A Fine Prologue for Singer-songwriter Calista Wu

I am 15 minutes late to our meeting because LA traffic and passive driving do not mix. I see her across the room and she waves at me, mid-sip from her Chocolate Latte. Halfway through my breathless apology, Calista waves it off and orders me the same drink. “They have the best coffee here,” she beams at me. She’s cool and smart– conversation flows easily. What I like most about Calista is that though she is fully aware about Asian American issues and all the pressures that come with being an Asian American female in the entertainment industry, she remains undaunted. She speaks about her life very simply with words that cut deep into the relatable grooves of our childhood passions. Her language is full of hope; her words are wise but relatable. I am mildly jealous of her calm attitude towards struggle: it’s as if life has a single goal, a light at the end that will surely come. That end goal is a dream deferred that will one day burst into fruition.

Upon meeting Calista Wu, I am struck by the magnitude of her person. Where does such a petite woman get such immense power with which she not only sings, but also lives her life? We reclined in comfortably tattered armchairs in the industrial yet quaint coffee warehouse tucked away in Pasadena, California and this passionate, driven, young Taiwanese American woman humbly shared her journey of talent, self discovery, and her upcoming CD release.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Calista grew up in a household that was nurturing of her musical talents. She began keyboard/piano lessons at the age of three, and then branched into the violin, clarinet, guitar, drums, and voice lessons. “[I] was a melodramatic kid, I felt like practicing piano was the bane of my existence, but now, I love it. When it stopped being a chore and started to become a vessel for creative expression, I fell in love with it. And I’m so glad that I can play because it’s so much easier to write songs and perform when you have that foundation.” When asked about the venues she has sung at, it is impressive and diverse, ranging from University commencements to large conferences.

Her style is contemporary, R&B smooth, but behind the voice are big ideas, a purposeful decision and a rich history. Her life story is perhaps relatable to some Asian Americans: “I worked hard throughout high school and college and did as much as I could to establish myself into a safe and logical career choice.” As a Berkeley graduate, Calista was a young, bright businesswoman working long hours at a well-known company. Her work was paying off and she was up for a promotion that would guarantee her success. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for practical career choices… you can do so much with that. You can help change society with your finances and influence, but if you know what you’re getting into with the entertainment industry, if you have a solid sense of your identity, and if you just know you have to try because it’s your destiny, then I would tell you to consider stepping out and trying entertainment.” It is at that point where she made a pivotal decision to go to Africa.

“I am so passionate about orphans and justice,” she takes a deep breath and we dive into her memories of Africa, visiting orphanages, serving at charities and church conferences. “After that, I realized the world was so much bigger, that there were things I was created for, that I needed to slow down and listen to this voice in my life that never stopped speaking to me…” Calista continues, “I knew when I was little that I wanted to be a singer, I wanted to be a lawyer.” After a 2 year hiatus of traveling, speaking and working at conferences, Calista began to take strides towards her music career with the support of friends and her family. Her new CD “The Prologue” is scheduled to release on June 16th, 2009. (http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=87883178738)

She laughs when I call her a celebrity, “People sometimes contact me and say they get nervous talking to me, but all I have is a website up with some pictures… does that make me a celebrity? I guess anyone can be one now.”

As for Asian Americans in the industry, she is excited to see who is coming next. In her mind, there seems to be no doubt that there will be more talent on the horizon and she welcomes it. “I am Asian American. It’s part of my identity, but it’s not the whole story,” she says. “No matter what, whether or not someone is Asian American, I think it’s all about being excellent in what you do.” As an upcoming Taiwanese American artist, Calista Wu draws from a deep wellspring of talent and passion. With a well-rounded, talented freshman album to be released, Calista Wu is equipped with a bold and humble attitude that is refreshing and points well to future success. Best of luck, Calista, from TaiwaneseAmerican.org!

Visit Calista’s website at: http://www.calistawu.com

Listen to Calista on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/calistawu

If you’re in LA on Tuesday, June 16th, 2009, check out her CD Release party: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=87883178738

Self-proclaimed coffee addict and actually a safe, adept driver, Christina Chou is a recent graduate from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Economics and Political Science and the ITASA Midwest Conference 2009 Co-Director. She is currently interning at an Asian American media production company in Los Angeles and it is straight trippin’. Her photography can be found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/seechou/sets

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