By: Hannah Waitt
moonROK Founder and Editor-in-chief
At first glance, Tiffany Park is your typical American girl. She has a job, a boyfriend, a loving family, and a really cute puppy named Mr. Lamb. What most don’t know about her, is that just a few years ago, she was inches from stardom in Asia. After graduating high school in Maryland, Park moved to Korea and in 2012 began her training to become a K-pop star. While many of us fantasize about the glitzy, glamorous lifestyle of Korean pop idols, Park shows us that all that glitters is not gold. After a year of intensive training, Park decided to give up a future of fame in favor of a life of freedom. moonROK sat down with Tiffany and talked to her about her experiences as a K-Pop trainee, why she decided to give up the celebrity life, and how she is moving forward afterwards.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? What is your personal history and how did you get involved with K-pop?
Herro! I’m Tiffany PARK (not Tiffany HWANG). I am 23 years old and currently living in a small city in Maryland. I was born in Saipan and moved to America when I was 9 years old. I lived in the U.S. up until high school and moved to Korea right after my graduation in 2009.
I was never really into K-pop. I love music so I literally listen to any and every genre out there. I can go from listening to bachata music to R&B. What got me more involved in the K-pop world was when I moved to Korea in 2009 and met my first “K-pop” friend. She was preparing for her comeback in a well known group in Asia. I met her through a mutual friend of ours that was training in SM Entertainment at the time. He and I were friends since I was a freshman in high school, but he left the U.S. to be a trainee in SM.
Anyways, my friend from that girl group was basically my first foreigner friend that I met in Korea. We clicked right away and now I consider her one of my closest friends. Through her I was able to meet my other best friend. It was awesome to have my closest friends be K-pop stars because through them, I learned a lot – not only about the entertainment industry, but about life.
What was the hardest part about being a trainee?
I wasn’t in a huge or a well known company, but it was still the hardest and most memorable time of my life. I learned a LOT about myself and became a stronger person mentally. The hardest part of being a trainee is losing weight and maintaining it. I’m American – I freakin’ love to eat yo.
At my interview with the company, the first thing they told me to do was to lose weight and my first training session wasn’t in the studio; it was at the gym. I had a lot of health issues after my time as a trainee, but I don’t blame anyone. It was my own greed and pride that led me down that road. I could’ve lost weight in a healthier way, but instead I literally starved myself and worked out for 3-6 hours a day. I think I dropped 20 pounds in 3 weeks. Ha!
Tiffany “freakin’ loves to eat yo”
What was the best part about being a trainee?
BEST PART of being a trainee…hmm…I think I had it easy because by the time I joined a company, I had a lot of friends in the entertainment industry, so I had a lot of support and useful tips from them. I will say though, that it was the most humbling experience of my life. It didn’t really hit me at the time, but I have so much more respect for the artists and celebrities in South Korea.
The part I enjoyed the most though was practicing and bettering my self each day. I love music in general so learning more about it and becoming a part of the industry was my motivator. It was the only thing that kept me going.
Being American, was it hard to cope with the culture and daily life in Korea?
When I first arrived in Korea in 2009, everything was a culture shock to me. However, I got used to it and managed to learn and adapt to my culture.
One thing that was hard was when someone my age but born literally two months before me told me to call them “unnie” or “oppa”, which means “older sister” or “older brother”. I didn’t understand that, so I clashed a lot with those people. I’m a very confrontational person so I would tell them that it was stupid and if I had to do that I just wouldn’t talk to them. I was lucky because I was American so some let me off easy, some understood, and some didn’t (and I still don’t talk to them HAHA). I just think those little things are stupid and unnecessary. In America and in other countries I’m sure, you show respect regardless of who’s younger or older. Sorry I just don’t see the point of it: I mean I’ll still respect you, but I ain’t callin’ you “unnie” or “oppa”. Don’t get me wrong because if you are a year or older than that, I will give you that respect and call you by the title. But if you were born ‘91, you’re my friend.
Are you glad that you decided not to choose the idol lifestyle?
As I mentioned before, I was in poor health; I had reached 105 pounds and had to maintain that weight. When I came to visit the United States after a few months of training and dieting, I went to the doctor’s office and was given a frightening wake-up call: the doctor told me that my life was in danger. Because I was malnourished, I would also randomly faint. At that point I knew that it wasn’t worth it and if I went through with it, I would have to live my life constantly stressing about my appearance and weight. Also, at that point, I realized that the celebrity life wasn’t for me. I was worried about my future and what I would do after that phase of my life. I had to be out though; I just didn’t have peace in my heart. So I quit and started online school and got certified as a personal trainer!
Do you have any regrets about not staying in Korea?
I do not regret it to this day. I would have regretted it if I had passed up the opportunity to train. I just think of when I’ll be 45 years old and how I don’t want to be regretting what I haven’t done or tried. I tried this and it wasn’t for me. I do regret not staying in Korea though. Maryland is so boring, at least compared to Korea haha. I do plan on going back. I miss my friends and the food.
Do you still keep in touch with your would-be group members?
Yes I do! I miss and love those girls. They’re the sweetest girls I’ve ever met. Two of them are younger and one is my age. They were so supportive and we bonded really well. We still video chat or talk through kakao here and there. Can’t wait to see them when I go back!
Do you have any aspirations of pursuing a career in entertainment in the future?
Yes I do! My dream or vision is to build a music and arts training facility in America. I want to build a facility where kids and adults can come and express their passion for music. My facility would also train people and link them to big entertainment companies and agencies.
What is the biggest lesson that you learned from your experiences in Korea that you brought back with you to America?
Be true to yourself, and keep it real.
Also as a Christian, I learned to stand before God, not people. Only God can judge me.
Any last thoughts or advice?
This industry isn’t just about the glamour and beauty. You have no idea what you are getting yourself into; good and bad.
moonROK would like to sincerely thank Tiffany for taking the time to participate in this interview. To keep up with Tiffany and see what she’s up to these days, you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and check out her vlog on YouTube. Thanks for reading and stay tuned to moonROK for more awesome exclusives like this one!
Tags: Exclusive Interview