On Wednesday, the online activist group Anonymous brought a call to action for an unexpected group of soldiers in the fight for racial equality and justice: Korean pop fans.
That’s right – Kpop are taking on their own unique role against police brutality with the surprising weapon of fancams.
Less than 48-hours ago, Kpop fans all over the world crashed the Dallas Police Department’s “iWatch Dallas” app after the DPD asked locals to submit footage of illegal activity from protests. Rather than allow protestors to be revealed through this unwanted footage, the stans flooded the app with Kpop fancams and their own original content.The actions made it impossible for the cops to find any protest videos whatsoever. The entire app was down a few short hours later, with the DPD citing “technical difficulties.” Guess these cops took time to dig into the world of Jungkook’s abs.
Today, Kpop Twitter returned to hijack another system: racist hashtags. Taking on that same approach, #whiteoutwednesday, #bluelivesmatter, and #whitelivesmatter are trending for only the right reasons. The hashtags are filled with tons and tons of fancam clips, completely obliterating nasty, racist content from the feeds.
With Anonymous’ 5.8 million followers —especially the “K-pop division”—on the case, these hashtags don’t stand a fighting chance. Did we expect Kpop to play an important role in the fight against police brutality? Yes. After all, no one messes with Kpop and it’s heartening to know that fandoms are uniting to do good. White supremacy under Kpop watch is useless online. To that we say, slay ’em, Kpop stans.
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May is officially Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, celebrating the journey of Asian Pacific Americans, what they’ve accomplished, and what’s to come. For an entire week, Very Good Light is kicking off a series of Asian American stories, highlighting the future of Asian America. From Generation Z activists, healthcare workers on the front lines, music artists, and more, we’re uplifting Asian stories. We’ve partnered this week with Hate Is A Virus, a grassroots campaign that aims to raise $1 million to businesses affected by COVID-19. Together, we hope to spark conversations, change, and community. After all, the Asian American experience is the American experience. We’re in this together. For more on Hate Is A Virus, go here.
Photo courtesy of HIAV/talent for Very Good Light
Four years ago, a black-and-white clip of a musical number on a mid-century The Ed Sullivan Show circulated Twitter.
The guests, a female trio angelically harmonizing an American classic in coordinating sequined-hemmed outfits, would grace the variety show’s stage more times throughout their career than any other act. They were also Korean.
“The Kim Sisters” became the blueprint for the Korean-US crossover. Composed of the two daughters and niece of famous Korean diva, Lee Nan-Young, the group arrived in Las Vegas unable to speak English in a still-segregated America and began to sell-out venues before becoming the first Asian group to release an album in the States. Soon, Americans would stop to applaud them on the street, and compliment them on their “kimono.” The sisters would respond, ‘No, it’s a hanbok—a traditional Korean dress.”
Flashing-forward fifty years, it seems history’s repeating itself. South Korean boy band BTS incites frenzy whenever they touch down Statesidebreaking records and selling out stadiums. Blackpink, a band that has hit the Coachella stage and featured on Lady Gaga’s upcoming Chromatica, is thehighest charting K-Pop girl group in history. Jackson Wang, a Chinese-member from the K-pop group GOT7, sings in American-affected English over trap beats, and is enjoying solo-success in the U.S.
Asian American music, however, appears has still yet to translate. There isn’t an Asian American artist who is currently charting, or can be pointed to as a pop culture mainstay. Not that they haven’t tried. From Coco Lee to Utada Hikaru, Asian Americans have long-since attempted to conquer the American music scene, often retreating across the Pacific to find success in East Asia. It perhaps explains why the few American artists with Asian heritage – but aren’t Asian-passing – choose to keep their ethnic identities hidden. Supernovas Bruno Mars and Nicole Scherzinger are both of Filipinx descent. Tyga is Vietnamese-Black.
“The only people who really found success in entertainment en masse were white.” – Yano
But perhaps things are changing. Rappers such as Rich Brian, movements like 88rising, singer Slayrizz, or indie stars from Keshi to Yaeji are creating a new Asian American musical identity and sound, and armed with an array of social platforms, Asian Americans are no longer at the mercy of record labels for discovery and promotion. Instead, they’re finding their own fans.
