Vanessa-Mae (陈美 Chén Měi) (born 27 October 1978) also called Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson, is a British violinist with album sales reaching several million, having made her the wealthiest entertainer under 30 in the United Kingdom in 2006. She competed under the name Vanessa Vanakorn (her father's surname) for Thailand in alpine skiing at the 2014 Winter Olympics. She was initially banned from skiing because a qualifying race for her benefit was alleged to be corrupt, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport later nullified the ban, citing lack of evidence for her own wrongdoing or any manipulation.
Early life and education
Vanessa-Mae was born on 27 October 1978 in Singapore, to a Singaporean mother Pamela Soei Luang Tan and Thai father Vorapong Vanakorn. After adoption by a British father, she moved to London at the age of 4 where she began playing the violin, having already started the piano in Singapore. At the age of eight Mae embarked upon an intensive period of study with Professor Lin Yao Ji at the National Conservatoire of Music in Beijing. Vanessa-Mae returned to London and entered London's Royal College of Music.
At age thirteen, Vanessa-Mae became the youngest soloist to record both the Beethoven and Tchaikovsky violin concertos, according to Guinness World Records.
Her first pop-style album, The Violin Player, was released in 1995. She appeared on the 1997 Janet Jackson album The Velvet Rope playing a violin solo on the song "Velvet Rope".
She was managed by her mother until Vanessa-Mae fired her in 1999.
On 7 March 2002 Vanessa-Mae performed a variation of Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons – "Summer: III. Presto" during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Paralympics.
In April 2006, Vanessa-Mae was ranked as the wealthiest young entertainer under 30 in the UK in the Sunday Times Rich List 2006, having an estimated fortune of about £32 million.
Human rights controversy
In October 2011, Vanessa-Mae attended celebrations in Chechnya on the birthday of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov along with several other celebrities, "played a bit of Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons' utterly mechanically" according to The Moscow Times reporter Anna Malpas, and reportedly received $US500,000 for her performance. When asked where the money comes from to pay for performances, Kadyrov replied that "Allah gives it to us". Human rights groups, who had urged the celebrities to cancel their appearances because of human rights abuses carried out under Kadyrov, criticised her and other celebrities for attending the event.
Mae has occasionally recorded her own compositions. Her 1997 album China Girl: The Classical Album 2 included two pieces in which she shared a writing credit: Violin Fantasy on Puccini's 'Turandot' and Reunification Overture, marking the reunification of China and Hong Kong.
In 2017, ClassicFM compiled a list of the 300 best selling classical albums in the 25 years it has been running. Vanessa-Mae entered three times. The Classical Album 1 reached 244, Storm reached 135 and her debut mainstream album The Violin Player is the 76th best selling. The site claims that her total album sales make 'her the biggest-selling solo violinist in the chart'.