(This is part of the series on behind-the-scenes while covering celebrities.)
Yes, there is life after F4.
It’s been more than a decade when four unknown guys took Asia by storm and our pop culture was never the same again. Before Jerry Yan, Vic Zhou, Ken Zhu and Van Ness Wu, pop culture was still more domestic than across borders. But Meteor Garden changed that, catchy cheeky theme song, bad hair and fashion aside.
At the height of their popularity, I dreamed of going to Taipei with my friends and wished I could interview the guys. There is this oft-told story among my friends on how three of us “gate-crashed” the airport coverage so we could just see Jerry and Vic when they went to Manila once.
A confession: I’m a journalist who often covers politics and economy, but truth be told, I enjoy entertainment coverage more.
Last year, that wish came true. Ken became the second F4 I’d interview (Jerry was first and Van Ness on the same day I did the Ken interview).
The story appeared on AsiaNews and The China Post on May 11.
The journey to that interview was initially smooth but when Ken’s manager started imposing conditions–that are par for the course–I started to have a really bad feeling about this considering that Ken does not really have a pleasant image to start with. Even his fans would admit that he’s snooty and I have read enough stories of him telling the paparazzi off.
What stuck to my mind was how his management was very particular with how he looks. This was not really a surprise because all managers I have encountered are like that and it’s their job to make sure their talents look their best in photos that will eventually be published or videos that will be aired. But what turned me off somehow was when the manager said if I want Ken on video, I have to pay for his make-up. Like… what?! How do I exactly justify that expense to my office: “Make-up for Ken Zhu”. I don’t even have a make-up allowance but then, I’m not an artist.
The day of the interview came. The venue has been changed a few times the previous day until it was settled to be at the salon of a hairstylist he has been working with since Meteor Garden days. It was in a residential/commercial building off Sun Yat Sen.
He was having his hair done so I had to wait in the foyer for a while. When I finally came face-to-face with him, I was surprised that he was tall. He looked slimmer than recent photos I have seen of him, and definitely much much better than those photos his management sent me for use in the story.
I have moved my questions to my iPad but for some reasons, I couldn’t open the file. Good thing it was easy to reconstruct everything in my head because truth be told, what do we want to know from Ken? It would have to be his emotional struggle post-F4 and his views on life. I dared not ask him about his personal life–rumors that he was dating his latest co-star–because I did not want to be kicked out of the room, and Ken seemed to be the type who won’t hesitate to do that.
We sat side by side which was not really a comfortable position because as an interviewer, I want to look at my subject’s face. The better to gauge his mood and reaction to my questions. And I prefer looking at them in the eye and vice versa. The better too to see if they are evading the question or giving me crap. But Ken was a very articulate subject. I didn’t even have to ask follow-up questions because he has answered them before I could. He was also candid especially about his psychological condition and the struggles he had in recent years. They’re not really new because he has spoken about them before but I wanted to hear for myself. When he said he must be the happiest among the F4, I couldn’t help wondering if that was true. Maybe he has a more peaceful life, but maybe not. He’s still in the entertainment industry. Even if he’s no longer at his peak with everyone wanting a piece of him, there are still paps who would be interested in what he does, hoping they’d catch him doing something worth a scandalous headline. How can that be peaceful? As for happiness, maybe he is. We never know for sure. But it’s just a contradiction when he says he’s happy and say he tries to do a lot of things so his life won’t be empty.
If for anything though, Ken has proven that yes, there is life after F4.
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One thought on “behind the story: Ken Zhu”
We can not be happy all the time. There will always be instances when we feel empty. it is a good thing that he is willing to try to do other things. Sometimes good things come out when you do new things. Besides, like he said, these comes as a therapy.
I like his point of view on his career now. He might not be big anymore but He will always be around. This way he has more time to enjoy the fruits of his hard labor in the past. I just hope he’ll find the ideal girl for him to marry soon. After all, he is not getting any younger.