Only a decade ago this feat was near-impossible, affirms music manager John Kim. While Kim played a significant part in K-Pop’s explosion, introducing Korean group Girls’ Generation and singer Boa Kwon to the Western market in the mid ‘00s, he admits Korean artists of the era were “too early” for major success. At the time, Hollywood still insisted white actorsdon yellow face — or simply whitewashed them altogether — while Asian actors were, for the most part, relegated to the same roles on screen.
“It was bad timing [for Korean artists]. Back then and still now, the perception of Asians has always been studious, polite, keep to themselves, and then you had someone like Boa come along who sings and dances — [it was a shock],” Kim remembers of the reaction. “Now with technology stereotypes are slowly breaking for the better. No one knew what Kpop was just [back then], look at it today.”
The genre’s popularity has brought awareness to the stereotyping of Asian musicians, says Kim, facilitating a palpable shift toward inclusion. One would expect homegrown talent to welcome the progress — more eyes on Asian entertainment should mean more investment in Asian entertainers, particularly in those who don’t have to overcome the East-to-West barriers of Asia-born artists. But the flood of talent from across the Pacific hasn’t unlocked the door to mainstream approval for Asian American artists. In reality, Taiwan-American singerPinky Swear believes it’s had the opposite effect.
“Music from Asia is growing in the US – and that’s cool – but on the flip side, [I feel] it’s kind of continuing to exoticize Asians as a whole,” Pinky Swear (née Effie Liu) tells Very Good Light. “The message is kind of like, ‘We need to look across the pond for Asians who are popping, because the domestic ones aren’t.’”
It also perpetuates a long-held image and expectations of Asian American artists.
“When there is an artist of color or a certain ethnic background, there are typically assumptions that it has to display a certain ‘heritage’ or some type of social commentary,” says Nina Lee, director of publicity at entertainment firm Shorefire. To combat this, she says that the music industry at large needs to become a lot more diverse. “We need label execs, agents – folks in the industry with a voice – to step up and advocate for Asian artists, and frankly, all artists of color.”
“I still feel stereotyped, but I’d rather not play the victim.” – Yeek
Which, in turn, might give Asian Americans the agency to pursue music in the first place. For many Asian Americans with immigrant parents, a career in the arts doesn’t seem like a viable option. Long-time music supervisor and current SVP of film music at Universal Pictures Angela Leus, whose family hails from the Philippines, pegs Asian parents’ aversion to creativity on their “cultural upbringing.”
“The arts are something that we do growing up so it looks good on a college application,” she adds. “You aren’t encouraged to make a profession out of it. I’m lucky that my parents encouraged and supported my interest in music and desire to make it my livelihood.”
Fellow Filipino-American Sebastian Caradang, known professionally asYeek, was herded toward “financial stability” throughout his adolescence, only experiencing familial support for his career choice when music finally began to pay the bills. The singer-songwriter has long since eclipsed his parents expectations of his potential in pop music – his famous fans (read: hip hop heavyweight A$AP Rocky) earn him well-deserved cultural cache.
Despite the industry recognition, Yeek feels as if he needs to fight preconceived notions and stigmas.
“I still feel stereotyped, but I’d rather not play the victim,” he shares. “I want show what I am capable of off the strength of my music to make it easy for the masses to focus on what’s important – not the fact I’m Filipino-American….At the same time I’ll still be putting on for my people in the subtle-but-impactful way I’ve always wanted to.”
When singer-songwriter Jonah Yano told his Japanese mother music was more than a hobby, she advised him to “find a talented white man and stick with him.” Yano says while he was initially discouraged by his family’s objection to his pursuing a career as a performer, he’s since realized it was for his own protection. Because “the only people who really found success in entertainment en masse were white,” Yano’s parents simply couldn’t imagine an East Asian musician making any kind of living, let alone achieve chart-topping success.
But they did.
Breakout hit “Like A G6,” easily became one of 2010’s most-memorable tracks, performed by an electro-hip hop group whose Asian pride was worn on their sleeve, or articulated in their name: Far East Movement. That’s not to say the moniker was an easy victory. On a 2016 press tour to promote their album Identity, the groupalleged they were told to reconsider the name ‘Far East Movement.’ Executives also advised they wear glasses to obscure their eyes, presumably so as to seem more racially ambiguous. While the name stayed,sunglasses appear to have been the compromise.
