Jackson Wang, the 29-year-old Hong Kong rapper and singer, has experienced the ups and downs of life, and cherishes the now. He believes that when he steps into the next decade of his life and looks back, he will reflect and appreciate the decade that he is riding in. In the meantime, he tells BAZAAR:
“I’ve no life.”
Ironic coming from someone who has been busy running around in the past year, with a packed schedule. Often, it takes a while for him to process which city he is in. Jackson confesses that he has reached a point where he is plagued by feelings of anxiety whenever his staff goes radio silent for a short while, and he would quickly text his colleagues to check if there was anything wrong. He realised he couldn’t stop, even for a moment.
Jackson reveals that his entire state of being has been rather low in recent years, what with globetrotting and hopping from hotel to hotel. While he finds happiness in meeting the audience and fans when he is performing, he is also gripped by a sense of emptiness when the performance ends and he returns to his room. “With only my team with me, I would start to think about many things. I would feel quite empty, as if nothing is reliable and that I can only rely on myself.”
Without a social life and his family with him, Jackson finds himself turning inwards—his overactive mind, his closest companion.
Related article: Style File: Jackson Wang’s Hottest Looks Through The Years
At 16, Jackson took part in a 2010 audition by South Korean music label JYP Entertainment in Kowloon, and came out tops, out of 2,000 applicants. He became a trainee under the label, and started his two-and-a-half-year-long training in Korea. In 2014, he debuted as a member of the boy band GOT7.
In 2015, as he became increasingly popular, Jackson partnered with Chinese host He Jiong, for a talk show called Go Fridge. At the age of 21, the project was his first as a solo artist. In one of the show’s episodes, viewers were delighted to see Jackson childishly fighting with Chinese singer Wowkie Zhang over a bottle of soda. Jackson, with nary a care for his growing status as a singer-idol, candidly blurted out that he has short legs and that he didn’t have a well-built body. That disarming outburst from a very young, pretty faced Jackson quickly earned him the title “everyone’s younger brother.”
Since then, Jackson has made a name for himself as a singer and a host in variety shows. And unlike many in the industry, Jackson’s rise in the entertainment industry is not meteoric, neither is it dogged by controversy. Instead, his has been a steady climb up the fame ladder—no easy feat to achieve given the highly critical environment. Even those unfamiliar with pop culture seldom have negative feelings towards him as he comes across as likeable, a trait not commonly seen among celebrities.
Thinking back on his time on Go Fridge, Jackson says, “I was young then”. Now that he is 29 going on 30, he is facing his own existential crisis, “I’m really tired and I’m on the verge of passing out,” he laments.
“Everyone has their own stance and their own role to play. I feel that since I debuted almost a decade ago, I can’t compromise anymore.” Perhaps driven by a sense of crisis, but more so by his expectations of himself, Jackson adds, “Even if I fail, I want to create my own music,” and this, he explains, includes an album, followed by a concert. This mindset set the stage for the conception of his first album, Magic Man.” The album revolves around the theme of “raw,” meaning “to let go of everything in search of my authentic self,” and he hopes that listeners would be able to “find your own magic.” In the 10-track album, Jackson divulged that he was actively involved in the composition of every track. He reveals, “Previously I didn’t spend much time on music, and I used to think that people around me were not really interested in what I was doing. At that time, we only had two and a half months, and everyone said it was impossible to do it; also not many helped, but still, I managed to complete it.”
To Jackson, Magic Man is indeed something that he has always wanted to do. “Two years ago, I would not have thought about it, neither would I care about anything. I just wanted to be in control and to take a chance with my own choices. I can’t be doing this when I’m in my fifties, so I can’t afford to delay any longer. Even if I fail, then let me die on my own terms. That is the honest truth.”
He reckons that in life, everyone is just doing their job, and he firmly believes that “If I win, we all win. If I lose, only I lose.” Hence, two years ago, he decided that he had had enough. “This is my life and I shouldn’t compromise any further.”
I DON’T LIKE ANYTHING THAT’S PRETENTIOUS
Jackson’s parents are both athletes. When he was 10, he fell in love with fencing while attending a recreational class in primary school. He followed in his father’s footsteps and chose sabre fencing as his discipline. When he was 17, Jackson came in first in the Asian Junior Fencing Championships. In his sporting life, he won an Asian championship, three national championships, and nine international and Hong Kong championships.
