Just the Way She Is
Not the baby-faced young girl with the long straight hair flying as she dances or the diva brimming with charisma, but the woman in full bloom with a happy-go-lucky elegance, the BoA we didn't know. Editor / Ahn Dongseon Photographed by Kim Yeongjun
As I watched K-Pop Star, the program that is a hot topic of interest lately, a thought inevitably occurred to me. "Was BoA always this pretty?" Only the baby-faced young girl with her long straight hair flying as she sang "NO.1" and the super artistic image commanding "electronic manic supersonic bionic energy" were left in my memory. But when I fixed my eyes on BoA's face when the screen first paused on her, she was pretty to the extent of leaving me in wonderment. "I'm hearing lots of pleasing words. Since I'm always wearing heavy makeup on stage, it seems that the natural image from the show is refreshing. Before I appeared on the show people didn't recognize me easily so I could eat spicy rice cakes in the streets, but nowadays it’s awkward and embarrassing because they recognize me." (laughter) BoA's speech style suddenly turned cutesy when she said that it was embarrassing.
However, I held issue with speaking of BoA's loveliness confined only to outer aspects. What I was in awe of as I observed her were the poise and elegance not easily acquired by a young lady in her twenties, and the consequent loveliness which came flowing from that. I discovered a new face of BoA as I watched her producer's perspective, which in no way pales in comparison to the perspectives of the two representatives who lead actual entertainment companies, and her understanding and friendly attitude towards the audition contestants. If in the past you could see the face of an extensive professional who trained the talent she was born with to stand at the topmost position, now you could say that you can see the frustrations and hardships, pain and sadness which she overcame during that process as well as the humbleness, generosity, and compassion she gained by purifying those things. Among the diverse emotions she showed like a color wheel, her compassion in particular appears to be a qualification which is absolutely needed in order to become someone's mentor. The image of her giving the last casting card during the final casting auditions to Lee Jungmi, who didn't give up until the very end, was exceedingly impressive and memorable. "I think that talent and skills are important, but passion and a fervent heart are very important virtues as well. Nowadays as I watch those friends I reflect back on myself. I thought 'I'm so used to the stage.' One way or another you get accustomed to things if you work at it for a long period of time. But I think that this program has reawakened the thrill of the stage in me."
Without anything else in particular to do, I took the opportunity to divide her ten years of promotions into three eras while BoA, who showed no indications of tiredness as she changed into eight different outfits and finished up the photoshoot, took off her makeup. The first era is the beginning of the 2000s when she released her debut album ID; Peace B and finalized her contract with Japanese label Avex, starting nearly simultaneous activities in two countries. A young girl receiving the high praise of "a songstress who possesses infinite potential including vocals, dance, and beauty" was born. The second era starts with "My Name." BoA, who released her fourth album My Name in 2004, abandoned her image as a cute teenage girl and sought a more mature image. The pelvic dance BoA demonstrated from those performances, for which she had made the effort of personally writing to Rep Lee Sooman in order to tell him the reason why "My Name" had to be the title track, is a dance that can be seen often even now through industry juniors' performances and on variety programs. I was thinking about the third era when BoA, who finished washing her face, sat down by my side with a bright clean face. She told me that she thought perhaps her comeback stage for "Girls on Top," which is her fifth album title song, was the start of her third era. Armed with a wolf cut and an androgynous look, she halted her laughter for the song which contained a warning message towards male chauvinism and sang "only of different sexes, we are all humans whose purpose is to exist" while on top of a male dancer's back.
"In the case of 'Girls on Top,' it was a stage for which I had a lot of input. At that time, a dance move of climbing on the top of a male dancer's back could have been seen as being really strange. But as I planned out the performances after listening to the song, I was filled with the certainty that it had to be done that way." The performances of "Girls on Top" are ones which contain the passion and the stubbornness of BoA as a creator. BoA had once said "Being in the celebrity line of work where one must receive the love of the masses, one may come to go only towards the direction of what the general public wants, but even in the midst of that I want to create something new and want to compel fans like it." So I asked what type of character is needed in order to do that. "I suppose you must have confidence and pride in your music. I naturally become confident if I listen to it and like it. Ideas of what to do on stage for the performances begin to pop up in my head. How should I put it, it's as though 'That Person' arrives? (laughter) It's so difficult to put into words, but in any case I become confident about my music and performance in the process of turning those ideas into reality." There are very many performances that have given her pride as a singer. As I prepared for my interview with her I came to be awed once more by BoA's talent, with her flowing vocals and her sense of rhythm as she played with the beat in "The Love Bug" which she participated in with Japanese musician M-flo, and the performance arrangement skills in "Bad Drive" which gained the acknowledgment of Megadeth’s former guitarist Marty Friedman who gave the high praise that "it raised memories of Michael Jackson at his peak." In any case, is it not clear that she is a singer from whom you can see live performances that do not have even the slightest degree of anxiety or regret, but contain the admirable readiness that is prepared for anything?
