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This article is about the musician. For the minor planet named after her, see 10313 Vanessa-Mae.
Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson
Vanessa-Mae at the Royal Festival Hall in London on 21 October 2004
Born Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn
(1978-10-27) 27 October 1978 (age 35)
Residence London, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Other names Vanessa-Mae, Vanessa Vanakorn
Years active 1990–present
Musical career
Instruments 1761 Guadagnini acoustic violin
Zeta Jazz model electric violin
Ted Brewer Violins (Crossbow, Vivo2 Clear)

Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson (born 27 October 1978), known professionally as Vanessa-Mae, is a Singaporean-born British violinist and alpine skier. She is of Thai and Chinese descent. Her musical style is self-described as "violin techno-acoustic fusion", as several of her albums prominently feature the techno style with the classical style. A former child prodigy, she became a successful crossover violinist with album sales reaching several million, having made her the wealthiest young entertainer in the United Kingdom in 2006.

She competed for Thailand at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in alpine skiing.

Early life and education[edit]

Vanessa-Mae was born in Singapore to Vorapong Vanakorn, an English hotelier of Thai ancestry who lives in Singapore,[1] and Pamela Soei Luang Tan, a Chinese lawyer and semi-professional concert pianist. After her parents separated, her mother married Graham Nicholson, a British attorney who adopted Vanessa-Mae, and the family moved to England when Vanessa-Mae was four years old. She grew up in London and holds British citizenship. She began playing piano at the age of three and violin at five.[2]

At age eight, Vanessa-Mae began attending the Francis Holland School in London, and at eleven, after her concert debut in 1988, she enrolled at the Royal College of Music in London.[2]

In 1996, Vanessa-Mae's birth father publicly criticised and disowned her, adding that "she looks like a soft-porn showgirl",[1] after seeing pictures of his scantily clad daughter to promote her albums.[1] Vanessa-Mae's mother and stepfather defended her, saying that her image is none of his business.[1]

Musical career[edit]

Vanessa-Mae became famous in the United Kingdom in her childhood making regular appearances on television (e.g. Blue Peter) mostly involving classical music and conservative style. She made her international professional debut at age ten in 1988 at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in Germany, and the same year made her concerto debut on stage with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. At age thirteen, she became the youngest soloist to record both the Beethoven and Tchaikovsky violin concertos, according to Guinness World Records.[3]

After entering her teens, Vanessa-Mae broke away from her traditional classical influences and became known for her more distinct appearance, appearing in music videos in more stylised outfits. 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".[4]

Vanessa-Mae was managed by her mother, who owns a private recording label and music agency, until 1999, when Vanessa-Mae fired her as her manager.[5]

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.[6]

In April 2006, Vanessa-Mae was ranked as the wealthiest young entertainer under 30 in the UK in the Sunday Times Rich List 2006,[7] having an estimated fortune of about £32 million stemming from concerts and record sales of over an estimated 10 million copies worldwide.

In 2006, Vanessa-Mae announced that she would be releasing a new album sometime between 2007 and 2008. The album was said to draw inspiration from classic ballets and opera themes. A new album was expected in 2009,[8] but the year ended without the expected release.

In October 2011, Vanessa-Mae attended celebrations in Chechnya on the birthday of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov along with several other celebrities, playing excerpts from Vivaldi's Four Seasons,[9] reportedly receiving $500,000 for her performance.[10] 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.[11]


Vanessa-Mae has occasionally recorded her own compositions. Her 1997 album China Girl: The Classical Album 2 included her Violin Fantasy on Puccini's 'Turandot' and Reunification Overture, marking the reunification of China and Hong Kong.[12]


Vanessa-Mae most often uses one of two types of violins, a Guadagnini acoustic violin or a Zeta Jazz model electric violin. The Guadagnini was made in 1761, and was purchased by her parents at an auction for £250,000 when she was ten. It was stolen in January 1995, but was recovered by police two months later.

In addition, she uses one of two Zeta Jazz Model electric violins, one of which is white while the other features decals of the US flag. She has also been using a silver-grey Zeta Jazz Model electric violin since 2001. In addition, she owns three Ted Brewer Violins, two of which she uses on stage (a Crossbow and a Vivo2 Clear) and in publicity material. In addition to these violins, she sometimes buys violins and resells them later, giving the proceeds to charity.

Skiing career[edit]

Vanessa Vanakorn
— Alpine skier  —
Disciplines Alpine Skiing
Born Singapore
Teams Thailand (2014)
Medals 0 (0 gold)

A skier since the age of four,[13] she has wanted since age 14 to compete in the Olympics.[14] Vanakorn attempted to represent Thailand for the 2002 Winter Olympics, but was unable to do so at the time, as the Thai Olympic Committee had requested she give up her British citizenship, which she was not ready to do.[15] In 2009 Vanessa-Mae took up residence in the Swiss alpine resort of Zermatt.[16] She started to train competitively in 2010.[14] She is registered as a Thai alpine skier.[17]

Vanessa-Mae at the Southbank Centre, London, England, carrying the Olympic torch, April, 2008

