We were able to catch up with Tiffany and Jessica, the lovely Korean American ladies of SNSD, while we were in Korea for a quick trip. After spending some time getting to know them and talking to them about their experiences as Korean pop stars, we were amazed at how down to earth and friendly they both were – and yes, they are as cute and pretty in person as they are in photos and videos! We asked them a few questions from you, the Soompi members, and a few questions of our own. The entire interview was conducted in English. Read on and make sure to check out the video shout-out at the end!
Soompi: One of the questions our members are really curious about is: Do you know Soompi?
Tiffany: I definitely know it and I’m amazed at how much it’s grown. My sister’s a frequent user. I knew it when I was back home.
Soompi: Right, it’s been around for a long time.
Tiffany: But it wasn’t like, this major.
Soompi: K-Pop is really making it grow and it’s actually your guys’ work that is making it grow a lot more. So have you been to the site yourself, then?
Tiffany: Oh, I’ve been to the site myself, of course!
Soompi: And were you a member back in the day? Or were just a lurker?
Tiffany: [laughs] Ah, I was just a lurker. I was just getting into the site.
Soompi: When all this happened?
Tiffany: Yeah. Yeah.
Soompi: How much Korean music did you know about before you came to Korea?
Jessica: Actually, when I came to Korea I was in 5th grade and I didn’t know anything about Korean music. I kind of knew H.O.T. [laugh] but like, I really had no idea about Korean music. Or well, I was really interested in this field. Well, but Tiffany had a different story.
Tiffany: Yeah, I was the opposite. I wasn’t really familiar with it but I just got really into K-Pop the year I was cast. And that would be… 2003? 2004?
I immediately fell in love with it because it was just as cool as American pop, you know? Yeah, so I was um, really, really into that.
Jessica: [cutting in] When she first came to Korea –
Tiffany: I was like, obsessed. [everyone laughs]
Jessica: She was called “Little BoA” because she had yellow hair.
Tiffany: I had the long hair and round cheeks and I really admired her look. I mean, that’s what made me start. Yeah, she’s definitely my icon.
Soompi: Well, since you’ve been here, you’ve obviously met a lot of people in the entertainment industry since you go to a lot of performances and events. Who have you met that has blown your expectations out of the water? Like, you had a lot of respect for them before but when you met them, you were amazed.
Tiffany: [pause, thinking] Definitely BoA. And I mean, she still tends to amaze the world.
Jessica: [thinking] Um… for me… Dong Bang Shin Gi.
Tiffany: [cuts in] Yeah, I have to say that, too. They’re so professional.
Jessica: Yeah, they’re like different people.
Tiffany: That’s why we admire both of them. BoA unnie, she’s tiny and little and cute and completely lovable. And she goes onstage and she’s completely different.
Soompi: She’s got a lot of power onstage.
Tiffany: With both of them, that’s something that we definitely admire. When it comes to music, their passion is so intense that they’re like different people, and that’s what we admire.
Soompi: So SM has their training program, and right now, a lot of our members are getting ready for the auditions. I’d say a good number of our members want to join the entertainment industry either as entertainers like you guys or as A&R, producers, directors, or like writers of drama. They all have these dreams and they take these auditions really seriously. So one of the things we want to know about is like, what is the day-to-day life of a trainee like?
Jessica: Actually, for us, um…
Tiffany: For us, we were pretty… pretty normal.
Jessica: Like, the whole is: we go to school and after school, we come have lunch, and then we have vocal lessons, dance lessons, and um, we practice on our own. Time flies.
Tiffany: Since I went to high school in America, I was really, really social. I loved extracurricular activities and so this was basically like extracurricular activities. It was just as fun, but the pressure was – I have to say – higher because you know, when you’re in school, they cut you slack. It’s part of school, you know? But this wasn’t part of school so you have to be like… perfect in both. So it’s not extracurricular, it’s like two schools. It’s like two jobs, right? [laughs]
Soompi: Okay, so since you guys are Korean Americans in the Korean entertainment industry…
Tiffany: [cheerfully] Proud to be!
Soompi: Do you feel like you have given something special to your group in particular or to even Korean music culture? Being from overseas?
Tiffany: [thinking] Um, yeah, yeah. [then with more certainty] There’s always something different, once you set us girls together.
Tiffany and Jessica: [laughing, in unison] There’s always something different about us!
Tiffany: So they’ll be like, “okay, the two Americans, come over here!” [Jessica laughs] Because we’d like, be always talking in English and it’s good that we have each other because the culture difference… it’s pretty different. It’s cool. And it’s cool definitely when we look at the bigger picture – when we go outside of Korea and all over Asia. And we’re definitely interested in pursuing careers back home, as well. I think it’s cool because you can only do the whole teen pop stuff once and because it’s sooo highly [searching for a word]… valued here, it’s very exciting and it’s an honor.
Soompi (via hirachan): What has been the most difficult thing about being a Korean American in Korea?
Jessica and Tiffany: Culture.
Tiffany: [openly] I was the wild child. [laughs] I definitely was.
Jessica: [to Tiffany] For example, for her: maybe… food. At first.
Tiffany: [remembering] Ohhh, yeah…
Jessica: She came to Korea and she was like, “I want pizza, Jessica!” and so we had to go eat pizza. And she wasn’t like a Korean girl. But now, she eats dwenjangjigae!
