Coco Lee (李玟 ; Lǐ Wén, born on January 17, 1975, also known by her official English name as Ferren Lee-Kelly, is a Chinese American pop singer, songwriter, record producer and actress born in Hong Kong to Chinese Malaysian parents. She is the only Asian artist to have multiple top-three singles in the MTV Asia Hitlist. "Do You Want My Love" also entered the music charts in America and the entire album, Just No Other Way gave Coco a break in the English market. Coco speaks Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese and English fluently.
Coco had first gained recognition when she won first runner-up in the 1993 New Talent Singing Awards with her rendition of Whitney Houston's "Run to You". A local record company noticed that Coco's voice stood out aside from being the only contestant to sing in English. The following day, Capital Artists asked her to sign a contract with their label.
Coco is the first and only Chinese person to perform in the Oscars, singing the Academy Award nominee for Best Original Song, "A Love Before Time", from the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, in the 73rd Academy Awards in Los Angeles. Coco also provided the voice of Mulan in the Mandarin version of Disney's animated feature of the same name.
Coco's music has been influenced by genres ranging from pop, hip-hop, R'n'B, adult contemporary and soul. While her releases have often received mixed critical reception, she is renowned for her East-meets-West music and melismatic vocals. She has also been nicknamed the "Princess of Asian Pop" or the "Asian Pop Diva" by the media and due to her worldwide success, critics refer to Coco as the "Best-selling Female Artist" in the World.
In 2001, Asia Weekly magazine named Coco as one of the most powerful people in Asia on their Power 50 list.
Early life and discoveryEdit
Born and raised in Hong Kong with ancestry from Harbin, Northeast China, Coco is the youngest of three children. She has two elder sisters, Nancy, who was her manager before, and Carol. Her father died when she was young. When she was 9 years old, her mother brought Coco and her sisters together to live in San Francisco, California.
There, Coco went to Presidio Middle School. After secondary school where she was the volleyball team captain, she attended Raoul Wallenberg Traditional High School in San Francisco, where she was student Council President for 4 years in a row. In 1991, she represented her high school for Miss Teen Chinatown Pageant winning first place, then she won first place in a local karaoke contest. Coco wanted to follow her mother and started medical (biology) studies at the University of California Irvine.
After Coco's high school graduation in 1992, she went back Hong Kong (British Territory at the time) to see her two sisters' (Carol Lee and Nancy Lee) participation in the Miss Hong Kong Pageant, and while there, she came first runner-up in the 12th Annual New Talent Singing Awards by singing Whitney Houston's Run to you. The following day, Coco was approached by Capital Artists and asked her to sign a contract with them. She made her debut on June 15, 1993, with her compilation album Red hot hits 93' Autumn edition (火熱動感93勁秋版). Then, she appeared in several compilations with other singers such as Edmond Leung, Allen Ting, Sammi Cheng or Andy Hui. A year later, she worked with Fancy Pie Records and released her first solo albums in Mandarin Love from now on (愛就要趁現在) and Promise me (答應我). In 1995, she released an English language cover album Brave enough to love (13000 copies sold in one month) as well as her third Mandarin album called Woman in love (被愛的女人). Coco gained recognation and had her first big concert the same year in Taipei, untitled You're in my heart (你在我心上).
In 1996, Coco signed a contract with Sony Music Entertainment. "Coco Lee" became the best selling album of 1996 in Asia, notably with the song Yesterday's passion (往日情), as was her second English cover album "CoCo's Party". In 1997, CoCo released her Mandarin album entitled "Sincere" as well as a self-titled Cantonese album (her native language). 1998 was an even bigger year for her. Her Mandarin album Di Da Di was released and sold to 1 million copies in less than 3 months. The hit song Di da di (cover of Maria Montell's "And So the Story Goes") is one of Coco's hit songs such as All I want to say (暗示) or Longing to see you (真想見到你) from the same album.
