[TRANS] Tiffany Interview in Pin Prestige, April 2016
“If it’s okay, can I eat while we do the interview?” asked Tiffany Hwang, as she opened the packaging on bread.
I never thought I’d see this scene in person, so I secretly really liked it and responded, “Ah, of course”.
I couldn’t believe that a person who always has to show a perfect appearance in front of a camera, a woman who has an occupation that requires her to always maintain an S line, and a woman who is called an idol, star, and goddess by millions of fans was eating bread with jam in front of me.
What is the big deal about watching a celebrity eating a mini croissant?
It’s because I’ve heard so many times that many entertainment companies require its artists to abide by a strict meal plan to maintain their figure, and I’ve read many pre-debut photos and articles of Tiffany that talked about how she has maintained her perfect figure.
In the past when I’ve interviewed SNSD, they were wearing the most beautiful outfits with a perfect smile. Like a living Barbie doll, the ladies’ beauty were almost unreal. Tiffany, who was eating bread, showed a big difference. Her two big eyes smiles. “I really like jam. Haha.”
A Smile Hiding Unyielding Strength
The group that Tiffany is in is SNSD, and under their name they’ve released 8 albums and performed over 100 performances, they are a one top nation’s girl group of South Korea.
She also has 3.4 million followers on Instagram, and the single behind cut photo that she uploaded on shooting day received 20,000 likes within 15 minutes. Her popularity alone is explosive.
10 years ago, even before debut, her dream was releasing a solo album, with her own name on the line.
“Originally, the plan was for me to release my solo album at the end of last year. But we delayed it to this year. The company gave me permission to discuss this content, so I’m discussing this topic. The company said that my album has been prepared well so it would be okay to release it but I did not agree. It was decided that it was not yet perfect. I thought that there were areas that were not yet perfect, so I hesitated, ‘Should I push ahead according to the original plan or should I strive toward my thoughts and beliefs in pursuit of perfection?’”
Before this interview, I had heard that there were changes to her solo album plans. So I decided not to ask questions regarding her album. But the topic came up during the interview, so I decided to probe.
“Right now, I’m pondering over the name of the album. Mmm…. The way I view myself and the way that my fans look at me is a California girl, who is full of warmth and sunshine. I don’t want to release the album in the winter. Winter doesn’t suit my music. So I’m waiting for sunlight to shine brightly. I was insistent that I want to release the album when it’s warm. This is the biggest hint I can give, to my fans who are waiting for the album.”
While Tiffany was talking about the album that she has waited 10 years to come out, her words were full of energy, like sunlight. The way she described herself was like that too. It was optimistic, overflowing with energy. Her beautiful eye smile and lovable smile told me everything.
“Of course I thought about it seriously. Am I forcing myself to smile so I can become happy? Or am I pretending to be happy? Honestly, last year, my heart did hesitate a little. I spent almost 1 year thinking of the conclusion. I am a happy person overflowing with energy. I love ice cream and I love cupcakes. I love pink, this is me. Every person has a dark side. But as long as you have a positive and optimistic heart, even if most difficult times come, it will end.”
The outfit emphasizes the strength layered on top of her soft and lovely features. The photographer Woo Kim wants a more serious expression from her. For a moment, she erases her smile, and transforms into someone who has absolute control over what she wants.
“It’s really fun. Every shot, lighting, makeup and style is different. It’s different from photoshoots of the past. It’s a new experience because the photographer is different from ones I’ve worked with before. I think this is a precious experience. I’m satisfied with the photos.”
Trying New Things as Her All-Time Motivation
During the interview, Tiffany repeated the phrase “I am attempting something new” several times. She is always hard at work finding new opportunities.
This is only the start of her dream of releasing an album. If she puts out an album under her own name, she alone will receive all of the attention and stage that she previously shared with the group. The meaning of starting anew was underlying in her words.
“I thought of me when I was younger, my dreams, thoughts and feelings when I first came to Korea. I was a girl from America who had the dream of becoming a rising star in Asia. I am thankful that I never forget that initial goal and I am still chasing that dream.”
“Recently, I went to the US on vacation, and my brother asked me, ‘When will SNSD do a concert in North America and South America?’ He asked me, ‘Do you remember wanting to see famous idols who lived on the other side of the world as you?’”
