How the first black kpop artist failed in Korea and what you can learn from it

Most people would charge the reason why Alex the first black person, however, biracial to debut into the South Korean pop industry’s failure to the widespread racism among the Korean people towards people of African or even none Korean descent. Nevertheless, while this had played a factor, I would argue that it wasn’t a significant factor, at least not as most people would want to see it.

This is Alexander Reid, a regular girl from Kentucky USA. Two years ago she broke the internet as the first black kpop artist, debuting into the South Korean girl group bp Rania as the group’s rapper and leader. Every black kpop fan leaped for joy when it happened. Finally, she had given hope to little black girls all over the globe who had dreams of being on that stage, looking all glamorous and being cheered on by millions of adoring fans

But then something happened, it was reported that she was leaving the group. A lot of people were astounded, “what went wrong?” “I mean she barely lasted more than a year?”
This gave birth to a hack a lot of speculations, “she was kicked out of the group”, “they tried to abuse her”, ” its because Koreans are racist”I could go on all day, but I won’t.

so what really happened? while no one outside the immediate circle of influence may ever truly know what went down between her and her agency, here is my reason why Alex was never fully accepted by the public. and for such reason, her downfall was hastened. let’s face it, in Korea’s entertainment industry, the public holds the real power, not the idol, nor the agency or its head. they are more of dogs with loud barks and no critical bite. 


now you may not agree with everything I say, but you should know that she is being critiqued by universal social and cultural rules, one not peculiar to the Korean or Asian society. it should also serve as a guideline for anyone who plans on breaking into any social group or culture or society. Sadly enough, Alex was painfully naive as she broke numerous rules and made blunders here and there. So where did she make them?

South Korea’s trainee culture

The trainee phase is just another sleek name for the apprenticeship phase. And what happens during an apprenticeship stage?

A young lad or lass learns about his/her trade, knowing the ins and outs, how things are done and most importantly, acquire the necessary skills needed to advance and conquer in such a field. The average trainee spends about 6 hours a day mastering their skills, six out of seven days a week. It is said that one needs to spend 10000 hours practicing intensely on a specific task or vocation for them to gain mastery of such. Therefore if an average trainee spends 6 hours a day, six days a week on their craft, most would likely archive mastery in 2 years and a quarter. Yet a lot of the current kpop stars spent more than this time in the trainee stage.

Here, the trainee is the student and their agency the master/teacher. so just like the traditional apprenticeship system, a teacher is approached by an aspiring student (auditions), hungry to learn and succeed in the trade. the student shows potential, diligence, and teachability to the master who then in turn judges if such student would be fit for his liking and training. oftentimes for the teacher to make such a decision on whether to accept such student, he/she must have believed in such student, his potential and his ability to reap something worthwhile in return from their encounter. so for this, the teacher is willing to sacrifice his time, energy, and if needs be, money to shape and define this diamond in a rouge, their new project, and possibly a masterpiece.the same goes for agencies and aspiring entertainers.However, in a case where such a master is not willing to make any sacrifices on their part as in the case of Alex who never underwent a rigorous apprenticeship phase, the motive of such encounter between her and her agency is in question.

It was noted that Alex could barely speak nor understand Korean, oftentimes she was left out in discussions because of this. All her raps we’re in English, which was very bad as a kpop idol. But I’ll get to that later.

An agency is not only a teacher but also a business, and a business would never put invaluable resources into something they do not believe would be profitable or yield them long term returns.
However, there is a pattern that I’ve noticed in every single kpop artist or any other person working in any field in the entertainment industry in Korea. and that is, any foreigner who tends to stay the longest in their fields are those their agency had put in a lot of work into. for example, blackpink’s Lisa monobam from Thailand Or twice’s tzuyu from Japan.but for every other foreigner who had skipped this phase, they almost always end up being nothing but a passing fancy.
The way to spot an agency who really is interested in keeping a person long term and isn’t planning on using them as a promotional or marketing strategy is by how well that agency is willing to invest in that person.
After reading this, some people might be gloomy as the foreigners who had lasted longer in the entertainment industry are only those of a “Korean looking” descent. Well…
Meet same okyere, a Ghanaian t.v star in South Korea, he has not a drop of Asian blood in him.He also stars in k-dramas, one of my favorite being moorim school or ‘moorim hakkyo’ in romanized Korean.

He is the guy sitting tall with a ray of heavenly light shining on him in the middle of the photo.
He is married to a Korean woman and is pretty much accepted by her family and society.Then we also have the biracial Ahn Hyun Min who is one of South Korea’s most famous male modelHe is half Nigerian and half Korean.So you see, her being black was not totally a situation. But if that wasn’t, then was it….

Alex’s social unintelligence

After the reading the first point, some people may start to point fingers at her agency for not caring for her and being exploitative, fair enough. But first, let’s shift the spotlight back to Alex.
Alex is African-American, brought up in the United States πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ, and is basically westernized. Being ignorant on her part and knowing only Hollywood and America made her view of the societies around the world impaired, especially that of the Korean society. She failed to realize that what was charming, normal and acceptable in one culture is drastically different from another.therefore, one’s inability to adapt to a different culture or society, absorbing their spirit and mirroring their ways is the highest act of social blunder.
Due to poor training, inadequate research on her part and the part of her agency, she thought she could fit in Hollywood into Hallyu. This is evident in her little charade over the Internet.
no other kpop female artist or aspirants would have dreamt of doing what she did, at least, not in public. She basically signed off the first rule of society, “when you’re in Rome, you act as the Romans do” but this does not mean becoming a Koreaboo like Lana

A Russian girl who changes both her last name and face to look more Korean in other to fit into the kpop world.  this ended up making the International community disgusted. But I won’t be talking about her case as my blog is primarily about people of color, and issues affecting us.
Her thinking she could be her normal black American self at the early stages of her career was just downright stupid, especially when people’s defenses we’re still up concerning this ” foreign invader” to the very heart of Korean culture, of Hallyu.

It is a normal human instinct to be afraid and defensive of something new or foreign. if you were to imposed change, it is always a bad idea to do it all at once. you are bound to stir up resistance!

the second part of this post will feature critical lessons to be learned from her failure and what she should have done differently if she were to have lasted longer in the spotlight.

do you disagree with anything I had said during the course of this blog, share your thoughts and arguments in the comment section below!

Author: Sonia Adeka

Very little can be done to 'change' the world, especially if 80% of the stakes required for any degree of change to occur depends on other people's willingness to do so. I am not interested in "changing" the world, I'm only interested in changing myself and my 'world'. For, in the end, that's where the true change occurs.

4 thoughts on “How the first black kpop artist failed in Korea and what you can learn from it”

  1. I do wish to become a black kpop star too and I promise to heed on this advice I am currently learning Korean so that it won’t be a problem later. THANKS SO MUCH.

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