K-pop, with its synchronized dance routines, bright costumes, catchy tunes, and a heaping dose of stage-managed preening is wildly popular in South Korea and could be looked at as the country’s cultural brand. One person who is proving to be a perfect representation of this culture is Lay Zhang, a singer who began as a child star in China’s Hunan province after winning third place in a competition called Star Academy.
After that, Zhang appeared in a few TV shows in 2005 and 2006. He joined SM Entertainment in 2008 after a successful audition with the company’s global casting system in Changsha. At the time of the auditions, he was 16 years old and was studying for his college entrance exams. In 2011, he briefly worked for SHINee in their concert tour as Jonghyun’s dance replacement. Lay was then formally introduced as a member of EXO on January 17, 2012. He along with other Exo members had their pre-debut performance in Seoul’s Olympic Stadium on March 31 of the same year. On April 8, 2012, Exo debuted with the single Mama. He was then later made a member of the sub-unit Exo-M which had its debut performance at the 12th Yinyue Fegyun Bang Awards in China.
But even though he is a part of the Korean-Chinese K-pop group Exo, Lay Zhang is also a solo artist. His debut mini-album, Lose Control was released in 2016 to huge success, breaking several records in China and South Korea as it peaked at #1 on the Gaon Album Chart as well as #4 on Billboard’s US World Albums chart. It ended 2016 as the 7th Best-Selling Album of the year and made him the first Chinese artist to enter the iTunes Top 60. He released his first solo single Monodrama in May 2016.
When Lay Zhang is not working on his music, he’s with his EXO squad: Xiumin, Baekhyun, Chen, Suho, Chanyeol, D.O., Kai, and Sehun. He has also taken time to do other things outside of music, including penning an autobiographical book titled “Standing Firm At 24” which was published back in 2015 and reportedly became a best-seller in China.
5 Other Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Lay Zhang
1. Lay Zhang Has Been A Victim of Online Harassment
It was reported in August 2019 that the Chinese K-pop star and his family had faced online harassment that led to the leaking of their private details online. A report by Hong Kong-based Orange News said Zhang’s family members’ private information had been disclosed by some people on social media. The report also said the singer’s ID had been used to register for organ donation.
2. He Took a Stand for ‘One China’
In 2019, Lay Zhang took bold steps concerning his endorsement deals. In August of the same year, he canceled a contract with Samsung Electronics after the South Korean giant became the latest international brand to be accused of damaging China’s “territorial integrity”. He had also threatened to end collaboration with Calvin Klein for similar reasons; implying that Taiwan and Hong Kong were independent countries and not part of China. The fashion label later apologized for the misunderstanding its website had caused.
3. He was a Publicity Ambassador
Back in 2016, Lay was appointed as a publicity ambassador for the Communist Youth League of China (CYLC), and it was the first time that a celebrity was honored with the title.
4. Lay Has Collaborated with Far East Movement
The collaboration between EXO’s Lay and American hip-hop and electronic music group Far East Movement, Lovebird was released on March 15, 2019. Lovebird is a dancehall-inspired track that infuses catchy vocal melodies and beats to create the perfect song for the spring season. The lyrics talk about things being better when two people are together rather than when they are apart.
5. He is also an Actor
Lay Zhang has appeared in a number of movies and television series. They include Unknown Crime (2020) as Xia Mu, Empress of the Ming (2019) as Zhu Qizhen, The Golden Eyes (2019) as Zhuang Rui, The Island (2018) as Ma Xiaoxing, Tomb of the Sea (2018) as Xie Yuechen, Operation Love (2017) as Yan Xiaolai, The Mystic Nine Side Story: Flowers Bloom in February (2016) as Er Yuehong, The Mystic Nine (2016) as Er Yuehong, To Be A Better Man (2016) as Xiao Cai, and EXO Next Door (2015). Others are Ex-Files 2 (2015), Kung Fu Yoga (2017), and The Island (2018).