Lay Zhang, also known as Zhang Yixing, is a Chinese singer, rapper, songwriter, actor, and dancer. Born on October 7, 1991, in Changsha, Hunan Province, China, he is best known for being a member of the popular K-pop group EXO.
Lay began his career at SM Entertainment, one of South Korea’s biggest entertainment companies, in 2008. He joined EXO in 2012 and quickly became a fan favorite, known for his smooth vocals and impressive dance skills. During his time with the group, Lay released several hit songs, including Mama, Growl, and Call Me Baby.
In 2016, Lay made his solo debut with the EP Lose Control. The album was a huge success, topping the charts in China and South Korea. Since then, Lay has released several other successful solo albums, including NAMANANA and Honey.
The singer made his acting debut in the Chinese drama To Be a Better Man in 2016. He has since appeared in several TV shows and movies, including The Island, Kung Fu Yoga, and The Golden Eyes. Lay’s performances have earned him critical acclaim and several awards, including the Best Supporting Actor award at the 2017 China-Britain Film Festival for his role in The Founding of an Army.
Lay set aside some time in Los Angeles, during the photoshoot for Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam, to share his latest news with us.
HARPER’S BAZAAR: You’re traveling around the world performing in several countries, what have you enjoyed most about being abroad?
LAY ZHANG: I love meeting the fans and seeing all their beautiful smiles! Feeling the energy they give me when I see them. It gives me a boost of energy that helps me keep going with my projects. Every city is so different, I try to find inspiration wherever I go. Also, I love food. I give myself a little excuse to eat more so I can try the local foods.
HARPER’S BAZAAR: Even more exciting for fans was your tour across Southeast Asia—also, marking your 10th anniversary since debut. From EXO, to an extremely successful solo career and acting, what has kept your drive going through these years, especially during your most challenging moments?
LAY ZHANG: I feel very lucky to have experienced all these things. I am just a normal person that has an unusual job. Because of this luck, I feel it is my responsibility to work harder and go further. I want to make my family, staff, and fans proud.
When I find it challenging, I think about my fans and how they have always supported me and given me energy to keep going through so many years. It makes me happy, and I want to return that happiness to my fans as well, through my performance and projects.
HARPER’S BAZAAR: Watching your solo career excel, especially coming from a larger group, what missions did you give yourself as an artist when you branched off on your own?
LAY ZHANG: To grow and to learn! When you are in a group, you can rely on others to help and support you. I have been trying to figure out how I can do this as one person. It is tiring doing this by myself, but it is a good challenge. I have been able to grow more because as a solo artist, I need to take on more responsibility.
It is important to challenge yourself and not be afraid of growth, even if it is difficult at first. It’s the only way to become a better person and an artist. If it is not challenging, why do it? Getting love and support from my fans as I change and try new concepts as an artist has also helped me to continue going on.
HARPER’S BAZAAR: Do you think that you are your toughest critic?
LAY ZHANG: Yes, but that is because I am honest with myself. I look at what I am good and bad at and see how I can better myself. I see my errors as opportunities to grow and become a better artist. So, if I have a moment to myself, I use it to practice my dancing or singing. It is important to use my time wisely as much as I can.
When I’m talking about professional aspects, music, dance, singing, producing, I am very strict with myself. I want to achieve the most because I feel so grateful to have this job.
HARPER’S BAZAAR: You’ve been releasing a great amount of bilingual music the past few years. Debuting in the United States is tough, at times it can be brutal. How have you handled the pressures and difficulties of breaking into the US music scene?
LAY ZHANG: I think it is very tough because I don’t speak very good English and it is a very different culture from China. There is so much to learn and do all at once. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. At the same time, it excites me and makes me want to try my very best to succeed. A lot of people laugh at my dreams and goals, I think that’s okay because I’m going to keep going. As long as I have my fans support I will try to do my best, I won’t have any regrets.
HARPER’S BAZAAR: Besides music, you’re always in demand as an actor in China. How difficult is it navigating these two different industries? How do you create balance between the two?
LAY ZHANG: Doing both is not easy, but I always strive to find a balance in my life. As I say, I can’t be a CEO and an artist at the same time. I can’t be a musician and actor at the same time.
Acting can be very fulfilling to me because it gives me an opportunity to find a new part of myself. It offers me an opportunity to be someone else and live a different life for a moment. This also helps me when I get back to my regular life, I appreciate what I have so much, and it makes me got out to do best that I can with everything!
HARPER’S BAZAAR: Presently, do you feel you align more to one than the other?
LAY ZHANG: I think I will always be a musician first. For me, it is hard to beat the feeling after recording a dope track. When you hear your song for the first time in the studio, I can’t help but jump up and down in excitement. Then you start putting the dance and choreography together and it gets to be really fun.
Seeing something that starts out as some snares and kicks and become a full dance move with an MV is priceless. It gets even better when you can perform a song you made on stage with all your lovely fans supporting you. I can’t imagine a life without music, and it really crosses languages and borders. Music is for everyone.
HARPER’S BAZAAR: Any hints into future music, films, and shows?
LAY ZHANG: Well, I don’t think I can say anything for now, many things are happening. However, I’m constantly working a lot to show my fans another side of me. Always trying my best to better my performances and looking for inspiration for my music.
I want to improve my vocals to be even better. It is so important for me to make my fans, team, and family proud. I want to be worthy of their support.
HARPER’S BAZAAR: Looking beyond your current immeasurable success, where do you want to find yourself in the future?
LAY ZHANG: The future seems to be bright. I’m really excited to branch out and try new music and new concepts. I feel more and more clear about where I’m going. While I might be getting older, I feel my mind getting younger and fresher. As long as I can continue to work and perform, many things are possible.
Throughout his career, Lay Zhang has proven himself to be a multi-talented artist with a strong work ethic and a deep commitment to his fans and community. With his infectious energy and captivating performances, he has won the hearts of millions of fans around the world, and his future in the entertainment industry looks brighter than ever.
** Team Credit **
Photographer: Reinhardt Kenneth
Hair: Son Hochan
Hair Products: Splat Hair Color
Makeup: Choi Jisun
Creative Direction: Yuki Bomb + Michelle Wu
Stylist: Michelle Wu.
Lighting Director: Rielle Oase
Retoucher: Mikhael Gan
Gaffer: Matt Mendoza
Production Assistant: Olivia Zhao
Production: CM Agency
Location: Circa Luxury Apartments LA
Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam