A K-Pop idol is usually trained under a strict system before their debut. Typically, kids will have to go through various stages of auditions before being signed on as trainees. The ones who are successful will secure themselves long-term contracts with the respective talent agencies. After which, they will enter a training programme which is usually years-long.
Note: The standard training programme includes many hours a day learning music, choreography, exercising, and classes in foreign languages e.g. Japanese, Chinese, and English. Because a lot of these trainees are required to devote their time and energy to the programme, they would drop out of school.
For the people who didn’t grow up in that kind of environment or for those who aren’t exposed to that kind of culture (read: South Korean music industry), it might seem a little extreme. But for the trainees, their sole purpose is to achieve their dream of someday becoming a K-Pop idol.
One good example of how “extreme” (and some say cruel) it sounds to outsiders is the fans’ reactions to Lee Ha Yi’s account of being a trainee under YG Entertainment. 16-year-old Lee Ha Yi, better known as her stage name, “Lee Hi“, is YG Entertainment’s current “baby K-Pop idol”. She was one of the finalists of reality TV singing competition, “Survival K-Pop Star” before she was spotted by YG’s CEO, Yang Hyun-syuk, who immediately signed her as a trainee.
But she is also one of the only artistes currently in YG Entertainment who has had the least amount of training prior to debut. Whilst other trainees are given years and years of training, Lee Hi only had a few months before she released her first single. Hence, Lee Hi’s personal account of her training (released via her Star Column on Naver) has shocked fans who have read it:
My body is tired. I want to eat but I can’t so I cried again. I want to be pretty for my stages so I go to the gym to exercise again. But exercising is really tough. There was once when I could not hear in my ear suddenly, when I was in the hospital, the doctor said its sudden deaf. As I always exercise without eating, I fell sick.
When I was singing halfway, one of my ears was suddenly deaf again. I thought I would be unable to sing anymore so I was very sad. But of course it was fine after treating my sickness in the hospital.
I now only do three different exercises in the gym. I can’t reveal my weight but I have lost 6kg in total.
I eat breakfast at 10am, I eat lunch three hours later. Another 3 hours later I eat my dinner. Every day, I only eat from the menu that the coach and nutritionist have come up with. If I feel hungry in the middle of the day, I will eat half a sweet potato and three cherry tomatoes.
The first time when I had to control my weight, I don’t know why I had to live like that. But after looking at my performances, I know why. When I am exercising, I will have stronger energy so I will not be that tired compared to the first time I was practicing.
After I’ve reached the weight that I want to, I will be able to eat a lot of meat and sweet food. I love meat. When I received #1 in a music website online, I received the coach’s permission to eat meat. I ate a lot of meat and I was also snapped photos by some fans. As I am still young, there are times where I could not resist eating meat anymore, but I am currently dieting happily!
(Translation: nakedae | flyhayi)
Is it too much pressure and too stressful for a 16-year-old who didn’t first start out as a trainee from an even younger age? We’ll let you decide. In any case, you have our love and support, Lee Hi!