‘I might have been a Ok-pop idol – however I’m glad I stop’

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Euodias

Achieving fame as a Ok-pop star entails years of intensive coaching, and sometimes some cosmetic surgery. Euodias is among the few British hopefuls to have skilled the gruelling lifetime of a Ok-pop trainee. Here she describes what it was like, and explains why – after being chosen for a woman group – she stop.

I used to be a toddler once I made the large move from my home within the north-east of England to South Korea, the place I skilled for 2 years to develop into a Ok-pop star.

At the time Ok-pop was largely unknown in Britain. But I’m half-Korean and half-Chinese, so I began watching South Korean TV dramas like Boys Over Flowers and Playful Kiss – after which fell in love with Ok-pop and the entire tradition.

While my classmates had been loopy about Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, I used to be additionally listening to Wonder Girls and B2ST.

My burning ambition was to develop into an actor and carry out.

One manner of doing that in South Korea is to develop into an “idol”, which suggests somebody who does every thing: mannequin, act, sing and dance. So Ok-pop appeared like a path to attaining my goals.

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From the age of 10, I auditioned for numerous corporations within the hope that considered one of them would signal me up.

Often this meant sending a self-shot video of myself. Sometimes I skipped college to movie an audition tape, which made my mum actually mad.

Then, on a household journey to go to my grandma in Seoul, I obtained to go to an enormous audition with greater than 2,000 different hopefuls.

We had been stored in an unlimited ready room, like the type you see on Britain’s Got Talent, besides there have been no chairs. So we sat on the ground in rows of 10.

After a six-hour wait, it was my row’s flip. My coronary heart was beating so quick as we had been known as ahead one-by-one.

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When the primary woman sang, the choose barked “Stop. Next!” earlier than she obtained to the refrain of her track. Nearly everybody obtained the identical therapy.

When it was my flip, I carried out a monologue from a Korean TV drama. The choose stopped me midway by.

“We’re looking for singers,” he stated. “So will you sing?” I hadn’t ready a track, however I had a go at doing A Whole New World from Disney’s Aladdin.

The choose halted me and requested to see me dance. I hadn’t ready for that both, and felt like an fool. So they placed on a dance observe and I did some freestyling.

After conferring with assistants, the choose gave me a yellow piece of paper. I used to be by to the following stage.

I used to be directed to a room the place I used to be requested to stroll alongside a line taped on the ground, and my face was photographed from completely different angles to see how I might look on digital camera.

Within days, I used to be requested to return again with a mum or dad to debate a contract.

Under the phrases of the contract, I would go away my household and move to South Korea to stay and practice on the firm.

The firm might eliminate me at any time if it did not assume I used to be adequate.

But if I selected to go away earlier than the contract was up, I must repay the total price of my coaching, which might run into 1000’s of {dollars}.

Mum reluctantly signed a two-year contract – the shortest they provided – on my behalf.

After the assembly we had an argument and mum did not speak to me for a month.

Soon after I began as a trainee, the leisure firm that had signed me up transferred my contract to a different agency. Such strikes are frequent and trainees do not get any say within the matter.

My new firm was strict. I needed to stay of their constructing with the opposite trainees who had been all aged between 9 and 16. The sexes had been separated.

We solely left the constructing to attend our regular college classes. Korean trainees went to native state colleges however as a result of I used to be British I went to a global college. Other than that we weren’t allowed out with out permission, which was normally refused.

If dad and mom wished to go to they needed to get approval in advance. Relatives who turned up with out discover had been turned away.

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On a typical day we trainees would get up at 5am to get in some further dance follow earlier than college began at 8am.

When the varsity day ended we might return to the corporate to be skilled in singing and dancing. Trainees would keep up practising till 11pm or later, in an try and impress instructors.

At evening we had been left to take care of ourselves. We had a strict curfew to verify we would be again within the dorms earlier than they locked up the constructing.

Dating was banned, although some secretly did. Trainees had been all alleged to act straight even when they weren’t. Anybody who seemed to be brazenly homosexual was ostracised by the corporate.

Both female and male trainees would have “managers” – uncle-type figures who would textual content us at evening to maintain tabs on us. If we did not textual content again, then we might instantly get a cellphone name, asking the place we had been.

There was no such factor as weekends or holidays. On nationwide holidays just like the Lunar New Year, trainees would stay within the firm constructing whereas employees took the day without work.

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The firm sorted us into two essential teams, sort of like a Team A and Team B. I used to be one of many 20 to 30 members of Team A – we had been thought to have probably the most potential.

Team B had round 200 trainees. Some of them had even needed to pay their manner into the corporate. They might practice for years and years and by no means know if they’d really “debut” – the phrase used when somebody is launched as a Ok-pop performer.

Team A trainees slept in dorms with 4 women to a bed room. The common trainees would sleep collectively in an enormous room and needed to make do with mats on a wood flooring.

I noticed exhausted Team B trainees sleep within the dance studios after coaching, as a result of the mats there have been identical to those of their dorms.

I solely ever noticed one Team B trainee get promoted to Team A. If Team A trainees misbehaved, or complained about one thing they may be threatened with being thrown out or moved to Team B.

