K-Pop Trainee to Independent Artist, Grazy Grace May Be the New Face of K-Music
It’s no secret that Korean American musician Grazy Grace went through a lot in her musical career. She spills the tea on the darker side of being a K-pop trainee to her 130,000+ followers on YouTube, with her videos garnering up to 1.2 million views. But through it all, she’s learned a lot about herself, having confidence, and yes, even beauty. Here, Taylor Davis talks to Grazy Grace about it all.
If you’re into K-pop, Grazy Grace is a name you’ll want to remember. The former Unpretty Rapstar 3 contestant and YouTube star is the face of an unfamiliar entity in the Korean entertainment industry: the independent artist. Grace’s personal and artistic growth throughout her career can only be defined as exponential, and her courage to create art that defies the overly-curated standards of K-music production is admirable, to say the least.
In a phone interview, the singer-rapper-songwriter shares her experience transitioning from K-pop trainee to independent artist, her biggest beauty regrets, and the key to success as an artist. Her unorthodox journey, unmatchable drive, and grounding energy is a force not to underestimate. Welcome to Planet Grace.
Q: Let’s start from the beginning: your childhood. What were you like as a kid? Who was Grace?
Grazy Grace: I was a very quiet kid. No one knew that I wanted to be an entertainer. Secretly every day I was always watching movies, practicing music, trying to get acting [gigs]. … I think around 13, that’s when I first got into K-pop. After that I begged my parents if I could take singing lessons, so I got private singing lessons for a couple of months. Mostly, I developed by myself practicing at home.
Q: Were you interested in any other aspects of entertainment aside from music?
Grazy Grace: I was interested in acting or modeling, maybe. But mostly it was music I wanted to focus on.
Q: At what age did you make the decision to go back to South Korea to start your music career? How did that decision go down? Did you have support from your family?
Grazy Grace: I always wanted to go back since I was young and discovered K-pop. But my parents weren’t supportive, and they thought I was too young. They promised after one year of college they would just let me go. So it was only after that first year of college when I was about 19 that I went back to South Korea.
I didn’t really have anyone that I knew. I just wanted to do it. I took my two suitcases and arrived in Korea. Somehow, everything started from there.
Q: Did you start auditioning as soon as you got off the plane? What was your game plan?
Grazy Grace: It was very hard because if you don’t know anyone, you don’t know where to start. It took about six months to get a proper audition.
Q: How many auditions did it take you to land your spot as a trainee?
Grazy Grace: Over 30, maybe.
Q: I know on your YouTube channel you talk a lot about your experience as a trainee, but I really want to hear more about your transition from trainee to independent artist. Can you tell me how that came about?
Grazy Grace: When I was a trainee, I always thought that I would be in a girl group because that’s what I was used to and that’s what Korean auditions usually go for. When I debuted as a solo artist, I thought I would always have backup from the Korean entertainment company, but … I think as you experience different situations you notice the dark side sometimes. That’s with any business that you go into.
Q: What is the dark side of the Korean entertainment industry?
Grazy Grace: Well, it’s different for everyone. I didn’t debut in the girl group, so I can’t speak for that, but from my experience, it could be not having enough support, not having enough promotions. There’s millions of companies out there. There’s no way that every company can promote you like the Big 3 companies [YG Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, and SM Entertainment]. I felt like I wasn’t getting enough exposure, and that was hard for me as a solo artist. Then I became an independent artist. I felt like I needed to take things under my own control because things weren’t going [the way] I wanted them to.
Q: What was your biggest fear with that transition?
Grazy Grace: Not having any support. For example, you can’t really go on music shows if you don’t have management. [Without] a big management, you don’t have a big [enough] budget to produce any music.
Q: I know that you said on your channel that you took about two to three months to really study rap music before you went on Unpretty Rapstar 3. How did your interest in rap music develop?
Grazy Grace: At first, I was always a singer. I got an opportunity to be on the show Unpretty Rapstar. Before that I had no interest in rap music. But because of the show, I started studying rap all the way from the beginning of its history until modern history. And then finally developed my own style of rap music.
Q: And what would you say that style is?
