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( New Straits Times )
Vanessa-Mae's Storm-filled day


The Arrival "OH boy, I hope she won't be late," moaned some journalists who had braved the traffic jam and arrived at Istana Hotel in Kuala Lumpur at 9.45am for an exclusive interview with violin prodigy Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson.
"She is always punctual," assured a staff member from record label EMI Music Malaysia Sdn Bhd.
Vanessa-Mae's schedule for the two-day Storm promo-tour to Malaysia was very tight and those involved were jittery because any delay would throw into disarray the agenda and this might lead to limited time for the interviews.
Her arrival at 10.10am, 25 minutes late, was like a gust of wind ...
swift and cool.
She walked in with a small entourage which included a beefy bodyguard at the head of the pack, a personal assistant by her side and a make-up artist following closely behind.
She looked absolutely smashing in a black spaghetti-strapped, baby doll dress with furry green trimmings and a pair of shiny knee-high black boots. Her face was, of course, perfectly made up.
A self-assured smile on her scarlet lips and with no apologies, she walked straight into a secluded corner and started her first interview of the day.
"She woke up early this morning and went to the gym," revealed her make- up artist Debbie Cronin, an Australian based in London who first worked with Vanessa-Mae two years ago.
Aha, now we know the truth. Her lean, taut and toned physique was no accident but part of her lifestyle and timetable.
After sweating it out, she showered, had breakfast and had her face painted on which took a good 30 minutes. That was all that was revealed, with no explanation to her delay in arriving.
The Morning Vanessa-Mae's whole morning was a blur of one interview after another but if she felt drained, she certantly didn't show it.
In fact, at one point, during an interview with Radio Rediffusion, she gamely attempted to speak Mandarin, with mom Pamela Nicholson holding a pre- written answer sheet assisting her all the way.
There were giggles as she tried getting control of the language and succeeded. But then again, we never expected otherwise.
When complimented, she was modest about it. "I am very bad at it, which isn't right since my mom is Singaporean and is able to speak the language.
I should be able to do better than that.
"Oh, she understands more than she can speak," commented her mom who bears a slight resemblance to actress Michelle Yeoh.
Vanessa-Mae, whose sultry pout in her first pop smash hit Red Hot became her trademark look in all videoclips, later reworked her makeup and changed into a red, short-sleeved, knee-length cheongsam and took some photographs with Norman of KRU for a magazine cover.
When she is all plastered in thick goo, she looks so mature that you forget she is a teenager. Then you notice that faded stick-on tattoo of a scorpion on her left wrist and the girlie dimple on her right cheek when she smiles.
Lunch Time After a zillion questions and several photography sessions later, Vanessa-Mae got her lunch break at 12.30pm, which wasn't a break at all.
First, it lasted only a few minutes, and second, the only things she popped into her mouth was fruit. She must have downed tonnes of energy bars for breakfast.
After swallowing her last slice of watermelon, Vanessa-Mae, with her entourage which now included her mom and grandmother, went off to her room for a major makeover for a meet-the-fans session at Tower Records in KL Plaza.
After Lunch It was 1pm. Tower Records is packed with youngsters as well as men in their 30s and 40s and they are restless. It had just been announced for the umpteenth time that "Vanessa-Mae is arriving soon" and they are not buying it anymore.
Then at 1.30pm, the final announcement came, followed by an excited murmur in the crowd. "She's here!," somebody screamed.
True enough, Vanessa-Mae's English bodyguard Paul Butler was spotted pushing his way through the crowd.
The scream grew louder, the crowd pushed forward and behold! A freshly groomed and lovely Vanessa-Mae in a floral print, baby blue, short summer dress, smiling and waving her way through to a small makeshift stage.
From then on, everything turned quite routine. The emcee for the function, radio presenter Tony John, had a short question-and-answer session with her. Then she gave a short "thank you" speech to her fans, signed some autographs and was whisked away again.
Vanessa-Mae and entourage were rushed back to Hotel Istana for a Press conference. But before her grand entrance, she changed her outfit again and greeted a room full of reporters in a pink-and-yellow Mandarin collar, Chinese-style blouse and pants.
There were more questions and answers, camera-lights-in-your-eyes and flashbulb-in-your-face sessions before she was taken away for a number of `one to one' interviews.
At 4.45pm, she rushed back to her room to change and was promptly driven to Sunway Lagoon Hotel and Theme Park for more interviews.