“There was an identity crisis in the sense that you’re from the U.S., and you’re 100 percent American, but you don’t necessarily feel that way, and you don’t feel that people see you that way,” member Kevin Nishimura told NBC News at the time. “You get execs that say, ‘You’re too Asian, how do we make this less Asian?’”
“I think what entertainment is getting wrong with Asian Americans is similar to what they get wrong with other backgrounds,” echoes Pinky Swear, four years later. “Everyone is not defined by their ethnicity or how they look — the more we are out there, the more normalized we are, and people can learn that we are not so different from everyone else.”
Swear claims that while Asian representation in film is on the rise – from Henry Golding’s internationalheartthrob status to the critical success of Korean film Parasite – music is yet to show substantial progress.
Leus disagrees, revealing there’s been a conscious shift from studios toward inclusion in casting and even a diversity program enacted for composers. Nonetheless, in the pop music realm, it’s difficult for Leus to pinpoint a present day Asian musician. Society privileges what it’s used to seeing, she says, or what’s believed to be “appealing to mainstream culture.”
“To be honest most of the major US pop artists look like they are from the Western Hemisphere,” seconds Swear, “so perhaps when an Asian American artist approaches a major label, they do not see the same potential.”
Nina Lee affirms there’s still “plenty of work to be done” when it comes to Asian representation in music, but she remains optimistic, especially as Asian-owned organizations like 88 rising, a management-recording label hybrid that champions Asian artists, gain traction. “I think we’re just now coming into this renaissance of pushing forth the careers of Asian-Americans. It’d be a sign of a much more healthy, diverse climate when there is more than just one singular label to point to that champions Asian artists. It would be nice to see Asian artists integrated in all labels and not just to hit some type of quota.”
Then again, many aspiring Asian artists may need to sell themselves of their own star power long before they win over label executives. The systemic racism rooted in entertainment means that Japanese men rarely find themselves rewarded in media depictions, and as a result,Yano feared he would never be considered a worthwhile artist.
“I think the main [stereotype] that sticks out to me is the perception of the Asian male as non-masculine, or lesser-than all other men,” the 25-year-old explains. “It really had me convinced for a long time that because of the way I looked no one would ever take me as seriously as an artist as non-Asian men. It’s a concept I’ve since overcome, but let me tell you, it’s hard to unlearn these things.”
The new frontier, Yano believes, will be when ‘Asianness’ is no longer referenced as a point-of-difference. Most publications brand him as the “Japanese-Canadian singer,” which, to him, feels like sugar-coated othering.
Despite his reservations, Yano acknowledges that any Asian visibility in mainstream media is progress – regardless of the intentions of those behind-the-scenes. “I still think that a lot of how Asian people are becoming integrated into media is tone deaf and stupid,” he says. “But every path to normalization is uncharted territory and therefore impossible to be done without some mistakes. How could we learn the right way if we never get anything wrong?”
It’s because modern social guidelines dictate demonstrations of “wokeness” says Pinky Swear of the recent focus on inclusion: “There has been a shift, but mostly because tolerance is being demonstrated.” Still, the unprecedented commercial and critical success of films and books such as To All the Boys I Loved Before and Crazy Rich Asians in the United States, as well as that of Asian music performers, proves there’s an appetite for Asian entertainment that is yet to be satiated.
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Like many of you who woke up at 1 a.m. PST to watch the band’s latest, “On,” we were shaking while watching Jimin, Jin, V, Suga, J-Hope, RM, and Jungkook showcase their fierce moves. The video is the lead single in the bands’ latest album, Map the Soul: 7, which has already sold over 4.2 million pre-orders around the world (already 2020’s bestselling!!).
While we reflect over how #blessed we are from having BTS in our lives, we’re also amazed that the band’s already been around for seven whole years. And with that, it’s amazing to see how their beauty looks have evolved as well. After all, besides their flawless vocal abilities and hypnotizing dance routines – it’s their skincare and beauty looks that leave everyone speechless.
From their collaborations with Mediheal to VT Cosmetics, to entire reddits about their skincare, it’s easy to understand just how they’re the world’s biggest beauty influencers. With the highly anticipated release of Map of the Soul: 7, we’ve compiled a list of 7 videos that showcase some of their most iconic looks, from their debut in 2013 with “We Are Bulletproof” to 2020’s “On.”
1 We are Bulletproof (2013) – Theme: Loud and Clear
The babyface group debuted with a bang, as they gave us all the bad boy vibes in this video. They accessorized with spiked leather jackets, chains, and even football helmets but BTS did not come to play. Makeup wise served us with a dramatic, dark eyeliner that naturally drags our attention to their puppy eyes and a perm that would even make our halmeonis jealous.
We like to call this, the beginning of the hair dye craze. Providing us with a stark contrast to Bulletproof, we are introduced to the start of their trendy hair colors. From Jin and Jungkook’s maroon hair to RM’s platinum look, their famous hair dying days began. With their harmonious runs, the boys sported a dewy look in uniform that had us ready to grab our books and head to a study sesh.
3 I Need U (2015) Theme: Casual ‘fits meets not so casual vocals
Though on the darker side, I Need U had us thinking we were in a K-Drama. BTS wore makeup that complimented their natural features. From the close up of V’s’ full lips to RM’s irresistible jawline. I Need U focuses on the 7 boys, who give off a Peter Pan Lost-Boy vibe in this video. As, army know this is the beginning of previews, hints, and clues to a career-long mystery and storyline. (Also can we talk about Jimin’s scene in the bathtub? A+ acting skills where’s his Oscar at???)
4 Blood Sweat and Tears (2016) Theme: Sexy Smokey Eye
BTS complemented their fitted, sparkly and velvet blazers with a sexy smokey eye look. While their eyes did all the talking, their lips remained a neutral color which easily complimented the smoky eye look. As we all know Jin also knows as Mr. Worldwide Handsome didn’t dye his hair as often as the other members in the earlier days, so it was a nice surprise to see that dusty blonde hair color. (Which was such a look!)
5 Mic Drop feat Steve Aoki and Desiigner (2017) Voluminous Hair: All about the comma and the crimps
While their first debut was very flashy with gold chains, the boys evolved into a street style fashion in Mic Drop. They complimented their oversized, baggy t-shirts with bucket hats and long bandanas tied around their heads. While V and Suga literally made us pause our words with their comma hair, RM gave us early 2000s vibes with crimped hair can you say, #trendsetter?
We didn’t know if we were in a video game or Alice in Wonderland – BTS version but we were (and still) are all here for it. With their neon-bright lip tint and vivid blue contacts to match the neon-bright backgrounds, we couldn’t help but appreciate this mini-movie. It is also worthy of noting how the background guys in one scene had vibrant red eye makeup that creates a mask look, how trendy and out of the box.
7 Boy with Luv feat Halsey (2019) Theme: Accessorized to the Gods
“Oh my, my my. Oh my my my.” the American artist Halsey leads through the bridge of this song. Oh my is right. This video is fun and exciting but our favorite thing of all: the accessories. As we get a close up of each member in the various scenes, we can’t help but glue our eyes to the accessories they wear. From V’s rose ring to Jungkook’s hoops to RM’s gangster hat, each accessory compliments each member, and creates a drop gorgeous look for every single one of them.
Besides Jimin’s elegant runs and RM’s witty raps, BTS has served us look after a look on a silver platter. New music means new makeup: we can’t wait for all the dazzling eyeshadow and nail art that BTS will show off in 2020.
Bonus: Map of the Soul: 7 “On”
The face tats! The silver/blue hair! The luscious pink lips! Jimin’s body rolls. WE. CAN’T. The latest from the group is all about fierceness and we can’t help but stare at these guys and their amazing outfits. But their glowing faces, their paste-colored makeup and hair, is definitely a look that we’ll be dreaming about – forever.
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BTS is the world’s biggest music act since the Beatles.
They’ve sold millions of albums, have billions of music video views (“Boy With Luv” was the most viewed YouTube video in 24-hours), and have won over 200 music awards, including from the Billboard and American Music Awards.
But unlike the British imports, South Korea’s BTS is ushering another worldwide phenomena: triggering white supremacy en masse. With all of the visibility and fame, the 7-member Korean pop band has inspired xenophobia, homophobia, racism, and misogyny.
This week, hosts for Dzien Dobry TVN, a Polish morning television show produced an entire segment proving why members of BTS shouldn’t have topped TC Candler’s “100 Most Handsome Faces” list for 2019 (the band’s youngest member, Jeon Jungkook, came in at #1).
