CENTRAL TEXAS (FOX 44) – It’s Asian-American Pacific-Islander Heritage Month, and we celebrate the pop culture sensation that is K-pop. It is a part of the Korean Wave, and it has swept the globe!
There is a reason why it is all the rage, and is uniting fans from all over the world – including right here in Central Texas.
Susan Grinie is a K-pop fanatic, and she shares what she loves most about this genre of music, “The way it bridges so many people together and shows we’re all human. We’re all the same people, just regardless of where we’re from. I get emotional sometimes. I’ll start crying.”
She, along with her daughter Angie Rosas, take the term “super-fan” to a whole new level.
“They’ve been there for me, like, forever!”
Rosas and mother display their inner arm, “I got them inked on me. We got matching tattoos.”
K-pop groups like BTS and BlackPink have reached superstardom – but it is a rare feat.
Nancy Kim – a K-pop translator – shares that a record-label will first sign a trainee to a contract ranging anywhere from six months to ten years.
“You move in to the company and you leave home. Everyday, it’s just singing, dancing, language classes, acting classes…” Kim says.
“Let’s just say you’re the perfect a trainee. You still might not be good enough and not make it anywhere.”
There’s a reason these idols are special. Alyssa Elliott, another fan from Waco, explains the K-pop fever.
“There’s so much energy there. And there’s so much vibrance to the beats,” Elliott says. “And it pulls you in, even if necessarily you don’t quite understand what they’re saying.”
Rosas and Grinie share the Korean words they’ve learned.
“Annyeonghaseyo…’Hello’ and ‘Goodbye.’ Kamsahamnida…’Thank you.’ Saranghae…’I love you.’”
There is an aesthetic to the K-pop idol — and K-poppers dig it. Mother and daughter share a giddy laugh as they recall attending a show with Eric Nam.
“Their looks?,” laughs Rosas. “His smile. His body rolls,“ adds Grinie. “Yes, yes. Yes. Like the infamous body rolls that he does at his concerts. And…everybody goes crazy whenever it happens.”
And these idols are smashing Asian male stereotypes.
“Throughout the 1800s and 1900s, American media produced lots of images of Chinese men as unattractive,” says Rachel Lim, Visiting Assistant Professor of the Department of History at Texas A&M University. “We are perhaps sort of leaving behind the shackles of that. That perhaps younger generations are more open.”
Kim agrees, “Beauty is not just blond hair, blue eyes now anymore. It’s about small eyes and black hair. And, you know, being small.”
But beauty is only skin deep — and K-pop music moves beyond that.
“One song that means a lot to me right now is a song called ‘Wildflower’” – a song by RM and Youjeen.
“There’s a line that kind of basically says, ‘you’re enough,’” says Grinie. “With everything going on right now with depression, and everything going on in our schools I think a lot of people need to hear those messages.”
The meaning of this celebration of K-pop is a significant one. It means acceptance and love for your fellow man — no matter what race, color or creed.
“There’s been so many reasons for people to argue or people to not like each other…people not to get along,” says Elliott. “There’s been so many reasons to pick a fight with somebody. And here’s something that can bring so many people together.”
And as for the Asian American community –
“I think, now, we have a voice,” says Kim. “Just don’t be ashamed. Be proud of who you are.”