Wong was born in Beijing in 1969, squarely in the middle of Mao Zedong’s “Cultural Revolution.” Despite the violence and volatility throughout her country, Wong spent much of her youth developing her abilities as a singer. She showed from an early age that she had the confidence and independence to back up her raw talents, releasing several cassette recordings before even finishing high school. She kept these activities secret from her mother, who disapproved of her starting a career as a singer. Wong gained the attention of a major Chinese record label after placing third in a national singing competition.
Despite her early success, Wong was not satisfied to allow herself to fit into the mold created for her by her record label. In a shocking, much-publicized move, she decided to leave China to live in New York as a music student. This proved to be one of the most important decisions of her career, as she was able to revolutionize Cantonese Pop music by adding American musical elements from popular R&B and rock that so heavily influenced her during her time away from China. She proceeded to release four best-selling albums between 1993 and 1995, performed on a wildly successful concert tour of Asia and North America, and even earned praise as an actress in a film, Chungking Express. In just a few years, Wong had become a household name throughout Asia, comparable to Madonna in the United States.
In addition to releasing nearly twenty successful albums over her career, Wong has used her status to bring attention and resources to several charity foundations. Along with her husband, she co-founded the Smile Angel Foundation, a charity that provides assistance to children born with cleft lips and cleft palates. In 2008, Wong and her husband temporarily adopted and supported a teenage girl who lost her leg providing aid to her schoolmates following the devastation of the Sichuan earthquake. In interviews, she has shown remarkable honesty, humor, and modesty, often providing simple, straightforward answers and drawing attention to issues she considers more important than her entertainment career.
Wong’s infinite capacity for kindness, hope, and generosity have made her more than a pop icon in her country – she is viewed as a role model and national treasure. Her inspiring story transcends cultural boundaries and has shown that regardless of nationality, language or politics, music can be a powerful force for change.