SNSD Seohyun “Entering SM, My Life’s Turning Point”
If you think she’s a boring model student, you’ve misjudged her. She’s experienced, honest and sometimes, provocative. 9 years since debut, and nearly 15 years if you include her years as a trainee, you can feel the heavy weight of having walked, without wavering, on a road that she has chosen. Beyond being an idol, she has done musicals and dramas – an explorer who is blazing a trail in other avenues. She still seems like a girl, but this is an interview with a different Seohyun who we did not know.
Filming for drama ‘Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo’ has wrapped up. Have you become less busy?
I have a bit more time compared when I was filming the drama, but I still have a lot of schedules. I have performances and I’m shooting commercials.
Let’s start talking about the drama first. You played a character with a complicated backstory.
It wasn’t a light character. I had to act thinking about things that were not expressed in the drama. It’s not a traditional historical drama, but also not completely modern, so I thought about it a lot with the director. Finding the middle balance was difficult.
There are several members of SNSD who act, was there any advice?
Honestly, they tend not to give advice along the lines of “Do it like this, do it like that”. Instead, they diligently monitor on my behalf. We tend to monitor each other about makeup or hair saying “Next time, if you did it like this, it would look good, this time this was good”.
You started musicals before you started acting.
It’s really not an easy field. But I always liked acting, and since the trainee days, I prepared acting alongside singing. While watching Ock Juhyun unnie’s performances, I had thoughts of wanting to do musicals. I also thought that I shouldn’t carelessly start this. So I started a bit later.
We observe a lot of affection from you for musicals.
As I did musicals, I learned a lot and understood a lot. I want to be an actress with longevity. I’m still lacking but as I remedy my shortcomings, I want to perform in front of audiences as a good actress. The more I do it, it’s fun and I can’t escape its charms.
It has been 9 years since SNSD’s debut.
It really doesn’t feel real. I can’t believe that 9 years have already passed, and it doesn’t feel like it has been that long. But if I think differently, it has been a long time. In the beginning, we were all teenagers, but we’re already in our mid to late 20s. When I think about that, it feels like it has been a long time but when we’re together, it doesn’t feel like it has been long.
You released a fan song to commemorate the 9th anniversary. Sooyoung personally wrote the lyrics.
From when we received the demo, it perfectly aligned with the emotions we wanted to express. There were several songs, but we personally chose the song. Sooyoung unnie personally wrote the lyrics. Truthfully, I wrote lyrics too, but after competing, I lost by a hair. Unnie wrote it so well, so I accept the results. (Laughs) I like the lyrics because it captures our hearts toward fans so well.
It must have felt different when you were recording.
It reminded me a lot of our early debut years. Fans’ touched expressions while they shake light sticks during concerts also came to mind. When our eyes meet on that stage, how should I say, that we share each others’ feelings? Emotions like that came to mind a lot. When we listened to the recording together, I cried. It’s a song that is so precious and meaningful to us too.
There is a saying about a 7 year jinx for idols, SNSD is in its 9th year. Is there a secret?
With members, we are not working but we live as if we are family. Going forward, I think this relationship will continue and I hope it continues. People say it’s not easy for girl groups to go for a long time, so for us to have come this far, we are thankful for one another. Because we overcame difficult times together. We talk at length about the future. Words like “In 20 years, we’ll gather with our kids in tow”. I really hope that will happen.
It’s not only that your team has sustained, but for 9 years, you’ve stood at the top.
I think we were lucky. Even amongst us, we say “We have good luck”. We never really had anything that made us feel like we were in a crisis. Since there are a lot of members who have known each other for a long time, when we are together, it’s so fun and it gives us energy. We say ‘fighting’ naturally. We spent a very long time as trainees. We were trainees for about 5 years, so if you calculate it, we’ve been together for 15 years. So that’s why we don’t think of it as work, but we enjoy it. If someone’s mood is not good, different members beside her will bring her up… As for the overall mood, there weren’t any days that were down.
15 years from the trainee days. Have you ever regretted your debut?
I’ve never regretted it. However, there is one downside. It’s a bit regrettable that I haven’t had a lot of time to spend with family or friends, since I’ve continuously worked like this since I was a trainee. Even when I attended school, I wanted to spend time with friends and go out to eat with them, but I had to go straight to training. While working as a celebrity, I’m not busy 365 days so when I rest, I play a lot. I tell my friends my schedule so they can free up days ahead of time.
What kind of a maknae is Seohyun within SNSD?
I think I am an okay maknae and also an annoying maknae. We are only one or two years different in age so we are like friends. But I’m still maknae, so unnies take care of me well and consider me pretty. And I do aegyo… When we need to guide and criticize each other, our style is to do it without reservation. I wonder if that would make them annoyed. They could think, “This young kid!” (Laughs)
Isn’t it difficult to live as a famous person who is recognized by everyone?