He confesses, “At that time, I was a go-getter.” It seemed then that he was destined for an athletic career. This was followed by a stint abroad as a trainee, and he had to live independently at a young age. Pensive, he adds, “I’ve experienced a lot of failures, and I am still experiencing them now.” That, however, has not stopped him. In fact, like a true sportsman, it has strengthened his resolve when he is confronted with failure. He explains, “If I want this, what are the skills I need? And how do I acquire those skills?” Once he has it figured out, he invests the time required, dissects it, and trains for it. He adds, “I can’t let myself fail because of others.”
In the eyes of the audience, Jackson’s unique selling point is being “normal,” and this normalcy has multiple layers, including being well-mannered, even-tempered, emotionally stable, dedicated, and appropriate—to the extent that some have labelled him “pretentious.”
Jackson has never heard of anyone calling him pretentious. He shares, “If it’s an act, the cat will let itself out of the bag eventually. More than 90 percent of the time, I don’t really have a temper because I’m quite easy. I can eat anything, go anywhere, do anything. But if it involves work that I’m invested in, then I can’t let it go. So, I do have my emotions, but if I am not triggered, then I‘m all good.”
Joy, he says, comes from spending time with his friends and completing projects that have been on his mind.
Related article: Exclusive: Wordplay With GOT7’s Jackson Wang
“People change. I think time is not the determinant of how truthful a friendship is. It’s possible that you can be friends with someone for over a decade and only then realise what kind of person they truly are. But I do think there are some conversations, regardless of the duration, that spark magic. I have a couple of instances like this when our schedules align and we have time to talk, we spend three to five days together, and we discuss things that resonate with us. It’s a kind of positive energy—it’s supportive of you, and doesn’t care what your job is. It’s transparent, direct, and sincere conversation that happens between people,” he shares.
Despite coming across as “normal,” Jackson has an air of mystery about him. While he is a charismatic singer and performer, he doesn’t brag, nor mention the effort he puts in behind the scenes, or show off the drafts and the documentaries. His dazzling stage persona, and the concealment of his hard work makes everything appear effortless—perhaps this is the reason why he has been unkindly labelled “pretentious.”
Jackson shrugs, “I don’t care; what matters to me is the moment. I don’t need others to know, and they might not be interested in the happenings behind the scenes. I just feel uncomfortable when I hear those words, my heart sinks a little.
“You see, I’m pretty straightforward. I don’t like politics and I don’t judge by appearance, so I don’t like things that are pretentious.”
Related article: This Is Exactly What K-Pop Star Jackson Wang Eats In A Day
I WANT TO MAKE MY OWN HISTORY
When Jackson is not working, he is at home, with his parents in Shanghai. The conversation on ageing crops up time and again, with the refrain that being 29 is considered old to him. Although his hours are irregular, he now consciously clocks six hours of sleep, an improvement from four hours in the past. Before, he could still function on three to four hours of sleep. “But now I have come to realise that I’m limited too,” he quips.
Compared to the fresh and youthful look he had when he first debuted, Jackson looks more world-weary. Labels such as “young hunk” and “little puppy” are long gone; in place are new layers, courtesy of his lived experience. Today’s Jackson wears many hats—singer, rapper, fashion designer, competitive captain, athlete—personas that attract many who want to scratch beneath the surface and uncover the rich, sensitive heart behind these identities.
Jackson’s only setback, he believes, is not having a hit song that he can call his own. But he is unfazed, “Actually, it’s not entirely a failure. After all, I have my own community, I’m still a musician. I’m not motivated to just create a hit song, so I think it’s okay. I believe, one day my community will be able to resonate with this.”
Ever positive, he has set a milestone for himself—at 35. Not to retire, but to try new things, or explore new areas, such as working behind the scenes, or working on creatives for others. “I am very rational, and I’m confident because these are things that I genuinely enjoy. I get a lot of satisfaction from working behind the scenes, even if it means staying up all night till six or seven in the morning. Although it’s a painful process, it’s okay, because once it’s completed, I’ll suddenly come to realise how happy I am. And that is one of the reasons worth living for.”
Stylist: Yu Kun
Makeup: Juyoun Lee
Hair: Jinyi Seo
Producer and interviewer: Wang Xiaobai
Writer: Wang San
Style editor: July Zhang
Coordinator: Xue Dan
Publicist: Zheng Haoming
Location manager: Pu Qing, Mizi Production
Production assistants: Mu Ci, Ji Kai
Stylist’s assistant: Cath’s Group
Video director: H