TAO CROWN

Kind of a loaded question right off the bat, but I’m curious…where do you begin helping to lead a company, like KKR?

I’m still not too sure. It feels like such a huge weight has been placed on my shoulders … but deep down, I know I can offer the guidance this company could value right now, as anxiety-inducing as that might be. The terrible stigma attached to my family name after what…happened with my father and brother is absolutely toxic.

How do you see yourself rectifying this?

A lot of work. A lot of work that needs the hands of many as committed to the cause as I am. The folks at KKR have been legendary in offering me a board level role to develop a triple bottom line philanthropic based investment model. I truly feel the direction I have in mind would be the best thing for the Crown name right now and hopefully give some closure to the many hurts by my families corrupt past.

Such a sin can happen so quickly, but takes a lot of time and effort to fix…the sheer scope of the fraud my father and brother committed is immense, but I really can’t pretend to be surprised at all… The fuerdai is a life of excess.


How do you see yourself different from the rest of fuerdai?

See, something I wish more people understood is that I’ve always been around it, ever since I was very young, but there’s a part of me, a rather huge part, that truly feels like an outsider to it all. The life I lead during my first few years on this earth was radically different than how I lived after being adopted. With some assuredness, I can say I’ve lived both sides of this poisonous river.


What age were you taken in?

I would say around the age of 6.

Profile interview by Tao Crown for

JESPIONNE

How do you remember your early life?

Honestly? Not much as far as specifics go. But what I do remember: things were hard, and life felt like a tooth-and-nail fight. Maybe it’s obvious with…what happened with my family, and that was an incredible weight for someone as young as me to deal with, but I had a couple of friends that took my mind off of that. And it’s not necessarily early life, but the kung fu training I took part in really helped as an outlet as well. I was from an orphanage in Zhangjiajie, so I grew up with a lot of mountains. Something tells me that this also helped inspire me to go on my path of training.

When your life changed, were you able to keep in touch with anybody from your childhood?

Unfortunately, I lost touch with the amazing people who became like a second family to me. There was a point in time Olivia just…fell off the face of the earth, and that was admittedly…really painful to deal with. Reuniting with her in college was some kind of a blessing, as weird as that might be to admit. But after I met up with her, it finally felt like I had achieved some much-needed support…even if it felt like she had changed drastically since we trained together.

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Any fond memories or adventures?

Despite my rough upbringing, there were plenty of adventures I managed to have growing up. Sure, a lot of it was up to my imagination, but when I started training under the grand master and after forming my friendship with Olivia, all kinds of doors for potential adventures began opening up in front of me. Before I knew it, another friend of mine re-entered my life, and with his guidance and everything I had learned, the adventures that I had dreamed of and thought would never flourish beyond playing pretend began coming true.


How so?

When I was around fourteen, I made the decision to walk off the dark path that my father was leading me down and make a life of my own.

When I arrived in the mountains, I was greeted with an irreplaceable friendship, and the potential to reach a height that would have never happened had I continued my father’s legacy of crime and fraud. It felt like I had been guided there by some supernatural power that knew there was more out there for me.


So how did you weigh out living in a mansion versus living in the mountains?

Having an opportunity to sever my ties with the corrupt nature of my father, harsh as it sounds, was too good to pass up. Not only that, but living in the mountains allowed me to foster and eventually live in the artistic part of my heart that I now insert into my paintings. Life in the mountains was incredibly taxing, exhausting, and harder than I ever imagined, but not something I’d ever trade for anything in the world. Even if flying first class was nice once in a while.

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What did you find in the mountains?

I found Li Yu Dayou and Shaolin. The former, a descendant of legendary general Yu Dayou from the Ming Dynasty, was my mentor for around four hard, incredibly taxing years. One of the most vital things he taught me was the importance of discovering and preserving parts of who I am. He taught me to look into myself to find pieces of my identity locked away to bring them forward. Such is the purity that comes with Shaolin Wushu. Sure, it would be fruitless to deny that I’m not a business mogul. However, this is not all there is to me, and not all I want to be. It’s hard to think of how things would be different had I not had such a spiritual experience during those four years…

In what ways do his teachings make you different from the rest of KKR?

With that kind of training, you walk away from it wanting to work hard to improve. Improve your life, your name, your world. You want redemption, and you want to fight for it… The kind of redemption I want? Restoring the faith of the Crown name. I don’t want to be ashamed of my lineage, and who I am…right now, this name brings me nothing but shame and hardship, and there’s nothing that really can be done other than fighting as hard as I can to rectify what’s been wronged.

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So as you said earlier, you like to draw. Are some of these the same paintings as the ones your brother got in trouble for?

