to China, and during the school term 13, 14 year old Kris Wu had to live alone. Before she left, his mother would stock up a month’s worth of provisions, and he would grill steak on his own. “I would cook till it’s well done; at times even when it wasn’t thoroughly cooked I would eat it.”
The experiences of transferring have taught Kris Wu “not to cause inconvenience to others”. After his 16th birthday, he attained his driver’s license. “At that time my school was rather far away from my home, and I felt bad for my mother who had to constantly drive me to school. So I told her, you don’t have to send me any more, in the future I would drive on my own.”
“If you hadn’t brought up these experiences I would’ve soon forgotten them.” Kris Wu laughed, as there were far more joyful memories he had, such as completing mandatory cleaning duties in middle school, also for the sake of earning some pocket money to buy snacks, getting a cup of bubble tea from the milk tea shop, or driving out alone. Kris Wu has worked in a KTV (karaoke entertainment establishment), and done dishwashing and waitering at a restaurant(s) in the past. “Once when I was waitering at a KTV, there was a beautiful lady who had just entered, we all had to hold trays and stand in order, and do our welcome greetings in an extremely polite manner. The moment I raised my head, the glass (es) fell off and shattered into pieces on the ground.”
Kris Wu was young but mature, and had set himself “rules”. There were many 15, 16 year old students studying abroad who, during summer vacation when their parents returned to China, would begin to party without restraint in KTVs or bars, but Kris Wu would not get involved, clearly stating that: “I matured earlier, I understand the consequences, and know what’s what. There are many things whereby understanding it will be sufficient, there is no need to experience it. I understood but did not carry out any actions, this was my rule.”
There are many rich Chinese people, it’s easy to lose one’s (direction in life), I strongly advise parents that if they intend to let their children pursue further education abroad, it would be best to send them overseas before they are 15. This is because when a child already has a set of deeply instilled values, when he or she enters their rebellious years, they would find it hard to integrate into the society and only stick to Chinese people, and it would be hard for them to learn like what their parents intended them to do.
“Honestly, when I first went to Korean it was merely to live, or should I say, make a living.” Kris Wu brought up that period of experience himself, to the surprise of others. “Foreigners (people from Western culture) basically raise their kids with freedom to do as they wish, after graduating from high school; you should go out into the world, no matter how wealthy our family is we will not give you a cent. I have to mention that, my mother raised me in this way.” Kris Wu said that when he was 18, he would often get “nagged” at by his mother, “Look, others’ sons are doing so well…“ This all got instilled in me and gave me a ‘mountain of stresses’. I would get frustrated too, (telling her) “Do not talk about it any more”, but I would remember, that at 18, boys ought to be independent.”
After that was the old story that I accompanied a friend for an audition but ended up getting accepted instead. The Korean company’s terms were that accommodation and food were all inclusive, thinking that he could ease his mother’s financial burden, Kris Wu bit the bullet and left. Korea has a holistic star-training system, in which he was one of its screws. Coming from relaxed Vancouver to fast-paced Seoul, it was the first time he experienced the harshness and intensity of competition in society.
“Many people gave up their all, (with the mentality that) “I definitely have to be a celebrity in this lifetime”, (but) I was not like them, I wasn’t a child star, my understanding of the entertainment industry was zilch, other than occasionally singing with friends at KTV, I was totally clueless about dancing, and acting even more so.“ During his first two years, Kris Wu totally did not know what he was doing, he just mechanically practiced, sang and danced. “I told myself, no matter what, I couldn’t give up, I didn’t even have my studies (to fall back on) anymore, if I gave up halfway and returned to Vancouver, won’t it be very embarrassing?
“It was only during around the time of the second year that I started to have the longing to be onstage, to present something of my own to the audience, and gradually I began to understand the entertainment industry as well as artistes… At that time, I slowly realised that I wanted to become a celebrity.”
In 2012, 22 year old Kris Wu debuted as a member of EXO. During his second year of debut, the group’s first fill length album <XOXO> sold over a million copies, sweeping the awards for major ceremonies, and everything had gone smoothly far beyond expectations.
Kris Wu never avoided talking about his younger self which had wanted “superficial recognition” in the past. “At that time I didn’t know anything, I just wanted to become an idol, just wanted to stand onstage, to be liked by many fans, wasn’t that very good? But, this state of happiness lasted only about a year, then I felt that it wasn’t right, my life was too empty.
It feels like what they like is merely “Kris Wu (is) handsome, handsome, handsome…” Kris Wu repeated this thrice, gesturing as well, “When “handsome” becomes one’s only label, it makes me really frustrated, do you know that?”
Our reporter, having followed this popular star for a day, could more or less understand the feeling of being the focus of everyone’s attention, starting from the point Kris Wu walked out of the airport, fans hired seven cars, each car containing over ten people, tailing him closely. What was most memorable was a male fan who appeared at all four roadshow stops, and called out his name at the same moment each time.
“At that time, whenever I received letters from fans, the content would always be, Kris Wu, I support you, I like you, you’re so handsome. I was perplexed, did they like me only because of my face?” Kris Wu calmly recounted, “The conditions at that time did not allow me to make my own music, and I could only showcase my voice through rapping. I’m not good at especially coordinated or high difficulty level dances, I was tall, was not as nimble-footed as others, and was better at hip hop and street style of dances.”
“I needed to find something of my own, and finally, I decided to start with fashion. I could not choreograph my own versions of dances, could not choose, produce and sing the songs by myself, but, I could wear the clothes that I wanted to, right?” Kris Wu then started to pay more attention to his “airport fashion”, showing his outfits in the only way that he could express himself to the world, where he need not have a uniform image with the rest of the group.
After close to a year of paying attention to his airport fashion, finally came the day where Kris Wu received a fan letter which said, “I really like you because of your style.” “Finally, (a letter) which did not mention that I was handsome.” Kris Wu let out a relieved laugh. “From then on, I felt that I had a additional layer to myself.”
“After returning to China, I could write and compose my own music, perform my own works, become a producer myself, and slowly progress to become a musician. At the same time, acting is an interest of mine which has come about after entering the industry, and I have gradually started to get ahold of it. I hope that I will gain more titles, (and as for) music, films and fashion, I would abandon neither of the three. It would be hard to strike a balance this way, I would be very tired, but I feel that it will be worth it. I am at the age where I must do my best, no matter how tired I am I must still persevere; this is a vow from me to the people who like me.”
Source The Paper
English Trans by Becca