As a teenager in 2009, South Korean singer Minzy debuted as one-quarter of what would become the hugely influential K-pop girl group 2NE1. Five years after parting ways with the act due to mental health struggles, she is focused on loving herself and spreading that love to the people around her while releasing music on her own terms.
“I think being a solo artist is a new experience for me, a new chapter of Minzy,” she says, later joking that the book of her life could maybe be named “Minzy’s Adventure”.
The 27-year-old’s latest song, Teamo, was released in June. The Latin-infused dance track was inspired by her relationship with fans, especially her supporters in Latin America who she’s enjoyed connecting with via online fan meetings during the pandemic, and is an expression of her love for them.
“My fans have always protected me and supported me. I can feel it, I can see it. As a singer, I want to respond to them through my music. I am trying to express my sincere thanks and loving heart to them,” she says.
The song is meant not only for her fans, but also those who support her on a more intimate, personal level, including her close friends and family. “The people around me give me the power to stand up. Everyone is really stressed nowadays, thanks to the state of the world and the pandemic. But I hope people can get energy while dancing with me. And know that I love them. ”
Minzy has been using the solo stage to develop as a performer. Before the dance-focused Teamo, she released the upbeat pop ballad Lovely in May 2020. She says that song was her way to explore her vocals after much of her career, both within 2NE1 and as a soloist, had focused on her skills as a dancer.
She is still, however, first and foremost the dancing machine fans know and love, and that’s an integral part to being Minzy.
“I’m thankful for every opportunity, whether it’s singing or dancing, but dancing has been a very important part of my life since I was a young kid,” she says. “I can express myself very well through it. Dancing is just like one of my friends.”
Friendship is something Minzy has struggled with for much of her life. Born Gong Min-ji (Minzy is an alternative romanisation of her given name), she joined South Korean music company YG Entertainment when she was in grade six, and was only 15 years old when 2NE1 released their first single, Fire, in 2009. Since she started her career so young she didn’t spend a lot of time in school with people her own age, and has publicly spoken about her struggles with depression during her time within the group.
“I was really lonely,” she admits. “When I was young, I was very careful and worried about everything. I was so busy then … At the time, all I was thinking about was whether I was making mistakes on stage or if there was something I could improve. But I wasn’t able to enjoy the moments.”
Minzy says her dark times helped her grow and develop a more optimistic mindset. Photo: MZ Entertainment
Following several years of no new releases from the group, during which a planned solo release under YG was postponed into obsolescence, Minzy left 2NE1 in 2016 to focus on herself, which ultimately proceeded the act breaking up in 2017.
Minzy is not alone in leaving a girl group to focus on herself. It is unfortunately common for members of even the world’s biggest female pop acts to part ways with their teams to focus on their mental health. Last year, Jesy Nelson left Little Mix, citing her own personal struggles, and, though not permanent, several Twice members have sat out promotional periods to focus on their mental health.
Now Minzy is in a better place mentally, actively trying to enjoy her life and career. She claims her dark times helped her grow and develop a more optimistic mindset, and now she determinedly looks forward to what’s to come, not back at what she’s been through.
“I look at the forest and not the roots, and just chase my future. I am optimistic my future will be special,” she says.
After leaving YG, Minzy joined another South Korean entertainment firm but it didn’t work out, so she launched her own company, MZ Entertainment, in 2020.
“It’s really not been easy for me, but I realised I can do it by myself. It’s really been a lesson for my entire life. Before this, I was just an artist. Now, I’m a leader of an enterprise.”
One thing Minzy is really looking forward to is inspiring younger stars and being a role model, the way she herself was inspired by various artists who came before her (she’s a particular fan of Michael Jackson). Nowadays, she encounters a lot of newer K-pop acts while working, and she has really enjoyed conversations with younger stars who have reached out to her to discuss their careers.
“Especially the girl groups, I know how hard it is. I want to try to help them, be a person they can turn to. I see myself when I was young, and I hope I can provide some guidance.” She tries to offer her own insight into the industry, and has been inspired to see others grow and thrive as the world becomes more aware of South Korea’s pop culture.
Nowadays, younger female singers in girl groups tell me they looked up to me, and how much of an impact 2NE1 has had on the K-pop world
She thinks the loneliness she experienced is something many of her younger peers aren’t going to have to face as she has seen the industry become freer and more friendly than when she was younger. To her, it’s a relief to see that many younger artists in the Seoul music scene are friends with one another, getting to enjoy the very thing – friendship – she felt disconnected from.
“Back then, we [different groups] just greeted each other backstage during an event, and stayed among our own team. But now I see the younger artists playing around with one another and hanging out. They even come over to chat with me, and ask me for advice. It’s very different from what I experienced. I focused on my work and I didn’t look after myself or have the chance to develop my social skills, but I’ve realised as I’ve gotten older the importance of my life. Nowadays, I have many friends I can turn to.”
Though she struggled with friendship, the bond between the 2NE1 members – Minzy, Park Bom, CL and Sandara Park – has continued, and the quartet frequently post on social media together. Now that they’ve all parted ways with YG Entertainment, and Park Bom and CL are also operating their own entertainment companies, fans are eager for a reunion. To many, 2021 would be the perfect time to see the return of 2NE1.
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Minzy doesn’t offer any hints to that happening, but says she is honoured that people want to see them back together.
“Nowadays, younger female singers in girl groups tell me they looked up to me, and how much of an impact 2NE1 has had on the K-pop world. Even though K-pop has grown, we’re all musicians on our own and it’s really an honour to hear that.”
She is planning to release a new single this year, and an EP in the near future, all while enjoying the experience of carving her own solo path.
“I regard myself as a lucky person because I can do music for my life, and through music I can feel love from people. I love myself, and I want to give that love back to everyone.”Internet Explorer Channel Network