“He’s not very masculine,” one of the hosts remarked. “More like a little boy than a man.” The segment went on to interview people on the streets of Poland to support their thesis of anti-Asian sentiments with some questioning the sex of the members. Prompted on social media on why such a segment was produced, its host, Anna Kalczyńska-Maciejowska said this: “Jungkook wears lipstick, wears huge earrings and is experimenting with the look that I don’t find masculine.”
Though inexcusable, such hatred is predictable. Minimizing Asian male importance stems from a long history of white supremacy, promoting the idea that a certain person is more important than another. It’s also this long-held belief that only one form of masculinity can exist.
Koreans then, with their dewy complexions, their juicy red lips, their smokey eyes, and piercings, challenge Western ideals of men altogether. For them, power comes in the form of a white man who is gruff, rough, hyper-masculine. For a more fluid form of masculinity to exist has confounded some, enraged others. Coming to terms with Asian male sexuality threatens white male power, a concept that white people rarely have to experience. This place of discomfort – feeling eclipsed of power – instills fear.
After all, white people from around the world have long attempted to minimize Asian male sexuality in all forms. One only needs to look at American history and “Yellow Peril” to witness its devastating decades-long effect for Asian men. The entire movement was a deliberate campaign of Asian male erasure, one that was created to completely castrate Asian men of sexuality and desire. Sparked by white men’s fear that they were losing their white women to “foreign” powers, Yellow Peril was successful at minimizing Asian male existence. To this day, Asian Americans still feel the effects of emasculation, leading to psychological impacts that include thoughts of suicide, low self-esteem or self-worth. A recent study found Asian men to be the “least desirable” demographic in America by both straight and gay communities, in what’s now known as “sexual discrimination.”
There are parallels to BTS and 1910’s with Hollywood heartthrob, Sessue Hayakawa, who was the era’s biggest leading actor. A Japanese-born actor during the era of silent films, Hayakawa became a sensation after his role in 1915’s The Cheat. The role made him into a sex symbol and romantic idol, with a majority of American women perceiving him as the pinnacle of male desirability. All this changed after anti-Japanese sentiment that came along with Yellow Peril. The campaign no longer promoted Asian males as human, rather, villainized, emasculated, and otherized.
It’s taken a decade for Asian males to reclaim their power and BTS and Kpop is leading that charge. But we need to collectively remember the deliberate anti-Asian campaigns of the 1900’s and be aware of how this has a real effect to Asian men’s lives. Poking fun at Asian males or dismissing their sexuality isn’t innocent, rather, nefarious and dangerous. It’s had lasting trauma for millions of Asian men around the world. Dismissing BTS’s beauty as being effeminate, calling them “boys,” or criticizing their style isn’t subjective criticism – it’s hateful and stems from white supremacy.
Let us not fall into white fragility and allow it to fester into something evil again. While BTS and their music might not be for everyone, we must be hyper-aware of racism, xenophobia, and fight hard so another mass anti-Asian campaign never exists again.
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Our friendship, that is. Ten years of friendship to be exact, one that started our freshmen year of high school when we were mere fetuses. Josh and I had been through the best and worst together. The high school bullying, the feelings of loneliness, of not belonging, of being othered.
But here we were now, sitting at a Starbucks catching up after five years of not seeing each other. We briefly caught the other up to speed– Josh was now going to cosmetology school, I was off to get my master’s in writing – and were now up to small talk. Josh was newly single, ready to get back on the dating field and asked what I was up to. I was single as well, but didn’t mind being so. After all, I was going off to grad school pretty soon.
It’s there that my phone went off and Josh glanced over to see my iPhone’s background. It happened to be of RM, the leader of the band, BTS. Josh’s face winced and his eyes widened. It’s as if he’d seen Donald Trump Jr. as my screensaver. In disgust, he jokingly blurted: “really?”
As if being a fan of BTS somehow made me deviant.
As if my adoration for a Korean man was shameful.
As if my support for a pop group outside of the English realm made me some sort of freak.
As if –
“You’re into Asians?”
It was then and there when I was shook if not shocked. What kind of white supremacist language was coming out of this white man’s mouth? Why wouldn’t I be attracted to Asian men, I asked in my mind? Why can’t Asian men be sexy AF? After all, BTS isn’t only attractive with their colorful outfits and makeup, they’re kind souls who are making a real difference in the word. They’re part of a Unicef campaign against bullying; have spoken out about inclusivity; ask their fans the ARMY, to do good, and many of them donate to the poor. Tell me about what Western pop star does that and who cares as much for their fanbase as BTS?
