Childhood & Early Life
Vanessa Mae was born on October 27, 1978 in Singapore, to an English father Vorapong Varakom and Chinese mother, Pamela.
Musically blessed, at the tender age of three, she took to playing piano. However, tragedy struck the family as her parents divorced the following year. Subsequently, her mother remarried Graham Nicholas and the two moved to England.
At the age of five, she switched to playing violin instead of piano. She received formal training from Lin Yao Ji at the Central Conservatory in Beijing and Felix Andrievsky at the Royal College of Music in London.
Within a short span of time, she became a renowned figure in the conservative classical music circle of United Kingdom and made regular television appearances in children’s programs.
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In 1988, at the age of 10, Vanessa Mae made her professional international debut at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in Germany. Same year, she made her debut on stage with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London.
She toured England, playing the Tchaikovsky concerto with her mother as a co-manager. Subsequently, at the age of twelve, she toured with the London Mozart Players. By 13, she had a Guinness World Record of being the youngest soloist to record both the Beethoven and Tchaikovsky violin concertos.
In 1991, she formally began her recording career. Most of her early recordings have been repackaged by Angel today, as The Classical Colle.
Entering teens, Vanessa experienced a makeover of sorts. The traditional conservative style gave way to a more modern, contemporary outlook with her appearing in music videos as a style icon.
In 1995, she made a breakthrough with her debut pop-style album, ‘The Violin Player’. The album comprised of a varied blend of music, both remakes and original. Certified Gold by BPI, it sold more than eight million copies.
In 1997, she appeared in the Janet Jackson album, ‘The Velvet Rope’, playing solo violin in the song, ‘Velvet Rope’. Same year, she released the album ‘China Girl: The Classical Album 2’ which included performances composed by her. The album was well received.
In 1998, she made a foray into the world of acting with the Hallmark Television movie, ‘Arabian Nights’. Following year, she had a rift with her mother which caused the two to split. As a result, she is no longer managed by her mother.
On March 7, 2002, she performed in the opening ceremony of Winter Paralympics, a variation of Antonio Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons – Summer III Presto’
Besides her music career, Vanessa is also a skiing enthusiast. She shared a passion for skiing right from an early age. However, due to her crossover nationality, she failed to qualify for the 2002 Winter Olympics. She wanted to represent the Thailand in the Olympics, but Thai Olympic Committee told her to give up her British citizenship, which she refused
In 2014, she entered the giant slalom event organized by the Alpine Ski Club Triglav to achieve the FIS (International Ski Federation) recognized score to qualify for the February 2014 Olympics
Her dream of being a national skier was finally realized at the 2014 Winter Olympics. She represented Thailand under the name Vanessa Vanakorn. In her first race, she finished in the 74th position among the 90 contestants. In the second race, she was 24.21 seconds behind the leader. In totality, she ranked at 67th position, last amongst the finishers.
Months after her skiing debut, she was banned for four years as results of the competition that qualified her for the Olympics were alleged to have been rigged. She has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to lift the ban on her.
Awards & Achievements
In 1996, Vanessa Mae was conferred with the distinction of Best New Female Artist at the BRIT Awards, thus becoming the first classical singer to bag one.
In 2006, she was ranked as the wealthiest young entertainer under 30 in the UK in the Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated fortune of about £32 million.