Wanted to post this here because it was a very interesting interview. Alot of what she said about the industry most people will know if you've followed kpop for a while but she also had a unique view being biracial. Here are some parts from the interview that were most interesting/important in my opinion, though the whole thing is good.
Black= kpopalypse, gray= Melanie
What do you think held the group back from being more successful?
Definitely the company.
I read in Sarah’s interview that she mentioned this too – no matter how talented this individual is, it’s really the company that backs them up, and the company that has the power. It’s really, really true, because no matter how much we practised and no matter how much we interacted with our fans, tried to put up a good front, tried to have a good reputation, if it’s not our company getting us gigs or pushing for us, or talking to all these other producers about us, there’s really only so far we can go unless for whatever reason we became viral which obviously never happened.
What were the most unusual rules about your behaviour that they had, that you didn’t expect going into it?
“Act more Korean.”
Okay. What does that mean, exactly?
One of the things that I found personally – I can’t speak for the other girls, but just me, personally – especially in the beginning experience, was that I was “too American” or “too foreign” or whatever you want to say. They said “you’re not acting like a Korean, you’re too Americanised”. The way I spoke, I wasn’t respectful enough, I wasn’t quiet enough, even my appearance, they were like “you look too American”. So when we were going to debut, the reason why they chopped my hair the way it was, my hairstyle in Syndrome was partly an effort to make me look younger, but also to make me look more Asian with the bangs and the short hair. That was just so ridiculous to me, because I was in my prime age of trying to figure out who I am. Now that I’m thinking about it, that age is when I’m supposed to figure out who I am and venture out into different things, and there I was with people yelling in my face, telling me to not be who I am. It’s a part of me, I’m half-Korean but I’m also half of many other things, and they’re telling me “you have to be this certain thing or people aren’t going to like you, you have to be the ideal Korean type that they like” and I’m like “well what’s the point of having a biracial Korean girl group if you’re just going to want me to be like just one type of person? I don’t get it!” That was the most difficult.
They liked the idea of a biracial group, but they didn’t like the idea of what that meant culturally, perhaps.
Right, exactly. Most of what we were criticised about from choreographers or managers or stylists was our appearance, mainly. We were half-American, they were saying “because you are half-American you are more prone to get fat, because you are half-American you need to stay pale so you don’t get darker”, just stuff that makes no sense, you know? That was just so ridiculous to me, I just didn’t understand.
What was your typical diet in a day?
Oh wow. Um… let’s see. So, until we started living together the very first time with a female manager, I didn’t have a diet, I just ate whatever I wanted, because I was a twelve year old, why would I control my diet? But after we moved in with everybody that’s when our manager started controlling what we ate. I’m sure before that the other girls were watching their diet but I just didn’t really care, until we moved in. We would mainly just eat boiled chicken breasts, maybe sometimes we would have some salad dressing on it. At other times if our manager or someone didn’t have time to provide something like that for us, we would go to the convenience store and they would get us a small nutrition bar, we would have maybe two or three of those per day, maybe a banana, that would be it. Sometimes if we were lucky they would let us go and get a bowl of salad from this little bread store called Paris Baguette in Korea. That was it. Me, I was fortunate that I was the smallest in the group, in height and weight, they weren’t as tough on me as they were on the other girls, but that’s basically what it was like for a very long time.
Okay so what broke the group up…
Or made you inactive, rather.
In my opinion – and I’m just going say this is my opinion so other people aren’t like “that’s not what went on”… in my opinion it was a long time coming. I mean a really long time coming, I wanna say maybe since the beginning of the group, I saw it coming, just because of the way that we were treated, not just by the company, but by the whole industry. Me personally, I was just so overwhelmed and shocked, I grew to almost hate the industry because of the way that it was making me feel, the things that it was telling me to do. Living with four other girls, three other girls in the end, you butt heads too, we’re not going to all get along, eventually people have different views about things, especially with us and the company. There was a lot of stuff that we didn’t agree on, but we were kinda forced to do. The company did give us a lot of leniency in certain ways, but for the most part it was “you do this, if I tell you to do this, you have to do this” and I guess for a lot of other k-pop stars and trainees it’s easy for them to abide by that, but for me, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t handle it, it was just too much for me.
In what ways were they the most lenient?