For her next album Sunny day, Coco registered the song Colors of the world for the opening of the Football World Cup, and the song The answer (答案) for the Chinese movie Bishonen. What's more, Walt Disney Pictures hired her to sing the theme song "Reflection" (自已) and be the voice of the heroine Fa Mulan in the Mandarin version of Mulan. The English version of the song appears on her maxi single Take a chance on love (碰碰看愛情) as well as Missing you in 365 days (想你的365天), the theme song of the cartoon Lotus lantern.
The success of her Million fans concert (萬人迷) in Taipei in 1998, second to Michael Jackson in terms of audience, with more than 30,000 people who watched, caught the attention of Sony Music United States and Tommy Mottola. In November, she had a concert at Bally, in Las Vegas. In 1999, Coco sang When you tell me that you love me with Julio Iglesias. This song appears on the Asian version of his album My life : The greatest hits. The same year, Coco sang Married you (你讓我有感覺) for the movie Notting Hill. This song appears on her Mandarin album Today til' forever (今天到永遠). Later on, she was invited by Michael Jackson to perform at his "Michael Jackson and friends" charity concert in front of 60 000 people.
In 1999, 550 Music represented Coco with her stateside debut album, Just No Other Way. Her love song Before I Fall In Love was included in the soundtrack of the movie Runaway Bride. She also had a duet called Can't get over with singer Kelly Price. Lee's English-language performance has received recognition throughout America, Asia, Australia and Europe. Indeed, She is the only Asian artist to have multiple top-three singles in the MTV Asia Hitlist with Before I fall in love in first place, then Do you want my love and Wherever you go, both from the same album, in second and third place.
In 2000, Coco recorded from The United States the Chinese songs "We meet the future" and "Hand in hand" for SARS with other artists such as Wang Lee Hom, Stephanie Sun, Elva Hsiao or Jolin Tsai. Then she went back to China and released a new Mandarin album You & me. The hit track True lover (真情人) held n#1 spot for a record 13 weeks on. At the end of the year, she performed with Ricky Martin and followed him in his Asian tour. In 2001, CoCo sang the song A Love Before Time for the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She received worldwide exposure when she performed the song live at the 73rd Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. Critics commented that she hit the high C6s right on, and delivered solid vocals. This song appears in English in the soundtrack album and in Mandarin (月光愛人) in her next album named Promise Coco released in October 2001. It contains great successes such as So crazy, Dao ma dan (刀馬旦) written by the singer Jay Chou, Baby I'm sorry (Baby對不起) or I'm still in love, the theme song for the American movie Serendipity. Later on, 170 000 tickets were sold for her "Promise Coco Tour" for only 3 shows (in Shenzhen, Wuhan and Shanghai), taking her the most alluring and highest paid list in China.
In December, she had a Christmas concert at Mandalay Bay, in Las Vegas. In 2002, Coco released her remix album D. Is Coco (Dance is Coco). She notably sang a song against tobacco called From the beginning til' the end (煙絲萬縷) with singer Jacky Cheung. Then, she was the featured performer at a Houston Rockets NBA game. She became the first Chinese singer to ever perform the US National Anthem at a major global sporting event.
In 2003, she performed with Shaggy at the "MTV Asia awards" in Singapore and also presented the show with him. Coco has also been getting into acting. She co-starred in the Chinese comedy movie Master of Everything (自娱自乐) with John Lone, which won the Best Foreign Film award in the 2005 Beverly Hills Film Festival. In 2004, as the YouthAIDS ambassador, Coco had been to Bangkok, Thailand for the global AIDS conference. She attended the conference as the representative of the Asian artists to meet various youth groups discussing what she can do to educate them about AIDS.
In 2005, Sony BMG released her second English album, Exposed. This album contains the Korean theme song of Charlie's Angels 2 called All around the world but also a duet called No doubt with Indian rapper Blaaze. Although Exposed was banned in Mainland China for sexy lyrics in a few songs such as Touch or So good, it was a great success throughout Asia. CoCo visited countries all over Asia to promote her album. During her visit in the Philippines, she guested in SOP and performed the songs "Do You Want My Love" and "I Will Survive" with Asia's Songbird Regine Velasquez. Then, Coco sang Reflection with Lea Salonga for the opening of the Hong Kong Disneyland.