Grazy Grace: I think it’s more like a modern vocal style rather than old-school hip-hop. Singing rap.
Q: Concerning your career, what is the biggest challenge you encountered? How did you handle it?
Grazy Grace: Staying in the spotlight. In the entertainment industry you kind of go up and down. People remember you, and then they don’t remember you.
Q: If you could go back five years, what would you tell yourself regarding your career? You talk about how it’s hard to stay in the spotlight as an entertainer. Would you have pursued YouTube earlier?
Grazy Grace: I definitely would have studied YouTube earlier. I think YouTube definitely helped me to stay in tune with the audience.
Q: How do you hope K-pop evolves over the next decade? Are there any other types of Korean music you would like to see go mainstream in the American entertainment industry?
Grazy Grace: I wish independent artists like me could receive some credit. I hope we can see a brighter future for solo artists.
Q: OK, so now I would really like to focus on beauty. Could you give me the K-pop beauty rundown? What type of beauty treatments do trainees go through? Do companies make any unusual or unexpected requests?
Grazy Grace: When you’re a girl group trainee, you get a facial to keep your skin clean every two weeks. Nothing really unusual. I went to different plastic surgery clinics to see what changes could be done to my face. Not only me, but pretty much all trainees. That might seem unusual to Americans. In Korea, it’s so common.
Q: I know surgery is emphasized for the face, but did you guys ever receive any pressure to get anything done to your body?
Grazy Grace: Breasts and stuff, not really. I think that was more of when I became a solo trainee. A lot of people did request for me to get [my] boobs done. Boobs aren’t really a thing in Korean girl groups.They want more of that innocent, cute vibe. I think the beauty standard is very different in Asia.
Q: In your videos, your skin looks absolutely radiant. Could you please bless us with some of your skincare secrets?
Grazy Grace: I drink a lot of water. I don’t drink soda or [eat] a lot of fast foods too often. I think that what you eat is important.
There are a million types of masks in Korea. I do a lot of sheet masks, a lot of clay masks, a lot of peeling masks. In Korea, there are so many skincare shops. Whenever I need anything, I just run out and grab. Everything is affordable there when it comes to skincare. I think having affordable choices is very important.
Q: Can you tell us about some beauty trends you saw on your recent trip to South Korea?
Grazy Grace: I saw a lot of yellow dust products. … Yellow dust is very big in Korea right now. Dust is coming from all the pollution in Asia. That’s why everyone in Korea is wearing a mask. A lot of people are very concerned because yellow dust affects your skin, your lungs, your body.
Q: Did you notice anything distinct going on with makeup?
Grazy Grace: I think makeup-wise it’s always the same. Korea loves to stick with that clean, baby-face kind of image. I don’t think in Korea any harsh makeup will ever trend. Makeup-wise, it’s the same.
Q: Could you tell me about your own beauty evolution from the beginning of your career until now? Do you have any beauty regrets?
Grazy Grace: I think in the beginning when I first debuted I did bright clothing, big makeup, lots of hair changes. Now that I’m getting older, I’m trying to figure out my own style. I like to have a little uniqueness, but at the same time keep it classy.
My beauty regrets … I would definitely say my makeup choices throughout my career. If you see me on the show [Unpretty Rapstar 3], I did a lot of harsh makeup that didn’t fit my face.
Q: Do you have any advice for independent artists or people who want to pursue a career in entertainment? What is the most important thing to have?
Grazy Grace: Confidence. That’s what I was lacking at first. I think if you have confidence, no one can touch you. You’ll have so many people who don’t believe in you, especially in the entertainment industry, but don’t listen to them. I listened to a lot of negativity when I first started that blocked me from a lot of chances.
Q: How do you gain confidence? I think a lot of people want to be confident, but have no idea how to pursue it.
Grazy Grace: That’s a complicated question. I think at one point in my career, something clicked in me. I had so many people try to bring me down. I think one day I was just like, “Eff them all. I’m just going to do my own thing.” I started my YouTube channel. I started writing my own music. And people seemed to like it.
Definitely do not listen to negativity. Stand your ground. Do whatever you want to do.