Although K-pop stars constantly try out new hair and makeup looks for comeback after comeback, their relationship with beauty is often detached and distinctly different from how they are presented on stage. Through all the interviews I've done, I noticed a majority of K-pop's most experimental idols tend to identify themselves as willing canvases rather than true lovers of beauty experimentation. Dyeing their hair bold hues and covering their faces in vibrant pigments are just parts of the job; they aren't exactly their go-to forms of self-expression.
(G)I-dle — excuse me, (여자)아이들 (Yeoja Idle aka Girl Idol), as they are called in Korea — is an exception. After piling around a cabana-like table on the terrace of my hotel in Seoul's Gangnam neighborhood with Miyeon, Minnie, Soojin, Soyeon, and Shuhua, I noticed their on-stage aesthetics aren't far removed from how they see themselves. Since debuting in May 2018, the way each of them presents themselves as members of (G)I-dle reflects how they interact with beauty on their own terms. Of course, they show amped-up versions of themselves, complete with intense poses and facial expressions they wouldn't typically serve up off the clock. (At the hotel, they were all smiles and shy giggles.) They definitely wouldn't be as nonchalant as they were in "Senorita" if the hotel started combusting like the one in the music video. But they would look just as amazing.
After chatting with (G)I-dle about power colours, go-to looks, and skin care with five out of the six ladies of the group, I got a glimpse into each member's beauty routine. (Sadly, Yuqi was out of town when I was in Korea.)
Minnie sits beside me and acts as a secondary translator for the group. (Allure Korea's Yein Song was my primary one.) Hailing from Thailand, Minnie, 21, is fluent in English and helps add context for her fellow members' answers. She hypes up Soyeon's extensive eye shadow palette collection and Shuhua's dedication to skin care, as well as details Soojin's signature look.
When the time came to talk about herself, Minnie needed her own hype person. Explaining what everyone's individual concepts and charms are is easy for her, but she's a bit more reticent when she has to describe her own. "Charming?" Minnie poses as more of a question than a statement. But two thing she knows about for sure: Shuhua is the best at doing her hair, and purple is her power colour.
If one of her fellow members had to be her hairstylist for the day, Minnie would appoint the youngest, Shuhua. "During training life, before our debut, we had weekly tests that we need to perform — dancing and everything," Minnie recalls. "Shuhua used to help me do my hair, like curls, and she’s good at straightening and braiding."
For now, Minnie leaves her hair in the hands of professionals. In February, she coloured her ends violet for the "Senorita" music video. Over a four-day period, "I dyed my hair four times to get it exactly how I wanted," she shares. Since then, she's maintained the bold hue. Throughout our interview, Minnie brings up her adoration for it. Even when Soyeon compliments Minnie's baby bangs in the "Latata" music video, Minnie looks to me and says, "But I like my purple hair more." After the interview was over, Minnie tells me she going to get her nails done. "What colour?" I ask. Her answer: purple, of course. I should've known.
Beyond incorporating purple into her look in every way possible, Minnie also considers concealer ("I have problems with my panda eyes") and sheet masks as beauty essentials. While promoting "Latata," which was the group's first single, she tried the "one day, one pack" method to get her skin glowing. In other words, Minnie stocked up on 30 sheet masks at once and did one every day for a month. That's a commitment that I can't help but respect.
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If I had to give the girls of (G)I-dle beauty superlatives, Soyeon would be The Makeup Lover. Not only does she have some of the edgiest looks in (G)I-dle's music videos, she also enjoys experimenting with makeup in her free time. Throughout the interview, Soyeon perks up whenever cosmetics come up and speaks the most in-depth about them. Her passion for makeup got me excited about it, too, even though we are fully on the same page about it.
What impresses me most about 20-year-old Soyeon, aside from her spectacular songwriting and rapping skills, is her devotion to eyeshadow. Her favourite thing to do is blend together six or seven shadow shades to create a look based on her mood. "I have four or five palettes. I use one [shadow] from here and one from there," she shares. "These days, I’m really into neutral tones, like brown or beige." To go along with her neutral eye looks lately, (G)I-dle's leader is also all about matte nude lipstick, Minnie adds.
Eyeliner is another area of makeup exploration for Soyeon. She'll try drawing lines upward and downward from the corners of her eyes. Her makeup artist also taught her that sweeping blush on in different ways can completely change the vibe of her look. "For cute looks, I always do blush on the apple zone," Soyeon explains. "For sexy ones, I do a more angled shape." When it comes time to wash off her makeup creation of the day, Soyeon starts with micellar water before cleansing with oil then foaming face wash — in case you were wondering.