While all of that crossed my mind, I was so flustered, I muttered: “Uh, yeah!”
Josh was confused. He, like most white gays I’ve had the privilege of being around, live and die by toxic masculinity. Though they may not be aware of it, they’re the ones who only have white gay friends, those who date only white men, and fight for LGBTQ+ rights for – you guessed it – solely their own kind. These are the “masc4masc” dudes who believe that the only notion of beauty comes in the form of a chiseled anglo man with European features. I equate them to white feminist women who fight for women’s rights, but fail to consider those who don’t look like them.
He might not have known this, but Asian men have been victims of erasure in America. Stemming from the late 1800’s with “Yellow Peril,” there was an active propaganda campaign that existed so that white men could scare off their white women from being taken away by Asian men. That’s where the stereotypes we know today came from: that Asian men were effeminate; weak; not attractive. So successful, the propaganda still rings true.
But I had no time to explain all of this to Josh. I was visibly upset. And what came out of his mouth next didn’t help.
“They’re so gay though,” he muttered, unaware of his own internalized homophobia. “Don’t they wear so much makeup?”
So makeup automatically makes someone come from a certain sexuality, right? Huh. At a time when we’re all attempting to expand the limited definitions of masculinity, when the #metoo exists to dismantle the patriarchy, when people are fighting for our rights – his rights – he says this shit?
It’s then that I looked deep into his eyes and said my piece. I told him about his own toxic masculinity, how he was a white gay man who was undoubtedly blinded by his own privilege and a victim of patriarchy, how it was unbelievably racist for him to even say something so outrageous. He sat, mouth gaped open, while I took my Venti-sized latte and my BTS-laden iPhone with me. If he wasn’t going to listen to what I had to say, he’d learn his own way.
I realize today, loving BTS sometimes is an act of defiance. This, especially when our world is still blinded by white supremacy and American nationalism. Somehow, some people still believe the world revolves around them – and their white people. I won’t stand for this – ever. My love for BTS and being a part of the ARMY is more than just pure fandom. BTS is now advocacy, and I won’t stand for any hate any longer.
*Josh’s name has been changed to keep him anonymous
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“Jimin is my ultimate idol and I’d do anything to meet him,” says BTS superfan Oli London, over the phone from London where he resides.
The 29-year old, who works in luxury retail, explained how he went under the knife more than 15 times and spent over $100,000 on his quest to look like Jimin. “He’s perfect and I wanted to look like him. He has beautiful, perfect symmetry and proportions and that cute face.” After years of aesthetic changes, Oli says he’s finally happy with how he looks.
(Oli spent over $100,000 to resembled a Korean pop star. On the left, Oli before any surgery. Photo courtesy Oli London)
“I really think I look more Korean now and I’m so happy and satisfied, it’s where I always wanted to be,” he tells Very Good Light.
Oli’s obsession with Korean aesthetics was immediate – and visceral, he explains. While teaching English in South Korea’s Jeju Island in 2012, he was transfixed at how beautiful Korea was. “I didn’t know anything about Korea before I went, but when I landed, it was like a utopia,” he recalls. The people, for one, were perfect. Their glass skin and skincare made their complexions glisten. Their features were like none he’s every seen before. But it was coming into contact with Kpop that would change his life.
He’d watched Korean pop shows and dramas after a full day of teaching, but it was one particular one that caught his eye. “BTS had a very different aesthetic than everyone else,” he recalls. “They were special and unique and came with this bad boy vibe. Of course I loved other Kpop artists but the way BTS was, I was obsessed. I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to look exactly like Jimin, my favorite.”
He’d start by altering his hair color to red. “But I was very self-conscious, that was a very big move for me back then,” he recalls. “I was so shy and insecure. I was so nervous I went back to the same salon and asked that they turn it back to brown.”
But it was going for a plastic surgery consultation that changed everything. It wasn’t as scary has he thought it would be. For one, the clinic was pristine. The front desk, welcoming. After meeting with the doctors and asking if they could alter his face to look like Jimin’s, he was sold. They’d start with something easy. A nose job. While Oli’s nose was a little flat, Jimin’s has a slight bridge. The procedure wouldn’t be so invasive.
