Some were born in Canada from expatriate parents, some lived here for several years, and some even ended up becoming Canadian citizens. These are international superstars whom you may not know have enjoyed a significant Canadian connection. By no means is this a complete list, and we may post more in the future. But for now, here are three such marvels.
One of China’s biggest pop stars of all-time is Hong Kong’s Leslie Cheung. He was a teen heartthrob and huge movie star as well, starring in Farewell My Concubine and John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow. Musically, he was dubbed the Elvis of Hong Kong by Canadian entertainment journalist John Charles. He began his musical career in 1981 with the release of the album The Wind Continues to Blow and set himself apart from other Chinese singers by dancing on stage. He retreated from the music industry in 1989 but made a big comeback in 1997 embarking on a world tour. What many people do not know is that Leslie Cheung was a Canadian, albeit a naturalized one. He moved to Vancouver in 1990 to escape the burden of press gossip. After a few years in Canada, he became a Canadian citizen.
On April 1, 2003, commotions ensued across the most populated country on earth, as people scrambled to verify whether or not news reports that Leslie Cheung had committed suicide were simply an April Fools’ joke. When broadcasts continued announcing his death the following day, realization of the sad truth hit hard and tears welled up all over the world. Leslie Cheung had flung himself out of a window in Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel. It is estimated that through his career he had achieved a net worth of 40 million U.S. dollars.
One of the U.K.’s leading makers of synthpop, spikey-haired, beret-clad Howard Jones scored a string of international hits in the 1980s including “New Song”, “Things Can Only Get Better” and “No One Is to Blame”. “Everlasting Love” hit #3 in Canada. He was one of the performers at 1985’s Live Aid in the U.S. Howard was a trained pianist from age seven, and before breaking out made ends meet playing live classical piano music on the radio during the graveyard shift and working at a cling film (plastic wrap) factory during the day. His live shows often featured mime artist Jed Hoile, in white face paint, who performed improvised choreography. Jones’ debut album, Human’s Lib, went straight to number one in Britain becoming a multi-platinum release.
When he was nine years old, the career of Howard Jones’ father took the family from Britain to Canada. Howard lived in Ottawa, played street hockey, and made an appearance on Canadian TV singing Welsh songs. He made the permanent move back to the U.K. when he was 14.
From equestrian instructor to actress to model, Mylène Farmer (born Mylène Jeanne Gautier) eventually became one of the most successful French recording artists of all-time. She holds the record of 13 number one singles in France. Seven of her albums have been certified diamond and 11 of them have reached #1. She began her recording career in 1984 in the new wave genre, and her latest album, 2012’s Monkey Me, embraces electronic dance music (EDM). Of all her hits, “Désenchantée” is considered her biggest and charted internationally. She has collaborated with a number of well-known artists including the United States’ Moby. It was Mylène who discovered and mentored new millennium dance-pop sensation Alizée (“Moi Lolita”). Mylène Farmer has sold in excess of 30 million records.
Farmer was born in Pierrefonds, Québec. (Yes, you read that right). Her parents had emigrated from France in the late 1950s, as her father pursued an engineering contract in Montréal. Mylène spent her first 8 years growing up in Canada before returning to France with her family. It was the land of the maple leaf that shaped her early childhood years.