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Celebrity Travel: Go away with Van Ness Wu

Jae-Ha Kim, Tribune Content Agency on

Two decades after leaving his native California to launch his career overseas, musician and actor Van Ness Wu is celebrating the release of his first all-English-language album “Take a Ride.” Over the years, the multi-lingual artist has collaborated with singers like Beyonce and Bruno Mars, but Wu’s latest collection of songs pays homage to his childhood musical influences (Michael Jackson, Prince, A Tribe Called Quest), while putting a fresh spin on his unique sound that incorporates hip-hop, pop and rhythm and blues. Given that his busy schedule takes him around the world often, it’s not surprising to learn that the singer-songwriter penned songs for “Take a Ride” while in London, Kyoto and Malibu. As for this interview, Wu answered questions from his hotel room in Changsha, China.

Q: Many Asian American artists have told me they moved to Asia for their careers because they didn’t see themselves represented in the United States. What was it like for you?

A: It was truly exactly that. Racism and stereotypes were too often seen and experienced growing up back then in Los Angeles and Orange County. I actually applied for an inter-district transfer to go to school in Irvine rather than Newport because it was pretty bad at the time with faculty and everything. I got into the (music) business at the beginning of 2000. Back then there was zero to no proper representation of Asians in entertainment in the States. Who did we really have back then? For me growing up, one was Ke Huy Quan from “The Goonies” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” But even after he played those roles, they didn’t give him any other roles that represented us well. [Editor’s note: Quan’s performance in 2022’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was critically acclaimed.] So right after my 22nd birthday, I packed my bags and left with about $1,200 bucks in one pocket and the other full of dreams.

Q: What's the most important thing you've learned from your travels?

A: To make sure you have all the right travel necessities, to be adventurous and explore as much as you can and to also be fully present in the moment of where you are. Above all be grateful and soak up as much as you can for inspiration to draw from later on. I really enjoy nature so to see things in their natural state is a real treat.

Q: How many foreign languages do you speak?


A: I speak English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Japanese, and very poor Spanish. The list goes from best to worse. [Laughs] I do feel like I’m able to pronounce different languages quite well. When I was growing up, I watched a lot of anime and learned to sing K-pop songs. But remembering definitely takes longer.

Q: Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A: Probably the mountains in California somewhere. Went camping with a couple buddies of mine last year and we camped at a private shooting range where we were able to practice and camp there. Cooking your own food, survival of one’s own abilities – was a real fun guys’ trip.

Q: What is your favorite vacation destination?


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