Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times
Yuja Wang has a new crush: the fast-talking, buck-toothed Donkey from “Shrek” addressing tourists at Universal Studios Hollywood from the window of a waffle cart.
“Step on up. Nice hair. Bring it with you,” Donkey teases one woman.
Wang stands transfixed in her skin-tight fuchsia minidress and oversized glam-girl sunglasses, her outfit popping out against the crowd of straw visors and denim shorts. At this moment the global classical music star is simply a smitten innocent, let loose in a theme park.
“Oh, I looove this Donkey!” she coos, stirring a frozen latte. “OMG! Look at him!” She tosses her head back, spiky bits of her layered bob blowing every which way, and she unleashes a powerful, deep belly laugh out of sync with her coquettish demeanor. “Wah-ha-ha!” she guffaws, before composing herself.
Nearly a decade after she started to set the classical music world ablaze with her technically dazzling piano concertos and sexy, convention-defying outfits onstage, Wang is one of the most distinctive, acclaimed and popular figures in the classical music world. She is also a thicket of contradictions. She’s a blinged-out fashionista who’s whip-smart, rattling off titles of recently consumed highbrow books and films; a speed-talking, admitted “cellphone addict” who nonetheless relishes languid strolls through parks in her slivers of down time; a powerhouse performer who gets nervous before every appearance; a passion-to-the-wind personality respected for her refined musical intelligence.
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Image: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times