Tag Archives: media

Real Talk: Kpop and Self-Image

Kpop is a lot of fun. The catchy songs, the expression of emotion that isn’t stopped by language barriers and the charismatic and beautiful artists are just a few of the appeals of Kpop.

When I first got into kpop and kdramas, I was astonished at how seemingly naturally beautiful the men and women were – even the ones considered to be ugly! It all seemed fine for a while, but soon it started to affect me. I felt insecure how artists younger than me were so much more beautiful (and I’m only 19). And I started to hate my own appearance. I got so caught up in the ideals of beauty in Korea and almost obsessed with the idea of fitting in with those demands.
This is an issue that many people have faced. To outsiders of Korea, like myself, it looks to us like idols are born totally stunning and were always wearing minimal makeup (with exception of perhaps some eyeliner for effect). It was frankly depressing and I found my desire to live up to those ideas and my inability to do so actually made me depressed and it almost ruined Kpop and Kdramas for me!
If you find yourself in the same position as I was in, there are a few things you need to know:

They are constantly modelling

Idols and stars aren’t just at work when they’re on set or in the studio, they are at work all the time. And that means that any time you see them, any time a camera is on them or they are getting attention, they will be wearing makeup, someone will have done their hair (and will be keeping it neat all day) and their outfits have been designed for them. They might be naturally swag people, but their entire appearance has been designed for the public to look at them and go ‘wow’.

Someone is always thinking about how they look

They don’t just get their clothes from a store like normal people or just put on any mix of clothes in the morning. They, or someone else, always has to think about their appearance and looking their best and modelling the products they have to.
Even if they are wearing a store-bought item, the chances are that it’s been altered to perfectly compliment them or chosen specifically to look perfect. They have tailored outfits and everything is coordinated. All. The. Time.
I personally feel bad that they can’t just go out or take a flight without having to be put in some outfit. It must get really uncomfortable and it probably makes it very hard to relax, but it’s part of their job.

Chances are they’ve had cosmetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery is a huge deal in Korea and these days it’s even become normal for surgery to be given as a gift for birthdays, graduations, weddings, etc. It isn’t healthy and only feeds into the beliefs that the beautiful faces our genes gave us aren’t good enough. While I’m at times tempted by the idea of fixing up things I’d like to change about my appearance, I don’t understand the obsession.
But if even the normal person on the street is getting surgery, then celebrities definitely are as, just like everywhere else, they have to be the epitome of beauty and style. Just a few seconds of Googling with find you hundreds of ‘Before/After surgery’ pictures of celebrities and interviews where artists let slip the procedures they’ve had done.
Ever wonder why the members of some kpop groups look scarily similar? It’s the Gangnam face, baby!

Everything is tailored

Do the poorest kids in Korea really have the best phones and clothes all the time? Is everyone in a Korean school really as gorgeous and rich as Lee Min Ho? Can women seriously stay a size 0 while guzzling down ramen 6 times a day? If a guy is in love with you, will he really be constantly yelling at you and insulting you? Are Korean parents really all terrifying evil people who want to control you or send your boyfriend/girlfriend out of the country? No.

Kdramas are fantasies. I know many people who will be upset to hear that, but it’s true. And it doesn’t make them any less enjoyable to accept that and it’s better for you if you do. Dramas, no matter what country you are in, are fantasy, because people like to escape from reality.
The clothes, makeup, characters, technology, lighting, sets – even the actor’s heights (!)- are manipulated to show you an industry crafted ideal that you are supposed to crave and invest a lot of money in pursuing. It’s the same in media everywhere.

You can’t assume their feelings

Just because you see an idol smiling and having a good time on camera, doesn’t mean they are happy. Their lives are controlled by their contracts, managers, schedules, paycheques and diets. They have little to no freedom to do, dress, date, spend, eat or speak as they want.

The life of an idol in Korea is very difficult and sometimes they are treated very poorly by the companies they work for, but they still have to be able to hide it all and perform for the camera as if they are the happiest person in the world, especially within performing groups, who have to give the appearance of being best buddies with each other (just look at the falling out in T-ARA as an example).
The life of an idol is hard and they have to be the appearance of perfection at the same time, so don’t just take their smiles as truth. They’ve got a tough lot.

So remember that no-one is perfect and being the industry standard of beautiful isn’t as wonderful as it may seem. The artists that you look at have had to suffer a lot, from dieting to fit their tiny outfits to cosmetic surgery that changes their faces permanently. It isn’t easy and the more you work to fit the criteria, the more work and pressure it becomes.

The world would be a happier and more confident place if we accepted and were accepted for our natural beauty. So love yourself, love each other and know that your beauty isn’t determined by your makeup or clothes. As G-Dragon said, “It isn’t about having the money for the expensive clothes, it is about how you wear them.”