Chen was born Vivian Chen Wai-man on 13 September 1973 in Hong Kong. She attended Canadian Academy International School in Kobe, Japan, for high school. During her time in Japan, she worked for a bakery as a summer job, it was that time she experienced first hand the diligence of Japanese's working culture. She later went to Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, where she studied graphic art.
In 1994, while still a student at Parsons The New School for Design, Chen made two commercials, one for Shanghai Beer and one for the Bank of Hong Kong. After graduating from Parsons in 1995, Chen returned to Hong Kong. She was introduced to an acquaintance who owned a production studio and was chosen to feature in a Jacky Cheung music video.
1995: Chen made her film debut in Whatever Will Be, Will Be (仙樂飄飄) and sang the film's theme song. In September 1995, Chen performed the song "Mou Tian" composed by Composer Steve Barakatt then released a compilation album, Break the Sky, with three other Singers, and then her first Cantonese album, Intoxicated Lover (醉迷情人), in December. It was a success in Hong Kong and furthered her acting and musical career.
1996: Chen released her first Mandarin language album, I Don't Think So (我不以為), in, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore, which sold over 150,000. Following the album's success, she produced another Cantonese CD in October 1996, Wind, Flower, Snow (風花雪). "Wind, Flower, Snow" is a very popular song in Hong Kong. In November 1996, Chen released her first Cantonese single, "Traveler". in Japan That year also saw her first stint as a Japanese singer when she released two Japanese singles.
In 1997, Shiseido, Japan's largest cosmetics company, hired Chen to appear in their commercials; she was "depicted as [a] modern Asian [beauty], not quite identical yet not totally different from Japanese women." Chen was also chosen as the cover model for Ginza, a new monthly magazine targeted at women in their twenties.
Chen was appointed Hong Kong Ambassador of Environment in 1998. With Greenpeace, she has made commercials to promote awareness of environmental protection in 2006.
1999 and 2000: Starring in the television drama Don't Be a Cry Baby with Japanese star Kyoko Fukada and performing two concerts in Fukuoka, Japan in 1999, Chen increased her Japanese fanbase. She released a new album, Love of Colours which sold over 300,000 in Hong Kong from 9 December 1999 to 2000, and was the best selling album in 2000. She also won "The most popular female artist" in 1999 Jade Solid Gold Best Ten Music Awards Presentation. Her albums sold over 230,000 in Hong Kong in 1999, the best selling female Artist in Hong Kong.
She was appointed by UNICEF as the Honorable China Children's Health Ambassador. Chen was later appointed by the Hong Kong Girl Guides Association as "Girl Guides Millennium Goodwill Ambassador", which led her to visit Inner Mongolia to investigate the way young children were living and the health and food services they were receiving. In 2001, Chen added another title to her growing list as the Volunteer Ambassador 2001 as appointed by the Social Welfare Department. She was later appointed by UNICEF a second time as the Ambassador of The Hong Kong Committee For UNICEF.
In a survey conducted in early 2002 by the City University of Hong Kong, Chen was named "The Most Popular Idol" among youth groups.
March 2003 brought more titles Chen's way: she was appointed The Philatelic Ambassador by the Hong Kong Post, as well as "The Love And Peace Ambassador" by City Junior Chamber. Chen soon took her "Dynacarnival" to North America by performing in Atlantic City, Toronto and San Francisco. She began to release DSD versions of her earlier albums, including Dedicated Lover. She was later appointed as Star of "Hong Kong Outstanding Students Award" by Lion & Globe Educational Trust, furthering her push for better education. In June 2003, Chen's wax figure for the Madam Tussaud Wax Museum was ready and was put on display. She was later invited to be the "Love Ambassador" of "World Children's Day at McDonald's 2003" by McDonald's restaurants in Hong Kong. She was appointed as the "Pass-it-On" Ambassador by the Hong Kong Red Cross and attend its Christmas campaign to visit the John. F. Kennedy Center.
Chen's charitable work continued into 2004 as she was appointed as the star representative to attend the "5th HK Outstanding Teenagers" election press conference held by Hong Kong Playground Association and RTHK. In February, Chen was appointed as both "Road Safety Vision Ambassador" by the Road Safety Council to promote road safety, and as the "Reading Ambassador" by The Boys' and Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong. May 2004 brought the title of "Hospital Play Ambassador" to Chen, as well as the title of "Japanese Promotional Ambassador" by The Japan Society of HK, Consulate General of Japan and RTHK to encourage Hong Kong citizens to learn Japanese. Chen received another award when she was named "The Outstanding Young Persons of the World" in 2004 by the Junior Chamber International, becoming the first Hong Kong female Celebrity to be honoured with the award.
Chen was ranked as the third highest-income Artist (and the highest-income female artist), following Jackie Chan and Andy Lau, overall in the Greater China region from 2005 to 2007.
In 2007, Chen was appointed as Hong Kong "Innovative Entrepreneur Ambassdor" (創意創業大使) and had sung the theme song "Innovation" (創) for the "Innovative Entrepreneur of The Year 2007" (創意創業大賞2007) organised by City Junior Chamber 城市青年商會, Hong Kong. Chen's responsibility is to promote the awareness of entrepreneurship to youngsters and to attend the various promotion events organised. She also continued the support of Innovation Entrepreneur in 2008.
Chen donated $600,000 for the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. She sang at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In 2009, Chen was chosen as a "Young Global Leader" by the World Economic Forum in 2009. Her first son, Chace Lau (劉昇), was born on 10 July. Chen performed with Amei Cheung, in the opening ceremony of National Games of China.
In 2010, Chen released her first Mandarin album after giving her birth, Chasing dreams (微光) in March. After the miscarriage, Chen stopped her work to let her body and mind recover for a few months. In March after the Fukushima earthquake, she made a video clip to support the Japanese. Chen then started to come out of the sadness and started mostly working on commercials and as fashion show guests. Near the end of 2011, Chen got involved in filming the 2012 Chinese New Year movie All Well Ends Well 2012 starring with Louis Koo, Donnie Yan, and Sandra Ng. At the same time Chen announced that she was 4 months pregnant with a baby boy. After all the movie promotions, Chen will pause on her work again to wait for this newborn to arrive. Chen gave birth to her second baby boy on 21 March 2012 weighing 6.5 pound.
Chen has earned 83 million HKD (10.7 million USD) in 2014.