But typically no one complained. We had been all actually younger and impressive. The firm’s perspective was that every thing we skilled was a part of studying the self-discipline wanted to be a Ok-pop idol. So we simply accepted every thing.

Inside the corporate constructing, we did not use our personal names, besides with different trainees. We had been every given a quantity and a stage title in line with the form of character they’d picked for us.

I used to be given the title Dia, however our instructors would solely ever name us by our numbers, which they learn from stickers on our shirts. It felt bizarre, a bit like we had been in some form of science experiment.

I knew I had the attributes to be a profitable idol.

The firm favoured me, as a result of I’m very small – instructors consistently praised me for being petite. Don’t get me unsuitable, I like consuming, however I’m fortunate to have a excessive metabolism and do not achieve weight simply.

Weight was the fixed obsession of everybody there. Everyone was required to be no heavier than 47kg (7st 6lb or 104lb) no matter their age or peak.

At weekly weigh-ins, your physique could be analysed by the coach, after which they introduced your weight to everybody within the room.

If you had been over the designated weight, then they’d ration your meals. Sometimes they’d even take away whole meals and people “overweight” trainees would simply be given water.

If you want help with consuming problems, assist and help is out there from BBC Action Line

I assumed that was actually harsh as a result of a few of these women could not assist being tall.

Starving your self was actually normalised. Some trainees had been anorexic or bulimic, and lots of the women did not have intervals.

It was frequent to cross out from exhaustion. Often we had to assist carry unconscious trainees again to the dorms.

I handed out twice throughout dance follow, in all probability as a result of I used to be dehydrated or hadn’t eaten sufficient. I awakened in mattress not realizing how I obtained there.

The perspective among the many trainees after that was like, “Good for her! She wants it so much!” Looking again on it now, I believe it was actually disgusting.

I discovered that I did not actually have good buddies there, everybody was extra like a colleague. The setting was manner too tense and aggressive to forge actual friendships.

The aggravating ambiance was heightened by the month-to-month showcase occasions. Each trainee would carry out in entrance of everybody and be evaluated by the instructors.

If a trainee did not get a very good grade, then they’d be kicked out instantly.

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They would get replaced by a continuing stream of latest arrivals. What was much more intimidating was that among the new trainees had already had cosmetic surgery achieved, in order that they already regarded extra like Ok-pop stars than the remainder of us.

There was additionally bullying happening among the many trainees. One woman was picked on as a result of she was over the utmost weight. Another trainee who was a very good dancer had his dance sneakers stolen.

I missed my previous buddies again in England however I could not actually keep up a correspondence with them as instructors made us hand in our telephones so we might deal with our coaching. The firm additionally wished to make trainees appear extra mysterious earlier than they debuted, and did not need us posting something embarrassing on social media.

We might get our telephones again for 15 minutes at evening, and I might use that point to name my mum. But most trainees additionally secretly stored a second cellphone.

My dad and mom knew that coaching was tough, however there actually wasn’t a lot they might do as a result of I used to be underneath a contract they usually had been so distant. Most of the Korean trainees would not inform their dad and mom something in any respect as a result of they did not need them to fret.

What stored me going was the assumption that I might ultimately debut as a member of a gaggle.

However, the corporate solely had spots for fewer than half of the members of Team A. We competed for them by fixed examinations in singing, dancing, and interviews.

Ok-pop teams are usually organised like this: a lead vocalist, dancer, rapper, youngest member, and so on. Everyone has a particular function.

I used to be delighted after they informed me I had been picked to be a lead singer. But then the corporate stated they had been contemplating me for an alternate function within the group, the visible.

The visible is the face of the group. You get picked for this due to your look, and crucially, the way you would possibly look sooner or later. Another woman was in competitors with me for this spot.

She was naturally extra engaging than me, however the firm predicted that if I obtained cosmetic surgery I might find yourself prettier than her and would then be able to be the visible.

By Korean requirements I’ve a really large face, in order that they wished to vary the bridge of my nostril and shave my jawline.

The firm could not power a trainee to have cosmetic surgery, nevertheless it was strongly inspired. Plastic surgical procedure could be very regular in South Korea and the prospect of getting surgical procedure did not hassle me in any respect. I noticed it as an funding in my future – the price of the operation would have been added to my debt to the corporate.

But my mum had combined emotions, she realised it meant I might be nearer to changing into an idol, however she was additionally frightened for me.

When the corporate informed me that I used to be being lined up for the visible spot, I used to be so completely satisfied.

They informed me that I used to be going to be a Ok-pop star, and that is actually wonderful to listen to, particularly while you’re an impressionable teenager listening to that from highly effective folks.

As time went on, the corporate began to inform us extra about what the group was going to be like.

They informed us the music style, the type that we might have, and I began feeling iffy about the entire thing.

I discovered in regards to the character behind my stage title, Dia. She was alleged to be very reserved, candy, and harmless. As the visible, I might be anticipated to personify these traits.

But Dia simply wasn’t me. I’m opinionated and loud. I doubted I might be capable of sustain this docile character in public.