Interview with Essa Xu
Essa Xu is a chinese model, actress, singer and tv host born in Xi’an, Shannxi, China. One quarter Russian, she grew up in a family of entertainers and musicians. Her grandmother was a music teacher and her mother played the cello. In kindergarten she took up gymnastics and ballet, and at 14 she started singing European pop songs, going on to form a successful all-girl pop group.
“Perhaps, because I’m mixed and have features that are appreciated by both Westerners and Asians, I am accepted by more people” – Essa Xu (from China Daily)
Essa has a singing voice that has been compared with superstar Britney Spears, while her slim but curvy figure and sweet looks have made her a sought after model and all-round entertainer. She has been modeled for many major clients like Japan’s Matsushita Group, and has appeared on CCTV in various major national TV programs. She sang the romantic theme song Don’t Say You Love Me for the popular stage play I Don’t Want To Sing Alone.
Essa, it is a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for doing this interview with us. I want to ask you about your childhood in Xi’an. What kind of things did you enjoy doing when you were a child? I understand, at one time, you wanted to be an astronaut.
When I was a little girl I loved to read various books such as: astrology books, historical books , art books, metaphysical books, etc. I really enjoyed reading them alone and the feeling that they filled my spiritaul mind. I also loved all those boy games like watching the X games, (even though I didn’t play them). Since my father loves chinese ink painting I started drawing when I was 9 years old. I really enjoy painting and the time I spent with my father. To be honest, I really enjoyed everything related to art when I was child. both girl things and boy’s things. Since I was learning dancing like ballet and chinese traditonal dancing I had lots of performances, I enjoyed my time on the stage with those lil mates. Due to my pareants love of the outdoors, I used to climb mountains, go to forest and visited some historical places with them.
You have gotten the nickname, “The Mixed Race Doll”. What features do you think make you unique?
Compared with others I do more than one thing at any one time. I’m singing, a TV host, model , actress and I know English and Chinese. My friends tell me I am able to comprehend a lot. I am also a person who really enjoys being a human haha. I think I’m a person who is very passionate about life and being on stage. I have a mixed appearance which makes me looks like a doll. I have a lot of friends who say they like how I look and they say that my personality is more like a boys and I am very easy get along and talk to….so that I can easily get along with Western and Asian people. Also I think mixed people are smarter and get good genetics from both cultures.
You were a member of a famous group, O.O.B. which had a huge hit with the song, “Earth Mom”. Can you tell us about the group and what it was like to perform with them?
We formed our group when I was 13. We were in the same school which is very famous for its programs to learn singing, dancing and acting. We were the first girl group that was singing pop songs with western lyrics and we were the first group that sang a environmental protection song in China. In 2001 we got 3rd place in an Asian singing group competition. We also performed on CCTV and on manyother famous Chinese TV stations. We also had cooperation with Panasonic Corporation to sing their new production advertisement song “You Are The One”. It was very good memory for me/ I had two good partners and we are still in contact with each other.
You went on to sing many different projects including on Yunnan TV’s “Music Assembly”, Hubei TV’s, China International Conference and sang “I Don’t Want To Sing Alone”, the theme song drama for the CCTV8 2010 prime-time hit TV series “Never Look Back”. How would you best describe your sound?
I always feel there is an angel inside of my heart, and i think when Im singing , it naturally came to my performance no matter what kind of genre music I sing for.
What are some of the musical artists you admire or have influenced your work?
I start to listening classical music since I was 5 or 6, I was extremely in love with Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. I used to sing along with Swan Lake every time I played it on my CD, I’ve always been touched by his music. It is full of love and passion and makes me wanted to sing with it. Since then I feel like being an musician or singer can really inspire people. When I was 12 years old I heard the Carpenters album on the radio. I suddenly found myself addicted to her voice and I started to learn to sing English songs. Three or four years later I heard Christina Aguilera’s album. She became my idol since then. She really touched my heart and soul when with every single word that came from her mouth.
You studied business management in Singapore but also took acting and singing classes at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. Do you think your business management classes will help you with your career in the future?
haha definitely yes, in this commercial world everything is related to commerce. Knowledge of management will help me to have a better sense to develop my career in a commercial world.
You are also a successful model and have appeared in many print and television advertisements. Can you tell us about a few of your favorite projects?
One of my favorite project is a pet food advertisement. I had a lot of fun with my partner, Mr dog, who is a 3 yrs old handsome doggy. The picture we took was awesome. That was my first time shooting with a German Doberman 。 in a few months a famous illustrator wanted to do some paintings using this photo. He made me look like a goddness floating out from an Aladdin’s lamp. It was published in China Daily with a huge spread.
Another creative shooting was with my friend in Japan for a shampoo advertisement. The make up artist and the photographor made me look like a fairy tale princess, haha. I did really enjoy the time I spent working with them.
Most of my friends know that I love online games and I had a chance to do a advertisment for a game that I used to play called DNF. I was a fighter who wore golden armor with some magic used to fight devils. You could imaging how interesting it is to shoot photos for the character you play in game!
What do you like about modeling?
Being a model its just like being an actress. I can transfer myself into another different person by make up and what outfits I wear. Different photographers inspire me in different ways so that I can easily get inspiration to express myself. I am addicted to exploring myself in addition to creating something cool and innovative!