Tiffany: I’m full Korean now! But um, yeah. I was wild. I was used to being really outgoing and making friends every moment, but then – it’s the culture different in Korea – it’s so calm and… ladylike… but… [honestly] I’m wild. [laugh]
Jessica: [whispers loudly] YEAH.
Soompi: Do the other members support your Korean-Americanness?
Tiffany: YES, they do. I’m glad they’ve become a part of it because when they go back to America with us, they’re like “So this is why you’re like that!” [both laugh] They like it, too! The reactions, the food, or just everything. So it’s really nice, actually.
Soompi: You guys know you have big fan followings in many countries, so do you have a message for those people? Mostly the non-Koreans or Korean Americans that want to come here and debut one day?
Tiffany: I’d definitely say that dreaming is the main point because I, myself, was back home – like every other member of this site – kind of just dreaming, “What if? What if?” And then I… went wild, came here, followed my dreams, and I’m here now. So I definitely think that it’s not a far away dream as long as they have that much passion and the passion… gives you responsibility. I came here at such a young age and my dad was like, “What are you going to do going at such a young age?”
Jessica: It was really so brave of her, really.
Tiffany: [continuing] All of a sudden – I don’t know what I was thinking.
Jessica: I had my whole family supporting me. They’re here with me, right now. But she [Tiffany] still doesn’t have her family here and now she’s so big – she’s so huge – here in Korea. And, I think, her family would really be happy.
Tiffany: [searching for words] It’s… it’s… it’s as much passion as you have, just follow it, and you can be where you want to be. I mean, I am.
Jessica: And speaking English kind of a… plus.
Tiffany: Yeah, a plus.
Jessica: Because if you can speak Korean, that’s great. But if you can also speak English, it’s a plus.
Soompi: But how good does someone’s Korean have to be?
Tiffany: [loudly] My Korean was terrible, don’t worry.
Jessica: But you can catch up!
Tiffany: Yeah, I totally studied. And we’re not stupid back home, you know? But you come here and you don’t know what you’re saying so it makes you want to study.
Soompi (via maharu.): This next question is actually from one of our members: How long, on average, does it take you to learn a dance routine? And what techniques do you use to help you memorize them?
Jessica: As a group, maybe three full days.
Tiffany: For maybe four or five hours a day. But… but this is bad! We usually take longer – we take our time – but now that we don’t have that much time, our bodies are kind of programmed to work faster. But um, yeah. About five days? A few hours a day… it will be solid. Um, kind of solid.
Soompi: Do you have any techniques that you use? Or is it just the whole group, coming together?
Tiffany: You know, we realized it’s not technique, it’s just practice, practice, practice. You just have to repeat it over and over.
Jessica: And before you go to sleep, you just think about it. And then you go to sleep and you dream about it…
Soompi: Now we have a question for each of you. Tiffany, so you mentioned in a 2009 interview with Arirang that you felt like you came to Korea too soon, so what is it that you miss about your American teenage years? And if you’d stayed, would you have gone to college and what would you have wanted to study?
Tiffany: [quiet for a moment] I think this is known, but… I thought I was Elle Woods. [laughs] So I wanted to go to law school. Why I thought I came to soon was because I came without even thinking. Like, I came within three weeks. I packed up my whole life in three weeks without even thinking! I was just like, “Yay!” And then now, as I’m here alone, and I have so much time to think, I think, “I could have gone to prom, I could have gone to Sadie Hawkins.” But I definitely wanted to do law and I’m a big fan of literature and history, so I like writing and reading. It’s kind of nerdy, but… [laughs]
Soompi: Well, what you’re doing is definitely more fun than law school. I promise you.
Tiffany: [laughing] Well, maybe I’ll go back. But yeah, definitely, I’d still be at school. And I wanted to go to USC so much! My sister was like, “Berkeley!” Berkeley law is always nice. My sister is at Berkeley right now for her Ph.D. For anthropology.
Soompi (via Glenn): So then, for you, Jessica, your younger sister [Krystal of f(x)] is obviously a star also at SM. Did you try to give her as much advice as possible? Or did you let her kind of learn the ropes by herself?
Jessica: Um…I tried to let her learn by herself but because I’m her sister and I’m older, she tends to ask me a lot of questions and she worries about her future. We have a lot of conversations, and actually, our members are really supportive, too.
Tiffany: It’s super cute. You can totally tell… she’s exactly like Jessica! It’s sooo cute! I was listening to their song in the car and I was like, “Dude, did Jessica sing a song without us?” Um, I mean you can totally tell she’s picked up a lot of things from Jessica. Like, her sister picked up... only her good attributes. [joking]
Jessica: That’s what I’m really happy about because she can learn from my mistakes.
Soompi: And did it surprise you when she decided to get into your industry?
Tiffany: It blew us away, she was so good.
Jessica: Yeah, but it wasn’t actually all of a sudden. So it wasn’t really surprising.
Tiffany: [joking sentimental voice] But… it’s so cute! She’s growing up…
Jessica: Just seeing her on TV and onstage is really exciting.
Stay tuned for more exclusive interviews from Team Soompi coming up over the next few weeks!