She represented Thailand in the 2014 Winter Olympics as an alpine skier with the name Vanessa Vanakorn.[18] Vanakorn unofficially qualified, under a second set of provisions for Olympic hopefuls, and the Thai Olympic selectors then accepted her bid to represent the country because her father is Thai.[18] She skied in competition in more than the minimum 5 slalom and/or giant slalom FIS recognized international race events, qualifying for slalom and giant slalom in the 2014 Games.[14] She became the second ever Winter Olympian for Thailand, leading the largest ever Thai delegation at a Winter Olympics: two skiers.[19][20]

On 18 February 2014, Vanakorn finished 74th of 90 skiers, with a time of 1:44.86 on her first run at Giant Slalom, 26.98 seconds behind the leader. She started in the 87th position, representing her relative ranking in the world giant slalom rankings.[21] In run 2, she had a time of 1:42.11, 24.21 seconds behind the leader of run 2.[22] She started 74th in run 2, the last starter for run 2.[23] At the end of the event, she had a total time of 3:26.97, 50.10 seconds behind the gold medal winner, Tina Maze of Slovenia. She was last among the finishers, ranking 67th.[24]

On July 10th 2014 four Slovenian ski competition organizers were given each four-years ban on working with Slovenian Ski Union (Smučarska zveza Slovenije) and FIS competitions because of supposedly fixed Sochi Winter Olympics qualifications for Thai ski team on Krvavec in January 2014[25] - with the only goal to successfully qualify Vanessa Mae.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Vanessa-Mae has been dating Lionel Catalan[27] for several years. The two met when she visited the ski-slopes of Val d'Isere in France.[citation needed] Catalan is the son of the resort's mayor. Mae is known for her lack of interest in marriage and has said "you don't need a ring to say I love you".[27]



  • Live at the Royal Albert Hall, The Red Hot Tour (1995) (concert documentary)
  • The Violin Fantasy (1998)
  • Arabian Nights (2000) (actor in the series)
  • The Making of Me (2008) (subject of episode 3)


  1. ^ a b c d Green, Jonathan (13 June 1996). "A parting that plays on the heart-strings". The Independent. 
  2. ^ a b "Contemporary Musicians: Vanessa-Mae". enotes. Retrieved 14 October 2011. 
  3. ^ Guinness World Records. Guinness World Records Ltd. 2003. p. 191. ISBN 1-892051-17-6. 
  4. ^ Easlea, Daryl (2010). "Review of Janet Jackson – The Velvet Rope". BBC Review. BBC. 
  5. ^ Deacon, Michael (7 August 2008). "Vanessa-Mae’s journey from prodigy to performer". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 14 October 2011. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ "Business". "Vanessa-Mae tops young rich list". BBC News. 21 April 2006. Retrieved 14 October 2011. 
  8. ^ Vanessa-Mae at Westonbirt Arboretum
  9. ^ Malpas, Anna (7 October 2011). "In the Spotlight". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 26 October 2011. 
  10. ^ "Hollywood stars fly in on Chechen leader's birthday". BBC. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2011. 
  11. ^ Classic Drive with Julia Lester (2011-10-19). "Vanessa-Mae shamed for playing for Chechen president – Classical Music". Limelight Magazine. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  12. ^ Walsh, John (24 January 1998). "Living doll". The Independent (London). Retrieved 31 December 2011. 
  13. ^ "Vanessa-Mae: I want to be an Olympic skier". The Telegraph (London). 8 August 2010. Retrieved 13 June 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c Sarah Knapton (20 January 2014). "Winter Olympics 2014: violinist Vanessa-Mae to ski for Thailand at the Sochi Games". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  15. ^ Organizing Committee of the XXII Olympic Winter Games and XI Paralympic Winter Games of 2014 in Sochi (2014). "Vanessa VANAKORN". XXII Olympic Winter Games and XI Paralympic Winter Games. 
  16. ^ Anthon, Kaye (29 July 2010). "Ski statt Geige". Blick (in German). Retrieved 14 October 2011. 
  17. ^ "VANAKORN Vanessa (905000)". FIS (International Ski Federation). Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  18. ^ a b Williams, Ollie (20 January 2014). "Violinist Vanessae-Mae set to compete at Winter Olympics". BBC Sport. BBC. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  19. ^ "Thai Skier Vanessa Vanakorn Qualifies for Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics". Chiangrai Times. 20 January 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  20. ^ AFP (21 January 2014). "Vanessa Mae to swap violin for skis in Sochi". Yahoo News. Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  21. ^ SportsNet, Women's Giant Slalom – run 1, airdate: 18 February 2014 @ circa 2:00AM EST (video)
  22. ^ "Vanessa Vanakorn". CBC Olympics. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  23. ^ SportsNet, Women's Giant Slalom – run 2, airdate: 18 February 2014 (video)
  24. ^ "Alpine Skiing – Women's Giant Slalom". CBC Olympics. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  25. ^ "Vanessa Mae qualifies for Sochi at Krvavec ski resort". RTV Slovenia. 20 January 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  26. ^ "Epilog škandala že znan: prepoved delovanja zaradi primera Mae". 10 July 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  27. ^ a b "Mae Rejects Marriage". 2007-02-21. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 

External links[edit]