The surgery was botched. His body had rejected implacts. The silicon was displaced and he’d need to get his nose redone. After his nose came his jaw, eye injections, and a whirlwind of traveling around the world for procedures. He’d gone to the UK for simple procedures, Armenia to get his breast tissue reduced and Poland because it was “cheaper and there’s medical tourism.” The latter he’d regret. He’d traveled for a nose-slimming surgery, but he’d come out with an even bigger nose. “It was so bad it left scarring.”
After traveling far and wide for procedures, Oli knew that South Korea had the best technology. It was there that he finally found doctors he could trust. There, they gave him eyelid fat injections to make more of a monolid, helped with his proportions, and more. “I’ve never been so satisfied with myself,” he says. “When I look at myself, I really look like Jimin!”
And when he travels around Seoul, he says others think the same. “Whenever I walk somewhere, there are people shouting ‘Jimin! Jimin!’ and really embracing me for my looks,” he says.
It’s also brought him notoriety. Since he’s announced his multiple surgeries, he’s become somewhat of a sensation. He’s also raised more than a few eyebrows recently when his story made international headlines. For one, Oli is caucasian, who’s been criticized for using his privilege to gain attention. Then there’s accusations of cultural appropriation and insensitivity when it comes to altering his aesthetics to become another race altogether.
Accused of cultural appropriation, Oli says he shrugs off all allegations.
“Cultural appreciation is when you have a strong interest in a culture and an active interest in it from hobbies, eating food, music,” he explains. “When you’re poking fun at a culture’s aesthetics, like a recent American rapper did when he said something along the lines of ‘I smoked and now I look Korean,’ that’s offensive. I’m not doing this in a way that’s offensive. I’m appreciating the Korean look just like Koreans appreciate the Western double eyelid.”
But whereas the double eyelid isn’t solely a western quality – there are many Korean people born naturally with those features – altering your nose or making your eyes more almond-shaped isn’t the same. It’s something that his many critics online and BTS’ fandom, ARMY, has been very vocal about. When Oli release his own Kpop-inspired music video called “Perfection,” the Internet vitriol came rolling in.
His video currently has over 391,000 views with 36,000 “thumbs down,” and 12,000 comments.
“DID LOVE YOURSELF MEAN NOTHING TO YOU?!” one commenter wrote, about BTS’ last album.
“He looks nothing like Jimin whatsoever,” another commented.
“This is cringey.”
Oli says that he’s read them but is unfazed.
“To be honest, it’s all unjustified hate,” he tells us. “I don’t worry about it and I ignore them. They’re teenage girls and look in the mirror and they’re depressed and take it out on other people. Just because I’m different they take issue. When a British person who’s wanted to do a Kpop song people are quick to hate and judge.” To him, his genuine devotion to Korea is real and isn’t just skin deep. “If only they understood where I was coming from, they’d get it,” he says.
So devoted, Oli says he’s willing to serve in South Korea’s military, mandatory for all men, for citizenship. He also hopes to become a cultural ambassador for South Korea’s medical and plastic surgery tourism. But ultimately, none of that matters. He wants to become Jimin.
“Success for me is when I meet BTS and Jimin,” he says. “I know that I can make happen for sure. I hope he’ll like me.”
For now, Oli’s working on his second Kpop single and hopes to relocate to Seoul sometime soon. “I feel most at home and accepted when I’m in Seoul,” he says. “In a past life I was definitely Korean. When you ask the universe what you want and it’s sincere, you’ll achieve it.”
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(BTS member V promoting the group’s latest single, “Fake Love,” has recently transformed his hair into a chic mullet.)
The mullet is back, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
So why not surrender yourself to this shaggy fiesta (if you’re here, we’re in the back)? The updated look is far from the long ridiculed shag, associated with 90’s Achy Breaky-era Billy Ray Cyrus (cringe) and that time when Andre Agassi actually had hair(gasp!). The updated mullet is more punk and rock and roll – think David Bowie and Ziggy Stardust – and less country. It’s also much more subtle, where the proportions aren’t as dramatic.
Recently, the updated mullet has been spotted globally, from BTS’s V, sporting a curly look at this year’s Billboard Music Awards, to Got7’s JB, who’s been rocking the look all year. And on social media, models, to influencers have all been embracing the look as well. Just look at influencer and barber, Mikey, who’s been recreating the fire look and uploading them on his Instagram.
