Asian-pop sensation, Taiwan-based American artist VanNess Wu is a Different Man. Although he had once reveled in promiscuity, his conversion to Christianity after meeting Chinese-American pastor Jaeson Ma and a seemingly coincidental event led to his submission to God’s will and renouncing pre-marital sex. His new album “Different Man” released in June revolves around the concept of love and explains his journey of transformation from a “despicable” man to one motivated by true love.
Born in Santa Monica, Calif., VanNess, 34, first worked as a telemarketer after graduating from high school. He returned to his parent’s birth place Taiwan in search of a new life. In 2002, his role in the hit drama series Meteor Garden brought him fame and worldly success. In 2009, he performed in Autumn's Concerto, which is one of the highest rating Taiwanese Idol Drama.
VanNess is also an avid dancer, singer, and music producer. He has collaborated with Korean singer Kangta, former H.O.T. member, to produce the album, Scandal, and is featured on singles by Beyoncé, Coco Lee, and Sammi Cheng. He has also collaborated with other Chinese artists including Wang Leehom, and performed alongside with Kanye West, for his Glow In The Dark Tour in Shanghai. His third Chinese solo album C'est La "V", released in July 2011, features international artists like OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder and Bruno Mars.
VanNess shared with The Gospel Herald in an exclusive interview his conversion experience to Christianity and the impact that it had on him and his career in the entertainment industry.
The following is an unedited text of the interview with Van Ness Wu:
GH: Can you briefly share with us how did you end up going from raised in Los Angeles to becoming a pop-star in Asia?
VanNess: It all came from the love to dance. I started dancing when I was 13 and ever since then the excitement of being on stage and the high you get from the interactions from the crowd took over. I was in a few groups before I actually made the move to Asia. I guess they were the training grounds for what was to come. God gave me the talent to dance, and from dancing came singing and acting. So for me personally it all started from dancing. Dancing literally saved my life.
GH: You’ve turned down rapper Kanye West’s invitation to perform with him in China in order to perform at the Taipei Franklin Graham Evangelistic Festival in 2009. Can you share with us what happened and what was going through your mind at that time?
VanNess: I have received an invite to perform for Kanye’s concert in Beijing and Shanghai (I forgot what month) I accepted the invitation with such excitement and gratitude to God for blessing me with this opportunity. Soon after agreeing to open for Kanye, I was invited to perform and share my testimony at the Franklin Graham Festival. I was pretty nervous because it was actually my first time attending and speaking at Church events. But I was honored and accepted the invitation. A few weeks later the promoters from Kanye’s concert, said that the permits didn’t go through so they have to postpone the date to November. It turns that the Beijing show is the exact day as the Franklin Graham Festival. You could imagine my dilemma after fully committing my life to the Lord I thought WOW this is awesome, God is so good, He’s brining things I had long forgotten about, that were on my heart. Cause I remember watching Kanye performing in Hong Kong a year ago prior and thought to myself it would be cool to perform with him one day. So to hear that the dates were the same was very confusing. I was asking God, why would He bless me with something just to take it away?
I asked some friends for advice and my Pastor what I should do. Friends told me to take the concert of course, (even Church friends) my Pastor said it’s okay to do the concert if that’s what I wanted to do. To just do whatever I felt was in my heart. I decided to just pray about it, and during my prayer time, God spoke to me. I heard the word commitment. I had already made a commitment to the Church and to God. So I prayed that the promoters would be okay with me just performing in Shanghai and skipping Beijing. (Normally it would be easier for them to have one act following so it’s less complicated.)
While I was praying I said God I understand what I must do, You know my heart better than me, I would love to do the concert, but I made a commitment which I’m going to honor. It would be great to do both but if they don’t want me to perform, it’s okay. Because I have You. So the next day I told the promoters that I wouldn’t be able to make Beijing but would still love to perform in Shanghai. I’m sure they thought I was nuts, turning down this opportunity like this. They told me they needed to discuss and get back to me. A week later… they told me they would still love for me to come. I traveled from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China within 4 days. It was tiring but a great experience mentally, physically and spiritually overall.
GH: In recent years, many celebrities in sports, entertainment, and business fields have publically declared their faith in Christ. Their testimonies have changed lives. What caused your transformation and how has it changed your life?
VanNess: At the end of 07 my management contract with my agency was coming to an end. And honestly at that time I was pretty lost of who I was, what I was doing and wanted to do with my life. I was approached by several other agencies, but I thought to myself, is this what I want? To be told what to do for the rest of my life? Because look where it got me… confused and lost more so than when I first came to Asia. I mean, I came to Asia in hopes to pursue a music career, but ended doing acting first instead. (Which has been something I wanted to do as well, but later on) Don’t get me wrong, I really cherish the time I had doing the television dramas, and the whole boy band thing. But I felt stuck at times, because I love to dance. And being in a group that doesn’t dance was frustrating. (I digress)
VanNess Wu (r-1) stands together with members of the Taiwanese boy band F4.
So towards the end of 07 when I was at my lowest I felt like God said okay it’s time. Haha… I was introduced to Jaeson Ma through my good friend Edward Huang who has always been such a great support and encouragement in my life. Jaseson shared with me his testimony and then prayed for me. Shared his advice about how to trust God with my future decisions and not rush into signing anything. To wait about 6 months, and he believed that God would let me know what I should do. I was nervous at first because I didn’t know if I would be able to make it without a big agency to rep me. Now I know that fear is not from the Lord. And that I have the biggest agency repping me now… I have the Kingdom of God. I was moved by Jaesons prayer and testimony and felt like that’s what I want too. I want to be closer to God too.
For me personally, the thing that I always felt kept me distant from God was abstinence. I had none… I shared this with Jaeson the same night, and he challenged me, by saying to just try not doing anything for a few months and see how I felt then. But I wasn’t sure, because I mean being in a world where pre-marital sex has become the norm, to say no more was pretty unheard of around my group of friends, especially being in the entertainment business. So I did what I do every day now… I prayed. A simple prayer, “God do you really not want me to have sex? If so let me know.”
After a month went by of this simple small little prayer every day, I was invited to a friends Church I’ve never been to before, during service I borrowed a random person’s bible. When I opened a card fell out, I picked it up and on the card it said “Believing that true love awaits. I make a promise to God my future wife, family, and future kids to be sexually abstinent until I enter a biblical marriage.” Sign and date. I immediately looked at the ceiling in disbelief. I mean I was pretty freaked out… haha… at that time I was still unsure if it was God. I didn’t sign it of course… but it was so blatant that I couldn’t ignore it. So I decided to make a vow of one year of celibacy.
And from that moment on… the seed of God’s love planted from before started to grow. A year later and a half later of celibacy… I was at a summer camp for young kids sharing this testimony and their eyes, and it just seemed right that at that moment I was to sign the card. They gave me the encouragement through their eyes of attention. My life has not been the same since I decided to make that vow. It has been so good, and every day is just getting better and better. Even if some days are bad… God is still so good.
Chinese-American pastor Jaeson Ma (l) together with VanNess Wu (r). (Photo: Jaesonma.net)
[To be cont'd...]