A striking image of you drawn by artist Brian Gibbs, modeling a catsuit from Catfish Latex, has been making the rounds of the internet. Can you tell us about this image and about your experience modeling for Catfish Latex? Do you like the feel and look of latex clothing?
Brian Gibbs is a talented Illustrator, I feel very honored that he chose my photo to paint. He made it look in a brand new way~! One day I saw Katy Perry and Rihanna on MTV. They were wearing some special clothes which were sexy, special, and futuristic , I called my good friend, who is a talented stylist, and asked about what I saw on TV. I found out that Catfish Latex was looking for an mixed artist to collaborate with and they found me through my stylist friend. I would say that was fate, hehe. The feeling of wearing latex makes me feel fashionable and unique and makes me feel more like Essa~ its very rare in China and so far no artist is wearing latex for photo shoots or performances except me! I love to be an innovator.
You also recently entered the web contest, Rock the Web” and took second place. I understand you went to Las Vegas and had the opportunity to work with a famous vocal coach there. What was it like?
It was just like a dream come true. I never thought I could meet with those awesome teachers. I’m very appreciative for having the chance to learn singing with Michael Jackson’s vocal coach Mr Seth Riggs , The Manhattan Transfer’s Alan Paul , Janis Seigel, and recording lessons with Avril Lavign’s Producer Mr Scott Spock. They are awesome and taught me a lot of valuable lessons about music, especially Mr Seth. Everyday when I saw Mr. Seth I felt like I was seeing Santa Claus! His lessons were full of love and he was very patient with me. After I told him that I had the same birthday as Michael Jackson he’s started telling me some interesting stories about Michael Jackson. You know its not easy for an 82 year old man to speak nonstop for hours .. so I really did feel touched by his teaching attitude.
Besides singing lessons I got a chance to meet with Luam Keflezgy. She’s a famous choreographer in US who worked with Britney Spears, Rihanna, Usher, Beyonce etc. She was our performance teacher at the Las Vegas academy. I would say she’s the most talented passionate choreographer I have ever seen.
You also teamed up with producer and DJ Edmund to perform vocals on a number of electronic and dance music tracks. How did you come to meet him? How did you collaborate at such a long distance? What was the process like?
Edmund is pretty well known and did a lot big fashion shows and parties. We met at a fashion show after party. He is a great producer and has strong feelings and knowledge about music. He produces his tracks and sends me his version with his vocals and asks if I can sing. Most of the time I can and sometimes I will sing my own melody into his song too. Before he was in Beijing most of the time, so it was really easy to record together but recently he has stayed longer in Sanya to work as music director for MGM so we use email to transfer. There are 2 songs I would like to share with you
one is “Tonight”, its a soulful house, this song made by the two of us. We sang our own melody in one song, I was in charge of the second verse and chorus. Another one is named “Love Control” which is big room vocal house, its very passionate and rhythmic.
What is the music industry like in China?
It’s growing and there are many talented singers, bands and musicians. Many of them dont make a living by making music, but they are still working on thier dreams. Right now the media is still focused on cerain type of genres, but music like Sadingding’s, and some underground electronic artist are making their own works
In addition to your modeling and singing you are also an actress and are presently appearing in a drama made by SoHu. Can you tell us more about this project and what your character is like?
This drama is a Comedy Series. I play a smart and hot girl who wanted to seduce a stupid guy. The rest of the story is secret hahahah. You will have to see when it is released.
As an actress do you find it easy or does it take a lot of effort and practice for you to get into the different characters you play?
As a new actress I dont have much experience with many characters, but so far I feel it is easy to get into characters in every situation, becasue in daily life I am a very emotional, careful and sensitive person, I like to observe life and observe other people so I usually put my observations into my performances.
What are your dreams for the future?
I hope that I can make an album to inspire people in the world by my voice and my songs and I hope at the same time to be a successful actress. When I achieve these, at some point, I wish that I could have my own perfume label. I also wish I could be do more things that could help this earth and this world to make it full of love and peace.
I understand you have read Graham Hancock’s “The Fingerprints of the Gods”. What do you think about his theories?
I had read some other types of human/fate of the planet, catastrophe types of books but only ” The Fingerprints of the Gods” impressed me. Most of the theories match with mine and also I agree with his other new theories. His books provide new and bold perspectives to backtrack the history of human civilization, thorough investigation and informative to crack the Fingerprints of the Gods … I unknowingly followed him in traveling around the kingdom and relics and prehistoric civilizations with his thinking to explore past, present and future of mankind. This book taught me human mythology, civilization, history, geography, architecture, mathematics, astronomy, science, technology and creative exploration. It is an ancient civilization mystery adventure masterpiece and I have watched many of his interviews on YouTube. They are really inspiring to me .
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
I’m interested in so many different things! Most of the time I enjoy travelling and going out with friends. I especially love to go to the beach and enjoy the sunshine and the waves of the sea, it really helps me purify my frequency. I also love to spend my time reading some interesting spiritual books and movies and doing some meditation.
Where can we find out more about you?
这是我和DJ edmund 共同创作完成的一个电子歌曲，