So why now? Blame cyclical fashion, explains celebrity hairstylist, Niko Weddle, who’s worked with Abigail Breslin, Portia Doubleday, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, among others. The stylist attributes this recent wave of 90’s nostalgia on the runways – from Prada to Margiela – as a major factor for the mullet’s resurgence.
Social media, of course, also plays a factor, he says. With the illusion of perfection projected onto social media, Niko tells Very Good Light that “the mullet is the the ultimate f**k you to all of that.” He further explains: “It says ‘I don’t7
Vcare; at a time when our carefully cultivated social media presences seem to say perhaps we care a little too much.”
AXE’s own celebrity barber, Reggae, the man behind the fades of Zayn, Will Smith, Gucci Mane, among others, echoes this sentiment.
“[The mullet] adds a bit of uniqueness to each person who wears it,” he tells Very Good Light. It’s also versatile in the way that it allows guys to put a “twist on a fade faux-hawk look.” Since fades are really popular right now, the mullet gets men the clean cuts they want while experimenting with length.
Besides, that, mullets are simply “badass and rock and roll,” says Alicia Campbell, who’s worked with rockers like Green Day, Metallica, to guys like Vince Staples and Big Sean.
To get the perfect mullet look, Reggae gives us a few pointers, below:
1 Request the “South of France”
If you’re asking your barber how to achieve the look, start with a skin taper and then a high temple fade, suggests Reggae. “This type of fade was coined by a fellow celebrity barber,” Reggae tells us. “He called it the ‘South of France’ Fade.
2 All about proportions
Long gone are the ponytail-length hair in the back and a short cut up front. Instead, make it subtle. “The top would be a crop top with a messy and uneven length,” Reggae says. “Ask your barber to use uneven sheers to create the texture on the sides, then regular sheers cutting at an angle on the top.”
3 Style it to finish
Just as your hair is disproportionate, so should how you style it. For this, you’d use products for the top of your hair as you’d normally do. But for the back, “let it fall as is with minimal product,” Reggae says.
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BTS is already making history with being the first Korean pop act to grace the American Music Awards stage.
But they’re probably the only boyband in AMA’s history to bring full-on beauty looks to the red carpet as well.American award show be damned, these boys were serving seriously Seoul looks to laid back Los Angeles. Already sporting head-to-toe Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello, the band –composed of Suga, RM, V, Jungkook, J-Hope, Jimin and Jin – completely brought it when it came to their beauty.
While other male acts kept their grooming looks safe (aka boring AFFF – really, I’m so bored, literally slap me awake, *ahem* Nick Jonas) BTS was fearless with their classic K-pop looks. Other than their glossy, beautiful locks from the likes of J-Hope’s fire engine red, Jimin’s honey blonde, Suga’s icy white, V’s gunmetal grey, it was their eye shadow that kept things smoking and quintessentially Kpop.
(Photo by Getty Images)
All seven members kept their skin glowing with that classic Kbeauty dew, and layered on some color to their eyes to give them a pop. Each wore top-to-bottom eyeliner, allowing the eyes to instantly come alive, especially for members like Jin, Jimin, Suga and RM who all have single-eyelids. The eyeliner creates an illusion that the eyes are less sleepy, something that’s common for guys with single eyelids, and makes them bigger. The eyeshadow is then layered to make the eyes appear longer. This is usually done with three colors: brown, black and red tones that are brushed on the actual lid and then blended outwards. This elongates the eyes on guys like V, whose eyeshadow blends outwards – smoky, sexy, sultry. It has the same effect on Jimin, creating eyes that are wider and less sleepy.
Here’s a closeup:
Each of the guys then finished their looks with coral lips, from V’s powder pink, Jimin’s rose, to deeper reds like Jin’s. Korean makeup artists say that these subtle red tints to the lips make the eyes pop a little more and gives the face some added color/texture. Again, the running theme in Korean makeup is to highlight the eyes, and the colored lips only accentuate them.
Makeup is still widely unaccepted in the States, while Kpop idols in Seoul wear lip stains like it’s just another day. For Asians, makeup accentuates a man’s beauty and sex appeal. For BTS to stick to their beauty and full makeup looks without catering to a Western palette or aesthetics is powerful. It means that these boys, in very subtle ways, are bringing makeup to the masses and normalizing eyeshadows, bright lips, bold hair. And that’s completely powerful. Here’s to other artists following in BTS’s beautiful footsteps.
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