I think I’m used to it. It was awkward in the beginning but now, I’m actually thankful. If I’m a celebrity and no one recognized me, isn’t it humiliating to be forced to say, “I’m Seohyun”. (Laughs) Of course, if people don’t recognize me, I can go around comfortably so there are good aspects. If they recognize me, I’ve learned to think of it in a good way since it means I still have popularity.
Is it not unusual when you’re overseas?
When we went to the US to perform, an elderly Caucasian man asked me to sign an album at a hotel lobby. I wondered if his grandchild asked for it, but the same elderly man sat front row at the concert and cheered us on. It was so fascinating. We haven’t done an official promotion in the US, but I was fascinated and thankful that he recognized us.
When was the turning point of Seohyun’s life?
The biggest one was before and after SNSD’s debut. Coming into SM Entertainment was a turning point in itself before debut. At that time, I was preparing to go study abroad in the US with my cousin. I was in the 5th grade and that’s when I was cast. My cousin went to the US, and I started my life as a trainee. I originally dreamt of being a pianist or a ballerina.
Seohyun has a proper model student image. There must be times when it is uncomfortable.
I didn’t create it myself, so truthfully, I’m not concerned about that. But the uncomfortable aspect, not that people mean harm, is when people think and treat me a certain way before they know me, thinking ‘This kid will be like this’. People who I meet for the first time all think like that. If I get close, I can be funnier than you think, but I think too much of one side of me has been shown. I wonder if people who don’t know me think like that too. How can a person always be proper? I think I will show other sides of me gradually. If I transform drastically through acting, I wonder if it would have more impact.
What is typical Seohyun like?
Normally, I’m almost unadorned to the point where it makes you think ‘Is this okay’. I go around bare faced often… Skin needs to rest too. I’m human, and not a figure who lives inside of a TV. I couldn’t do it in the early days but now that 9 years have passed, I’ve learned things like that. I hang out with regular friends who are not celebrities. At first, they are fascinated but later, they look at me as Seo Juhyun (real name). I think it’s important to have that balance. A person can’t always only show the same side of themselves.
Even though you go around unadorned, since you’re in a visual line of work, you can’t be completely unconcerned. These days, your airport fashion draw attention.
Airport fashion! I pay a lot of attention to that. So I always wear sunglasses. I wear it to be stylish but I often wear it to hide almost everything. Clothes change according to mood. There are times when I wear my own clothes, there are times when the stylist does it for me. If I want to dress flashy, I dress flashy too. I don’t dress comfortably no matter what because it’s the airport, since my career is visual.
You also do a lot of photoshoots. Today, we shot with various concepts.
I like concepts that are opposite of my image. There are a lot of sides of myself inside of me, so through photoshoots that see me through a standardized angle, I like to show various side of myself. At first, photoshoots were awkward and I worried about how I should do them, but now they’ve become natural and I enjoy them. I like them because I can try various things. I do them with a comfortable heart, and I think they’ve become even more natural.
Now heavy makeup suits you, and when we look at your airport fashion, you use lipsticks well. Do you have a favourite lipstick colour and tips to use it?
Ah, now it’s really autumn. In autumn, rose coloured lipstick that’s rich in colour is well suited. If I had a tip for natural lip colour, it would be that I mix three colours together and apply it?
Does Seohyun have a unique beauty maintenance tip?
Wasn’t last summer so hot? To recharge the moisture that summer stole, I apply aloe gel before I sleep and do a mask pack.
You must have a lot of things to maintain.
I have no choice but to maintain. If I have a day off, it’s a maintenance day. Skin care is continuous, I have to do hair care and take care of my nails. I really invest a lot of time into maintenance. If I have time all day, I also take care of my heart. I need to calm my heart and cool my head. I meet friends to relieve stress and that’s a form of maintenance and training too. That’s how you strengthen your mentality, otherwise, it will break quickly.
What is the driving force that supports Seohyun?
The biggest driving force are my parents. They help me breathe, cheer me on and trust me, which is the biggest source of strength. My friends let me live as human Seo Juhyun, and not as celebrity Seohyun. When we are promoting, fans are a really big source of strength. Every moment I stand on stage, it gives me strength. When I’m sad, I read fan letters and when I see that, I have strength. I’ve cried reading fan letters. I’m so thankful and it makes me think that I need to live diligently.
It has been 9 years with the fans too.
As long as we have been active, our relationship with fans have been too. It’s very fascinating to see fans who used to come see us wearing school uniforms, now in the working world. It makes me think that we are living and sharing time with our fans. It’s a special relationship.