“At that time, I saw many things very clearly. More than my dreams, I found strong beliefs. When I flew to Korea at the age of fifteen and started living there, my future was all uncertain. But I was not scared. I think I must have been born an optimist. I can’t speak on behalf of SNSD, but if there are people waiting somewhere, I think they will be able to hear my/our voice and see us. It’s because they are my motivation and source of strength.”
“Recently, I got a tattoo that says ‘dreamer’ on my finger. Korean music was the dream of my teenage years, and I am still running toward my goals. Even though I have grown from late teens to my late twenties, the one thing that has not changed is that I will keep dreaming. I will always chase after my dreams.”
She has never forgotten her initial motives and returned to the mind of a rookie, who has just debuted, and still looking for her breakthrough. She has never sparkled more brightly than she does now.
“I’m all about feeling things in my heart in the moment, and creating something new. One time, I thought that I was always showing the same aspect of me in every photo. But it’s different now. I like new things and I started living for that. I go for walks, I drink, I watch movies, I go for drives. I am learning how to rest, and I am smiling even more.”
(How can you go out freely when you are famous in Korea?)
“Honestly, I go outside without makeup, only wearing sunglasses, sport pants and sneakers. When SNSD makes official appearances, we are well prepared from head to toe. In the past, I didn’t have courage to meet people without high heels.”
“The last 10 years or so, I’ve been a proponent of perfection, perfection and even more perfection. But truthfully, I am a regular person. I love butter, and I like grains. In the past, I’ve felt like I wasn’t doing anything. But now, I’m a bit more relaxed, so there’s nothing that will be a problem.”
Stress Accompanying Her Course of Maturing
If a force is disrupted, it typically bounces off even stronger. Like a spring. This is a good comparison to how Tiffany started her journey.
At the age of 15, when she was barely in middle school, she participated in a competition that picked trainees in the US. She did not make it through, but she attracted the attention of an agent, and after that, she had an audition. She got into the company, and became a trainee. To chase her own dreams and seize this opportunity, she had to use all of her strength. Despite strong opposition from her father, she did not wane, and declared that she must become a singer.
She packed up her life in the US in a matter of 3 weeks, and she came to Korea alone, leaving behind her only safe place, with her family. To chase her dreams. In her words, this was the craziest choice she has made in her life so far.
“After hearing my father’s opinion, I was even more sure that I wanted to become a singer. That this is what I want. How many fifteen-year-olds know what they want? I think it’s really important to believe in yourself and to be completely honest with yourself.”
(How were you so sure?)
“Love. I really love music. I respect my current occupation. Showing music is a method of expression, and it can also heal. You can tell a story, but you can also sing it. If you can sing a story, it’s even cooler. When you’re heartbroken, when you say goodbye, when you feel crazy, when you make a mistake, when you grow… You can sing these feelings, and when you hear it through music, it feels very different. Music can touch the bottom of your heart, and it has the ability to reach the deepest part of your soul. These days, people share their music lists. That is really about sharing your story. Like having a conversation.”
“I know I love it (music and the occupation of a singer). Love never leaves regrets and it makes you do crazy things. I didn’t even wish for a reward (of success). But the end result was more than what I could imagine.”
“After debuting at the age of 18, I had already become an adult. Of course, looking back now, I know very well that I was so immature. Growing under flashing lights and cameras gave me incredible stress. Some things were positive and some things were negative. Thankfully, I am still holding on to the thing that I always wanted. I still love music and my current occupation gives me huge satisfaction.”
“Growing up in front of the camera gave me perseverance and patience. I learned how to accept criticism with an open heart. It can be hard to withstand severe words from people. I learned how to take in new challenges that include things I don’t know well, or things beyond my control. Things that are unavoidable in this industry like photographs, makeup, or outfits. I’m thankful that I can work with people in different fields, and I’ve learned to maintain an open mind so we can work together comfortably; I am thankful that I can be inspired by them. I think it’s really awesome when we can create a breakthrough together.”
She expects a lot of herself and imposes many limitations. She has created in herself a person who can work even harder. Her punctual and prepared nature is definite proof that shows her professionalism.
She believes that being punctual is a basic manner that shows respect for other people. Today’s photo shoot was supposed to start at 10 am but yesterday, she requested to show up 90 minutes early for makeup and styling. When I came today, she had come even earlier than the promised time. After she finished preparations, she showed a side of herself that was well rested and passionate. And she said (in a friendly tone), “Now we can start!”
