When I first discovered K-pop, I didn’t know there would be more behind it than their cute music and happy dances. I would see how ecstatic they were whenever they would be performing and thought it was all a great time. As I got more into the K-pop scene, I soon started discovering that what I saw wasn’t the entire picture. Now I know what you are thinking: “every celebrity’s life is a little hard.” And that is true, but what these Idols have to go through is pretty intense.
To become an Idol in the first place you have to audition to a company, some idols get scouted and get an automatic in if they have the basic singing skills needed. After auditioning you become a Trainee and will have to train with this company for a period of time. Some trainees get lucky and will be able to debut after a year or two of training, but for some other members, they could be training for 7-10 years before they debut.
In most countries, artists won’t even be training for that long they will just go into the studio and start recording their album. As a K-pop idol though, you are not only required to sing but also dance/rap as well. To make sure the Idols have enough stamina companies will force trainees to sing while running, doing weights, and other physical activities. Now I know this sounds like a lot already, but this is only the beginning.
Right before debuting you will have to look and weigh a certain amount. One girl was told to lose 15 pounds in a week or else she would not be allowed to debut with the rest of her group. She ended up starving herself and spending the majority of her time in the gym to do so.
Besides this strict weight requirement, they also have to make sure they have the dance and song memorized because this is the only chance they have to make a good impression on the general public. One group stated that a month before debut they practiced their dance 21 times each day so they could have the dance memorized and made sure to be as synchronized as possible. And sometimes even after all of this a week before they debut the company will just cancel everything and then disband the group for no reason.
After debuting you would hope/think that maybe their life will get easier, but it only gets worse.
Before Weight Loss:
After Weight Loss:
Once they debut, the public decides their fate in many ways. The first one being is if they become popular. If a group does not become popular some companies will drop them because they are a waste of “money” and “time.” They rarely get second chances. If the public likes your music, but not the way you look the company will force you to be on a diet or get surgery to meet these beauty standards. The third way is the general public will decide if you can have a career outside of being an idol. If the audience likes you enough, you could become an MC of a show, become an actor/actress, or even start a fashion company. If they do not make a good impression, it is pretty much over for these idols.
Another significant blockage would be the company itself. Sometimes companies will debut a group but won’t let them release new music for a year or two. I know you think a year or so is like most artists in America, but in the K-pop industry if a group does not release new music every 4-5 months, then they become forgotten and lose popularity fast. It is hard to stay popular, but some groups can do it. Also, if you are not from the BIG3 (The top 3 K-pop companies to be an idol for) chances are the group won’t be popular at all.
Only a few groups become famous from this. The most notable one would be BTS, other groups are MAMAMOO and Gfriend. Still,when competing with an artist from the Big3, they will fall short in some categories. The idols as well will not make any money from their performances at first because they are in debt thanks to their company. Many groups can go 2-3 years without receiving a paycheck because of how much money they owe.
These groups have to go through harsh performances as well as performing in the rain. They will slip and fall then get right back up and keep performing. One group’s main vocalist slipped while performing got up and 1 second late was hitting the high note for the song.
Its things like these that show their hard work and how much it could pay off for them. These idols just want to live perfect lives, but sometimes the cards aren’t in their favor.
The next time you see a K-pop idol don’t just think they had an easy way to fame because most likely they’ve been through some terrible things physically and mentally and are finally happy it is paying off.
Until next time fans,
John Ceja (Blair Waldorf)