But what was life like for teenage girl Kwon BoA as she cultivated her career as a singer? Having debuted at the age of thirteen, she thankfully appears to have developed into a healthy-minded adult in an environment where her growing process was visible to the public, which one could say is dangerous. "There are many people who speak pessimistically about how I spent my adolescence in the entertainment world. But I decided on what I wanted to do early on, and I think there is no other fortune that compares to having that work out well. What pains me most these days is hearing about people graduating from college and being unable to find employment. I think that the happiness of pouring your passion and talent into your work is one of the biggest joys you can seek in life. Only, with the nature of my work I can't meet people often and have little freedom, so there are negative aspects as well. However, every occupation in the world has its own set of problems. So I ought to think positively and make an effort to look on the bright side." Though BoA speaks composedly, she too has undergone a slump. In 2005, when she was enjoying high levels of popularity in Korea as well as in Japan where she had achieved the most success among foreign artists singing J-pop, she fell into a critical state in which even her passion for music and dance was in danger of cooling down after having carried out a schedule which left her no room to breathe for years. It may very well be that the period she spent in the US for her entrance into the American market during that time has made the presence of today’s BoA possible. "After frantically focusing solely on carrying out my schedule, I had a little flexibility in the US. I had time to study and when I shot music videos I could put more time into practicing choreography. Rather than anticipating that the American entrance was going to go over well, it was a period of time which I spent regarding as a study abroad experience. At the time it was difficult, but when I reflect back on it now I think that it was a really fun and very vital time for me." BoA, her American debut album which was released in spring of 2009, rose to 127th place on Billboard’s album chart. Though it may be considered as a regrettable result, BoA self-assuredly stated that she reevaluated and renewed herself through the comprehensive learning period of the life she led in the US during her early twenties.
BoA calmly presented her organized thoughts in response to questions of any kind, and in her answers you could feel a philosophy which only a person who has intensely immersed oneself in a single field can possess. I had jokingly said that BoA must possess the force of a truly great person, but the woman I actually met was a person in whom the force of a truly great person and a lovable quality were harmoniously blended together. When I asked about composition she appeared to be a prudent professional as she answered "Every now and then I try my hand at composition, but there are too many things that need to be done for me to be biased solely in favor of it. Because the things that I can do best are performing and singing, I think that it's right that I should focus more on those areas." And when I praised her in regards to her style, which sensibly matched black items of different material and details, she laughed shyly and said "There’s not many people who notice… It's zombie-like, isn’t it?" (laughter) I found it incredibly fascinating that these two sides, which are polar opposites, were so natural in this person called BoA. This strength may very well be what made it possible for BoA to maintain an innocence appropriate for her age even as she achieved levels of success during her teens that others won’t achieve in a lifetime.
BoA said that she's very close to her second older brother who is a music video director. (Director Kwon Soonwook directed the music video for the song "Game" from her 6th album. Her first older brother Kwon Soonhwon is a pianist.) "Whenever we have time the two of us drink beer and discuss various topics such as music videos and performance videos. As we happily chat we don't realize that time is ticking by. Then Mom scolds us saying 'You’re still here like this?' As my older brother and I converse like that, there are many instances of us gaining inspiration. Looking at it like that, it seems like we're very 'win-win' siblings, doesn't it?" (laughter) Her hobby is watching something. Movies, performance videos, music videos, dramas… She sits down in front of the TV whenever she has time, and reacts to and absorbs as she watches diverse genres of visual arts. She said that she had a long laugh recently when she caught herself walking with heavy footsteps like the female lead Lisbeth of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on her way out after watching the movie. Makeup artist Jung Saemmool has said "I've never seen a child like BoA who was born with such artistic talent," and it occurred to me that it was a bit of a shame to limit that talent only to music. Has BoA, who assimilated into the role of Lisbeth, already fallen deeply for the taste of acting, in which one skillfully crosses back and forth between the borders of "that which is me" and "that which is not me"? "I think I fell hard for the charm of acting as I filmed COBU 3D, which will be released this fall. Not once did I ever feel that I wanted to try acting in the past. And I started the movie because it's a dance flick produced by Duane Adler, the writer of the Step Up series. But as I filmed the movie I realized the fun of acting, so when I watch other movies I become a bit more immersed. I imagine about how that actor grasped that emotion and how hard that type of acting must have been, and also come to empathize with the emotions." If Step Up was a movie in which dances in the form of battles were featured then COBU 3D is a movie in which the focus is set on the love story between the two leads, though of course the dancing is important as well. Derek Hough, who is working opposite of BoA, is famous as a competitor on Dancing with the Stars and is an actor who possesses outstanding dance skills. A kiss scene between these two became a topic of hot interest not too long ago.
There is not much time left for us now. BoA, who had to spend the sunny Sunday afternoon in the basement studio changing outfits, said "You have to watch it live" (laughter) and cutely urged me. That day was also the date Whitney Houston’s death became known. It wasn't possible to not bring up the topic of our pop stars who have regrettably passed over to the other side. "Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston. They are all people who are too young and who overflow with too much talent to have met with death already. It's really heartbreaking. I think that no matter how immense a fortune or reputation you acquire, you actually have nothing if you lose your physical or mental health."
A cellist once said as he reflected on life "It's true that I am an artist, but if you observe the process of bringing art into fruition I too am a manual laborer. I have been so my entire life." Wouldn't this quote be applicable to her as an extraordinary performer as well if a memoir of BoA, who possesses the force of a truly great person, was released one day? "I'm simply a manual laborer. (laughter) I'm similar to an athlete. Performing for 2 hours and 30 minutes is difficult to the point that it's comparable to playing football or basketball for the same amount of time. Singing while dancing may look easy but it's actually something that consumes an immense amount of stamina, and because dancing in itself is an exercise which puts stress on muscles and joints I have to consciously manage my fitness separately. So for me, health is the most important thing." BoA, who said this and then hurried out of the studio for her live broadcast, looked very healthy. There laid the reason why she is pretty.
Source: Harper's Bazaar Korea March 2012 Issue
English translation: live laugh love @ Soompi
Edited by bokachu, 12 April 2012 - 05:35 PM.