To get inspiration for looks, Soyeon refers to videos from Korean YouTuber Jella because they have similar eye shapes. When I suggest to Soyeon that she should create beauty tutorials of her own, she laughs and responds, "I’m not really a professional at makeup." I need to see Soyeon's eyeshadow technique in action, though. My fingers are crossed she'll change her mind.
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In (G)I-dle's second music video, "HANN(Alone)," a sparkling fuschia shadow blankets Miyeon's lids. The playfully glitzy look matches her personal style best, she says. After meeting Miyeon, I can confirm this statement.
For the interview, all the girls picked their own outfits, so I got a peek at their off-stage aesthetics. Miyeon, in particular, slipped on a sleek, white dress shirt-style dress with silver bejeweled shoes for the day. My favourite part of the whole ensemble was her earrings: little bunnies hang on a golden chain from carrot-shaped studs. They were proof that cheeky additions to a chic outfit are her specialty. The current hair clip stacking trend was basically made for her.
Although they got their makeup done for the day, Miyeon mentions, "All the members are good at doing makeup." Adorning her lower lids with glitter is her go-to look. As for her hair, Miyeon's ready for a dramatic change. If I had to guess her dream hair colour, I would say cotton candy pink or lilac. Miyeon has other dye jobs in mind. "I want to try platinum blonde or super dark black," she excitedly reveals. At the moment, she has an espresso hue happening, so she's getting closer to the latter.
If Soojin were a colour, she unequivocally would be red. She didn't tell me this, but I'm 100 percent sure if I asked, she'd simply say, "red." Even if Soojin, 21, got her aura read at that place in Chinatown that photographs your aura, red would be floating around her in her photo.
Here's how I came to this conclusion: When I ask the group, "Of all the looks you've tried since debuting, what's been your favourite?" Soojin right away states, "red hair." When we start talking about signature looks, Minnie tells me Soojin always has on red lipstick and red nail polish. "I really like dots under my eyes and extending my eyeliner," Soojin adds. And the colour of the dots she often wears under her eyes: red. Soojin also shares that a cushion compact, powder, a hair band, and lipstick are mainstays in her purse. If you were to take a peek inside, the lipstick would probably be red. OK, you probably get it now.
Other than exuding the colour red, Soojin reveals she wants to try out a hippie perm, which is a major hair trend in Korea right now. Before traveling to Seoul, I had no idea hippie perms were a thing but heard all about it when I visited Jennyhouse, a salon where (G)I-dle's labelmates Pentagon often visit to get their hair and makeup done. From what I understand, three different kinds of perms come into play to create tousled waves that last about four months. Luckily for Soojin, her hair dreams just became a reality for (G)I-dle's Uh-Oh comeback. Teaser images show her looking stunning as she lives out her hippie perm fantasy.
No matter which member of (G)I-dle you ask, she'll probably tell you Shuhua is their resident skin-care enthusiast. For meetings, everyone will do their makeup but Shuhua. "Her skin is good — that’s why she’s confident about being barefaced," Minnie comments.
Of course, I ask Shuhua to breakdown her skin-care routine, and she kindly obliges. After washing her face with the aid of an electric cleansing brush, she presses a hot towel on her face. Next, Shuhua pats on toner followed by essence. Then, moisturiser and lip balm are slathered on. Throughout the day, you can also catch her spritzing her face with a face mist she always has on her.
Although she has an involved skin-care regimen, Shuhua takes a simpler approach to hair and makeup. Unlike the rest of (G)I-dle, her hair has never been touched by a single drop of dye or bleach, and her makeup is usually kept simple. Honestly, asking Shuhua exactly why she prefers to keep her hair and makeup low key never crosses my mind. Everyone's relationship with beauty should be respected at face value, no matter how colourful or stripped down it may be.
Unfortunately, Shuhua has been known to receive criticism about the way she likes to present herself, though — enough to warrant Shuhua posting on her Weibo to defend herself. "Don't ask me why I don't like to do my makeup all the time, or do my nails, or dye my hair," she wrote. "It's not that I don't know how to dress up. I still look in the mirror and brush my hair and leave the house neatly, because it's comfortable... I like being natural, and I like myself the way I am. Even if you think it's a flaw of mine, I think it's precious and important. This is the beauty I want."
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As I read this post, which went up a couple of days after our interview, I got chills. Everyone should evaluate their relationship with beauty in the way that Shuhua does, if you ask me. Power and confidence in your identity lie in knowing how beauty makes sense to you and only you, and Shuhua was able to figure out this out at 19. It took me until 26.
The same could be said about the rest of (G)I-dle, though. Together, they are redefining what "girl idol" means by presenting the concept as young women who know who they are and empowered by taking the stage as themselves. They aren't just one amalgamation of a girl group that can't be parsed out separately. They are fully aware their individuality comes together as one amazing team every time they perform. And I can't wait to see them in all their glory at KCON NY on July 7.
Originally published by Allure.