Ha, well… his was more than just my duplicates of other…incredibly famous works, but that was a part of it, as much as I hate to admit it. God, I was so young then, though, I had no clue what I was doing and how awful it really was. It was just a fun thing I did to exercise my art muscle, you know?. I didn’t know what forgery was at all, but he sure did…and now the burden of what I thought was just a simple child’s exercise is completely on me. I never wanted my paintings to convey pain but…that’s just how it has to be now.

Are you able to speak to your family about the business at all still?

I don’t really speak to them beyond updating them, so it’s only a tidbit here, a scrap of info there…saying we don’t really communicate is an understatement. Honestly, I can’t really see it making a huge difference no matter if we talked regularly or not, there’s just not much that can be done. My father and brother are gone, forced to deal with the crimes they’ve committed, and I’m here, fighting alone to make things right. Can’t say I think he should be able to pass any judgments on me anyways, though, just based on the crimes he’s committed.

How do you escape from stress when you’re stuck in the city?

Well, I really enjoy kickboxing. A lot of people think I can just get up and go wherever I want whenever I want…a spa, a bar, a fancy art gala…it just can’t happen. I’m busier than most, so kickboxing is nothing short of a perfect outlet for me. Alongside that, fencing is something that also helps me burn off stress…the best part of that is I have a background that lets me excel at fencing that, if I didn’t have it, would probably cause me to be pretty terrible at it.


Did you take those up going to school?

Yeah, but not in a way a lot of people would expect. Growing up in the environment I did allow me to be exposed to all kinds of sports, and I was able to figure out what suited me from a very young age.

When I realized that martial arts was what I liked best, I was able to pursue those in school. That exposure, alongside my training, helped me get leagues ahead of my opponents.


Now that we are on the topic of school, how are you enjoying Wharton?

Wharton is actually a really interesting experience for me, when you get right down to it…it’s simply just another kind of discipline for me to learn, but totally different than anything else I’ve studied before. Being able to work alongside such huge companies, like Goldman Sachs, has really helped me grow through the experience of working with businesses, and being there really feels right. Like it’s where I need to be and what I need to do with my life. Even though there’s still a lot for me to learn, it feels like the people I’ve met and the things I’ve experienced have prepared me so well to take over my own company at any time. It’s refreshing.

Did your family give you any positive takeaway, in spite of all the heartache and shame they caused you?

I wish I had a more positive answer for you, but really, I consider what the Grand Master instilled in me far greater than what my family put me through. He was like a father to me, and even though the training was harder than anything else I had ever done, he made sure I was the best I could be. He made me feel like I could do anything with just a little hard work, you know? Olivia also became like family to me…seeing a friend every year gave me something to look forward to, even in all of the darkness I was facing. We might be competitive, but I owe her so much for everything she’s done for me. She probably doesn’t even know that’s how I feel, though.


Where do you see yourself in ten years?

It’s more of what I see around me, rather than where I see myself. A healthy, thriving business free from its past strife and a name that people can trust once again, instead of being deemed as corrupt and fraudulent. I’d…be lying if I said I didn’t see myself on a mountain sometimes, too., continuing my mother’s spiritual growth and bettering myself in that regard too…

Ahealthy, thriving business free from its past strife and a name that people can trust once again, instead of being deemed as corrupt and fraudulent.

We know Olivia, and you are friends. Last question, who do you think is the better agent for Jespionne?

Not even a challenge, me. Olivia and I have known each other for around a decade, and I feel like I have a good read on her. She talks tough, but I’ve beaten her in more than one kickboxing round. It’s weird though…ever since we reconnected, something does feel a little…off about Olivia…hopefully that doesn’t impact her performance too much, or I really WILL be the better agent [laughs].

We might be competitive, but I owe her so much for everything she’s done for me.

LIVE FEED

PHOTOS

Shaolin Academy / Wudang / Sha in Escazu, San Jose / Shao Zheng / Gettys Images / Hannah Johnston / Greenwich Street / Alleyezonmay Photography / Thierry Bornier / Melih Ozuysal / Tali Lennox / Sarah Kaye / Angelo Grima / Donna Zavattieri


TAGS

Shaolin Temple Kung Fu Academy / Japanese Fan Fight Martial Arts / Ming Dynasty / Skyscraper / Fencing / Shanghai / My City Plants / India / Mountains / Zhangjiajie National Forest Park / Internet Hack / Cyber Security / Mountain Valley / Kung Fu / Shaolin Wushu / Forbidden City / Paint Brushes / Painting / Kickboxing

June 26 th, 2018

INTERVIEWS