China’s pop idol
A writer, composer, manager, singer and fashion icon, she has no plans to abdicate any time soon.
Laure Shang (or Shang Wenjie, as she was previously known) has been singing since she was a child, influenced by her parents’ love of music, but first came into view as the winner of Hunan TV’s Super Girl Voice in 2006, scoring a record breaking 5,196,975 votes. But, as watchers of talent shows – in the Western world at least – will know, hanging onto that success is no mean feat. Hands up who remembers Leon Jackson, for instance.
After her win, Shang says that she was merely a performer, singing songs that she did not write herself, but four years ago, she began taking creative control over her career, showcasing an all-new Laure Shang, and that is how she believes she has made it in the long-term.
No doubt due to her start, talent shows have been a frequent fixture throughout Shang’s career. Last year, the artist took part in the Chinese version of the Korean show, I Am a Singer, which pits veteran performers against one another, which she says, “was a little bit scary, in fact, since all the other singers were much more experienced than me, [but] it’s quite exciting as well, because I love challenging myself with things demanding both courage and focus.” Shang is also a judge on Hunan TV’s Super Boy singing contest and believes that what people look for in a contestant has significantly changed since her debut: while audiences used to be content with a good singer, the public now demand a captivating personality and original musical style to boot.
Shang’s signature electro-pop blends classical arrangements with electronic beats, and although unable to play any instruments herself, she uses various software programmes to create sounds with which to compose. Stating, “I like exploring different kinds of music with original sounds,” Shang cites Massive Attack, Gorillaz, Tricky, Bat for Lashes, the Ting Tings, M.I.A and Florence and the Machine as influences, while she has been likened to Björk (the latter also informing Shang’s fashion choices).
Known for her varied personal style, Shang has become a fashion icon in her own right, frequently appearing in Chinese editions of L’Officiel, Elle, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan. A regular at Paris Fashion Week (her four year degree in French proving useful here), Shang’s favourite fashion brands are Givenchy, Gareth Pugh, Maison Martin Margiela, Comme des Garçons and Lanvin. She has even given personal performances for Lanvin and Burberry. Shang is also an advocate of local designers and is a big fan of Xander Zhou, Evening Yu, Chi Zhang and Central St Martins’ graduate, Masha Ma. She created her own brand, Ma Puce, in 2010, in support of an album. Recently, Shang decided to re-launch the label, making it a serious and commercialised venture, that doesn’t need to rely exclusively on the support of her fan base. “Now, Ma Puce represents a new group of consumers, who appreciate [a] fashionable lifestyle… good taste, and high-tech products,” she explains.
Philanthropy also forms a substantial part of her career. Shang is involved in several charitable organisations, including her eponymous project, which from 2008 to 2013 built 75 libraries to aid over 1,500 poverty-stricken students. She is an ambassador for China Environmental Protection Foundation, PETA, and Music Radio’s Love Home plan, which helps children who do not have enough money to go to school. She emphasises that “It’s essential that one gives back after [one’s] been given. I think everyone should do that, successful or not, just to remind oneself that real happiness is always built on true love for the entire world.”
Currently working on new material with the view to create an album in the next six months, continuing to build Ma Puce, and managing new boy band, Fresh, Shang certainly keeps herself busy. That is without even mentioning the charity work and day-to-day rigmarole that comes with being a hugely successful pop star and style icon. She may have come from a talent show at a time when competitions were easier to win, but having already experienced such fame, one thing’s for certain: Laure Shang’s got that X factor.