I guess because of the fact that we were all so young. With diet, there were certain times when we were like “can we please, please, please eat this?” they would be like “okay, you can eat this”. If we weren’t feeling good and didn’t want to go to practice they were like “okay, I’ll push practice back a couple of hours”, just stuff like that which is actually kind of crazy in the training process because you’re supposed to be 100% dedicated, and if you’re sick you still come out. So I guess in those ways they were a little bit lenient, I don’t even know if that makes sense.
What was the other side, what were the things that they were strict on that you didn’t want to do? Was it just things like diet?
No. I guess it all came to how we were treated that made me not want to do the things that they were asking me to do. Just the feeling of being objectified and them seeing me as a product – which essentially I am, I signed up for it – but just how they were treating us, it was just too much for me. The whole mentality of “if I tell you to do this, you have to do this, you can’t say no” and the fact that we were expected to feel lucky to have to do these things because “so many other people would kill to be in your position” which it true, but… I think in the whole k-pop process and industry the biggest mentality is “you are lucky to be working with me, you are lucky to be at the point you are, so many people would kill for this, you cannot complain, you cannot have complaints because I’m helping you become a star”. I guess I was at that age where I was also going through puberty, and I was really rebellious and I couldn’t agree with that.
Any last things that you want to say that I haven’t touched on? If you were going to advise someone who was just about to do what you just did, if you wanted to give them some advice, what would it be?
I’m just going to say exactly what Sarah Wolfgang said – don’t do it! But if you are going to do it, please please, believe me when I say it’s nothing like how you think it’s going to be. It’s not all the glamour, it’s not just fun and games, you have to be mentally prepared. Especially I know there’s a lot of foreigners who want to become k-pop stars, I see a lot of foreigners going on the K-pop Star singing show, and when there’s that cultural difference, which was the hardest part for me – you grow up a certain way, but you’re trying to make it in a different culture where you have to do things differently and be different – it’s really hard because you have to learn to adapt and you may not want to adapt, or you may try, but you might just be like me and you might just be like “fuck you”. In the end, to everyone asking, no I don’t think I’ll ever go back into k-pop, yes I know Tia is still trying to be in k-pop, I support her, she can do her thing, I think she’ll be great if she does get out there, and… I’m alive! I’m not dead! I see a lot of people saying “is she even alive?”.
Is it possible for me to add another part to the interview?
Yeah, if you’d like to say some more.
When you said “people don’t see it what it’s really like”, I just remembered. The stuff about mental health issues, do you think that would be something that would be valuable to the interview, or…?
Oh yes. Very much so.
To shorten a long-ass story, from the beginning, since my training, it really wore down on me mentally, because people were telling me not to be who I am, and trying to tell me to be another thing, the whole “be more Korean, don’t be American, you have to lose weight, you can’t be fat” and all that stuff really really got to me, and the constant, constant negativity and the people criticising me all the time. It makes you believe that you’re nothing. It made me believe “I’m never good enough”, I was 99 pounds (43.9kg) at 5’3″ (161.5cm) at one point and people were still telling me that I looked too fat, and I was constantly saying to myself “oh my gosh, am I ever going to be skinny?” This eventually led to serious mental health issues, I got depression, I was self-harming and I was going to therapy. During the duration of “Black Tinkerbell”, for that entire time I was going to therapy. Every Wednesday at 9am I was going to a therapy counsellor’s office right across the street from where I lived, and that’s just something that I really wanted to share with people. That’s how much it affected me, all that negativity and judgement. I know a lot of people handle it differently, but for me, the way I was at that age, it really really got to me, and it broke my parents’ hearts when they found out I was self-harming. It broke my groups members’ hearts. My company didn’t really care, they knew about it, the manager saw the scars, but was just like “don’t do that anymore” and that was kind of the end of it. It’s just really real, the things that people go through in this industry, it’s really real, it’s really hard on you. Not everybody goes through the same things, but I went through a really shitty experience although it turned out okay in the end. It was a really bad time for me at a certain point. It was an amazing experience – but [for those wanting to go down this path] really know what you’re getting into, really be mentally prepared, you have to have a thick skin, and I just didn’t have a thick skin, I really let it get to me, and I hate that I let everything get to me as much as it did, but it happened, and that’s really what made me into the person that I am today.