Walks of Fame is a monthly column where we profile a famous individual from China (or of Chinese heritage) that you should know more about. This month, we introduce you to “Jackson Wang from China.”
If you had to choose between the opportunity to compete in the Olympics and the chance to be a K-pop star, which one would you pick? Jackson Wang chose the latter, and his decision paid off, to say the least.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Wang is one of today’s most influential international pop stars. The 27-year-old is a singer, rapper, dancer, and host who has more than 26 million followers on Instagram and 30 million on Weibo.
Wang has also made waves in the fashion industry as the creative director of his own label, Team Wang. Moreover, in June 2021, he was appointed as the spokesperson in Greater China for the Italian luxury brand Fendi’s Men’s Collection.
Frequently introducing himself as “Jackson Wang from China,” Wang formed the hip hop group Panthepack to create music showcasing Chinese culture.
So, what’s the story behind the mega pop star Jackson Wang? Well, it turns out Wang’s life and career have been an eclectic journey, from fencing prodigy to K-pop idol to wildly successful solo performer.
Wang grew up in a sporty family. His dad, Wang Ruiji, is a former member of the Chinese national fencing team who competed in the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics, and his mom, Sophia Chow, is a world-class gymnast.
Unsurprisingly, the young Wang was good at sports. At the age of 16, he became a fencer for Hong Kong’s official junior fencing team, and he competed in the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics. Stanford University even offered him a generous scholarship and invited the promising fencer to join its fencing team.
However, sports were not the only thing Wang enjoyed.
According to an interview published by Forbes, music played a crucial role in his life during his time fencing. For example, to hype himself up, Wang listened to music before every tournament.
“See, this is the thing about music. It changes my emotion from time to time,” Wang told Forbes.
An opportunity to be part of the music industry came when he was 16, when he caught the eye of the casting team for the South Korean talent agency JYP Entertainment.
Impressively, the young fencer nailed the company’s global audition and made the bold decision to pursue a music career, despite already having a bright path ahead in sports.
According to an interview with BigBoyTV (yes, that is the real name of a real platform), Wang told his parents, “I want to do music. I think I should just give everything up.”
Though his parents were skeptical initially, they eventually supported his decision.
“I don’t want to be an 80-year-old telling my grandkids that your grandpa used to have this chance, or could have done that,” Wang said to BigBoyTV. “I don’t want to regret.”
In 2011, Wang moved to South Korea and started his training at JYP, where he learned singing, dancing, and rapping. He soon found out, however, that he would have to survive weekly evaluations to stay with the company.
Surrounded by talented trainees, Wang initially felt out of place coming from an athletic background. Nonetheless, he was determined to stand out and worked extremely hard in the training process.
“If they are doing 10 push-ups or 10 dance movements, I’ve got to do 100,” Wang told BigboyTV.
After two and a half years’ training, he eventually debuted as a member of the boy group Got7.
But to stick out in the competitive Korean music industry, he soon realized that “the only chance for me — for any foreigner — was variety show[s],” the star told Forbes.
And it turned out that, in addition to being good at sports and music, the rising star also has an impeccable sense of humor, which helped Wang to thrive on Korean variety shows.
In fact, people loved his personality so much that he became an in-demand variety star, appearing on famous Korean programs such as Weekly Idol, Law of the Jungle, and Roommate.
However, making people laugh wasn’t exactly what Wang hoped to be known for. He wanted to be recognized for his music rather than as a TV humorist.
“I had too much [sic] variety shows. It almost got up to a point where I thought, ‘People, they’re not taking me seriously,’” Wang said to Forbes.
He added that “if I kept doing variety shows, I’d make loads of money. But it’s not what I want.”
To focus on his music career, in 2017, Wang formed his brand Team Wang, a record label that focuses on music, production, and artist management.
With the birth of Team Wang, he spent half of his time in Korea with Got7 and the other half exploring his passion for music as a solo artist in China.
“For a group, you got seven people [in Got7]. The color of the group is like a rainbow,” Wang said to BigBoyTV, “I really want to focus on my own color.”
In 2017, he released “Papillon” as Team Wang’s very first release and his first solo single. “Papillon” was an instant hit — ranking number one on China’s music streaming platform QQ music for five consecutive days.
Two years later, the rapper released his first English album, Mirrors, which placed No. 32 on Billboard 200 for a week in November 2019, becoming the highest-charting debut ever from a Chinese artist.
Wang has also expanded his influence to the music industry in the U.S. In collaboration with 88rising, an American company that strives to elevate Asian artists, he has worked with many other musicians, including Indonesian singer Stephanie Poetri. Their song “I Love You 3000 II” has been streamed more than 57 million times on Spotify.
With his solo career in China, Wang also had the opportunity to explore his creativity beyond music.
In addition, Team Wang launched its first monochromatic collection, “Cookies-Original,” in 2020, consisting of a series of all-black apparel with the label’s logo printed on each piece.
“I always have the vision of trying to beat the previous me every time — with every release,” Wang told Elle about his fashion design career.
Besides fashion and music, Wang further explored the world of dancing. As one of the captains in the third season of the hit dance battle TV show Street Dance of China, he led a group of Chinese hip hop dancers and was frequently applauded for his choreography skills.
With his influence across the realms of music, fashion, and dance, Wang has a new goal in mind: showcasing Chinese culture to the world.
“I’m very proud that I’m Chinese, [and] I’m proud that I’m Asian,” he told Elle in 2020. “As much as I love learning about other cultures, I love sharing mine, and I hope people can relate and see [such a] body of work in the market.”
Wang created the hip hop group Panthepack last year under Team Wang, a troupe comprised of Wang and three other members — Karencici, J. Sheon, and ICE. The group debuted in October 2021 with the single “Gut Feeling” and a mission to highlight Chinese contemporary music culture.
Wang said in an interview with Bandwagon Asia, “The whole idea of the group is that we’re just four pandas who want to make a change in music.”
We look forward to seeing more changes from “Jackson Wang from China” in the future.
Cover photo via Depositphotos
Chinese New Year has become a time for huge domestic box office receipts. This year, ‘Full River Red’ and ‘The Wandering Earth 2’ are the hottest releases Read More
If you find yourself in the northern hemisphere this time of year, the weather could be fierce. To help lift your spirit and warm your soul, we’ve rounded up a rad selection of new music releases from China! Read More
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a significant shift in the way we consume food. Watch More
Former designer turned food blogger Frankie Gaw explores his Taiwanese American heritage and identity in his debut cookbook ‘First Generation’ Read More