Investing in Time Wisely
This is luck, and also hard work. For 3 years, Tiffany received training from SM, one of the 3 biggest entertainment companies, and debuted as a member of SNSD in 2007. SNSD received incredible popularity in a short period of time, and she became famous overnight. As a star, her trajectory has extended in various directions, with singing, MC, appearing in variety shows, and acting in musicals.
“I can’t deny it. I was really lucky. This luck found me in my career, so it created good opportunities for me, and I was able to seize every opportunity.”
“I am a person who abides by time. I spend a lot of time reviewing, and thinking again, and I don’t think of this as a waste of time, but a form of investment.”
“There are times when you rush things because you don’t want to lose out on an opportunity, or because you think you’re not getting any younger. But I don’t want to waste my time. My friends all think the same way. Especially when their careers have met a certain peak, everyone tries desperately to find a different exit.”
“These days, I’ve taken a step back to think about and find what I really want. I examine myself well and ask myself honestly. If I think I am ready and sure, I do it. And I throw myself into what I’m doing. This must be growth. Some people spend even more time thinking.”
“I think of various things before I become immersed in something, and I like my current self who takes that time. For example, when I shoot an editorial, I look at magazines and study concepts. When I do work with certain brands, I study the history of that brand. Or when I collaborate with a musician, I need to know what kind of people they are. It was the same this time, when I worked together with Singapore and Malaysia magazines for the first time.”
“It may be that I won’t get the last opportunity. Opportunity is never guaranteed for anyone. If it comes to me, whether it’s fast or slow, I believe that it will find me.”
Aside from her solo album, Tiffany has been active in fashion. In 2013, she participated in a variety program <Fashion King Korea>, showing her entertainment wit and excellent fashion sense through multiple challenges, and ended up placing 3rd.
“Fashion has a relationship with my work that can’t be separated. Fashion is a tool that allows me to show my music. I am also interested in acting in dramas, so I am secretly auditioning and receiving acting lessons. I might attempt acting next year, you never know. My personality tends to pursue perfection, so before I take in a new challenge, it’s important for me to feel confident.”
(You’ve performed in musicals before that require you to dance, sing and act simultaneously, is that hard for you to do now?)
“Thank you for the compliment. Mm… The Korean entertainment industry is very strict toward its artists. Actors specialize in acting and singers specialize in singing. If an artist goes into a different field, it could mean that, that artist is not skilled in their own area of specialty. That it’s not professional. So it tends not to end well with the media and public.”
“In the US, it’s very common for artists to expand their careers in various directions. A musician can incorporate a dramatic element and create a very impressive music video. If they can sing and act, and can express a story more effectively, there are many instances of film actors expanding into stage acting. I would like for Korea to accept artists who are trying to attempt new fields a bit more.”
Her Name Reflects Her True Self
After sharing stories with Tiffany for about 20 minutes, a staff suddenly comes in and lets her know that there are still 5 minutes left. Tiffany hurriedly packs her things up and kindly told me that she can respond to few more questions.
For the remaining questions, I made her predict them. Tiffany is…
“Stephanie. I’m still the fifteen year old me, who first came to Korea. The California sentiment is still in my bones (she’s talking about her soul and personality that is as bright and warm as the weather there). I still love pink, I love ice cream and I love music.”
“I’m still into rainbows and unicorns. (She said this in English) I’m still embracing my dreams and holding hope. My positive energy comes out from ice cream and fashion… There was a time when I was in a rush, but I’m barely 26, what could I be at this age? So I’ve concluded, live in this moment. Enjoy this time that I have now.”
As a Korean American, Tiffany grew up in Diamond Bar, a suburb of LA. Her given name is Stephanie, and Tiffany is a name she uses on stage, and it’s also a name that her parents thought of giving her when she was born. Tiffany is Stephanie. It is her self, who is now 26 years old.
I want to emphasize once again how honest she was about herself. I have hope that she will be able to throw away the luggage of herself as an idol and show her true potential.
Tiffany Hwang is using
time, talent and ice cream that she loves, to create the hot sparks that will
light her dreams brightly.
Korean Translation Source: DCInside