It had started to pour and Vanessa-Mae, who was running a bit off schedule, was stuck in a bad jam. She was supposed to do four interviews.
She only managed two and had the two radio interviews shelved after the performance.
Show Time The performance was supposed to begin at 8pm but started 30 minutes late. Nobody minded though the crowd was restless. The moment she came on stage, however, time became unimportant.
Clad in a pair of straight-cut shiny black pants and a gold-black square neck blouse, Vanessa-Mae shimmered and glowed.
The seductive nymph laughed, waved, shook hands with the audience and attempted a short chit-chat with everyone.
Then she held up her white electric violin and started to play. She stomped her feet, danced with her band which included her mom on keyboard, clapped her hands and sang. The crowd went bananas.
It was a testosterone-charged night and screams of "Vanessa, I love you"
rang loud and clear.
The show was like her current hit single Storm that kicked off the performance. A string of old and new songs which included Retro, I Feel Love, I'm A Doun, Hocus Pocus and Red Hot followed and it ended with yet another Storm.
Of course her fans weren't about to let her leave, so they screamed and pleaded until she agreed to play another song. But it was not to be as Vanessa-Mae discovered that the passionate last track had resulted in a broken string for her violin.
So the show ended, but not before a fan threw her a blue tote-sling bag and a cute teddy bear.
After The Show Well, the show may have ended for over 200 adoring fans, but not for our violin genius. She still had two radio interviews before retiring to bed at 1am.
The Enigma Delicately built yet tough-looking 19-year-old Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson took up violin when she was five and made it her passion as well as bread and butter.
She chalked up world-wide sales of over five million copies of her four albums and recently sold 15 thousand units of Storm in Malaysia alone.
A talented young girl, she looks Asian but has a strong English accent.
She is demure but not soft-spoken. She has this elegant, aristocratic air about her... flawless complexion, huge eyes which are never without thick, black mascara and dark eyeshadow, full lips and nice cheekbones.
This is the girl recently voted by People Magazine as one of the most beautiful people in the world. She is sweet, always cheerful and has a smile on her lips that never fades but never quite reaches her eyes either.
At her interviews, one gets a sense of deja vu. Like a broken record, the media would quiz her on the same topics, to which she would give prepared answers. She is like an actress reading cue cards... very politically-correct cue cards.
But one has to hand it to her, she smiles and she remains cool and collected.
How does she cope?
"Oh, it's part of what I do. There will always be shows, concerts and tours and interviews and fans. I don't expect anything different. This is my job, my career," came her very PC reply.
She may only be 19 but she is far wiser than she seems and she is very much in control.
"I don't worry about finances. My accountant takes care of that.
Besides, my parents are lawyers. I have my music which I am very serious about and when I am not working, I hang out with friends my age. I am just a normal teenager," she maintained.
"I also don't worry about getting an image consultant. When I am not doing any photo shoot, I wear anything I want. All the clothes you saw today are from my closet."
The one thing that she seems to dislike is when one mentions her sexy image. "I am not a model, I am a violinist," came her cold reply.
No matter how mature or controlled she may seem, there is a bit of that cheeky teenager in her that peeps out from time to time.
The incident with a music critic which resulted in her taking out an advert in a British paper was one example.
Another example is evident in her Storm videoclip, a video where she is shown to be adored to the point of being kidnapped.
"The part where I was seen kicking a cup of drink into the face of an angry-looking man was me saying I don't care what old fuddy duddies say about me or my music," she explained.
It really is amazing how she handles every bit of negativity said or written about her. After spending an entire day with a person you would expect to know her just a little bit better. But in truth, that wasn't the case with Vanessa-Mae.
Note * Storm, just released this month, is a 70-minute album with 14 tracks.
It is a collaboration between Vanessa-Mae and producer-songwriter Andy Hill, who first worked with her as producer of her hit single I'm A Doun.
The music in Storm ranges from the sublime (on the song A Poet's Quest) to grand (The Blessed Spirits) and arrogant heroism (Leyenda). There is also witty mischief (I Can, Can You?), blinding virtuosity (Hocus Pocus), cool (Retro) and sultry earthiness (Embrace Moi).
She even turns disco diva in I Feel Love, then switches to laidback R&B chic with Aurora. So check it out.
Tan Ling Ai, Vanessa-Mae's Storm-filled day., New Straits Times, 12-15-1997.


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