Coco's follow up album to her C-pop hit album Promise Coco, titled Just Want You (要定你) and released on September 22, 2006. It features the hit single "Hip-Hop Tonight" with Vanness Wu, which follows in the same vein as No Doubt. On September 22, 2007, Coco Lee returned to the United States for two live concerts, the first at Harrah's in San Diego and the second at the Shoreline Amphitheater in San Francisco, with special guest Alex To. It was her first live performance in her hometown in several years. In 2008, Coco was chosen to sing one of the Olympic songs, "Forever Friends", opposite Sun Nan. Later on, she changed her record company and decided to work with Warner Music (Taiwan) from Music Nation.
In 2009, Coco Lee ranked No.15 in E! Entertainment's list of the world's 25 sexiest pop divas, ahead of Kylie Minogue (No.18), Jennifer Lopez (No.20) and other big names.
On April, she found a way to get closer to her fans by registering to Twitter, under the name Cocolee117. In July 17, she had a solo concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. She's the first Chinese singer to ever perform in this place. She notably sang 3 Michael Jackson's songs Gone too soon, Rock with you and The way you make me feel as a tribute to her idol.
On August 14, she released her new Mandarin album East to west (CoCo的東西) with Warner Music. It contains notably the songs "Party time", "Turn" (流轉) which is the theme song for the 3D Animation movie "世博总动员-湖丝仔"), the cover of Jay Sean's "Maybe" called "Love now" (愛要現在), but also "BYOB" ("Bring Your Own Bag") a song to encourage people to bring and recycle their own shopping bags to save the environment. Then she sang "Smile Shanghai" with other artists such as JJ Lin, Andy Lau, Jam Hsiao or Jane Zhang for Shanghai World Expo 2010.
A limited version of her album East to west was released on March 17, 2010. It contains 3 more songs : Hello C, a remix of Turn and Younger and longer (美夢) which is Barbie's 50th Anniversary song.
Coco's "East to West World Tour Concert" had its first stop at Taipei Arena on March, 27. She pursued her tour at the Encore Theatre in Wynn Casino in Las Vegas in the United States on July 3 and 4. Then, she'll perform in all China, in Singapore (in Singapore Indoor Stadium on October 2), in Malaysia, in Australia (Sydney) and in Canada (Toronto). A DVD of her concert in Taipei will be released soon.
In June 2005, CoCo's engagement with Canadian businessman Bruce Philip Rockowitz was made public, apparently having taken place some months earlier. Bruce was born in Los Angeles in 1959 and has been living in Hong Kong for 30 years. He is the President of the group Li & Fung since 2004. Bruce was also the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Colby International Limited, a large Hong Kong buying agent prior to the sale of Colby to Li & Fung in 2000. He is a member of the Advisory Board for the Wharton's Jay H Baker Retailing Initiative, an industry center for retail at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to his position at Li & Fung, Bruce is the Chairman of the Pure Group (fitness and yoga group + restaurants "Red" and "Red Soho") operating in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. He has two daughters Sarah and Rachel from a previous marriage.
- Main article: Coco Lee's discography
"I really idolize everything my sisters do, so I went into singing contests and won also. That's how I really got into singing."
"People liked my voice so much, it was so different. I also combined the R&B feel with the pop music of Taiwan. Everyone there [in Taiwan] used to sing really conservatively – they sing to the melody and that's it. The music [Chinese music] just sounded so dead. I wanted to bring the R&B flavor and other Westernized sounds to my music, because that's the type of music I grew up listening to." (about her Asian audience)
"When I work, I work. I don't think about anything else. I just wanna get the work done. And I'm a perfectionist."
"They cannot imagine what I'll sound like. But always when I'm done singing, people are very surprised."
Products and endorsementsEdit
Since her career debuts, Coco has been one of Asia’s most sought-after celebrities for product endorsements and commercial appearances.
Fashion house Chanel named Coco its first "Asian-Pacific Celebrity Ambassadress".