As K-pop fans, there is a common feeling that we share and know all too well: burning envy every time we see those coordi-noonas with our biases. They get to be SO CLOSE, and they’re probably not even big fans. Why would idols want them when they could have scores of endlessly devoted fans who know nothing about makeup, art, or fashion making those decisions for them? Oh, wait…
For those of you who don’t know, coordi-noonas are the ones who stare at an idol and say, “This is what you’re gonna look like, for better or worse.” Ever seen an idol look that you absolutely love, or worse, one you despise? You have a coordi-noona to either thank, or curse for that. Now, among the feelings of jealousy, it makes us wonder what it is that coordis actually do. They’re like ghosts; talked about, but never really seen. They’re grouped together as a whole and are never individualized. Secretly though, we think they know what every fangirl wants out of their bias and they work hard to please fans, because if fans are happy, everyone’s happy. The big questions though, are if coordis are really as close to idols as they seem? Do they get hit on? Are their lives as hectic as their idols? We were wondering the same, so we met up with a real coordi-noona to get some answers.
CN, as we’ll call her since she has decided to stay anonymous (and rightly so, because who wants rabid fangirls all over them once they find out you’ve actually worked with their oppa?), runs a tumblr blog called confessionsofacoordi-noona, where she shares her stories and answers all kinds of questions about what it was like working with idols. However, we had some questions of our own, so check out the interview down below where we delve into the world of K-pop glitz, glam, and apparently, makeup.
So, we always hear idols and variety show hosts making comments on ‘foreigners’ and things of the like- did you ever get any odd or interesting comments about being half Korean and half Filipina?
Not particularly—infamously, it is widely known that lighter complexions are largely sought after and often praised. Therefore, with me being of mixed ethnic backgrounds, my complexion was undeniably darker than that of a full-blooded person of Korean decent. While the comments I’d received were mostly about my complexion (not negative comments), I was most often asked what my ethnic background was, or where I was from.
What was the dynamic like between the idols and yourself/the other members of staff? Did any idols, male or female, ever hit on you or any of the other staff members?
They dynamics were always lively and interesting, between everyone in the work place. While personalities largely depended on the atmosphere, it always remained bright and high (in good spirits). Myself and the other staff members always worked seamlessly and fluidly and functioned in high tension situations very flawlessly. While there was always harmless flirting and slight sexual banter between everyone, there were no intentions to make anyone uncomfortable as far as advances further than friendship and closeness.
Were any idols just straight up rude to you or the other staff members?
Not intentionally. There was several situations (especially high pressure events– where time was extremely constricted and limited) in which the individuals would feel the tensions or become frustrated (mostly at themselves) in which they would become “snappy” or rather “abrupt” with their replies and conversation, but very quickly afterwards (if not immediately after the event) would follow a very sincere apology.
I know the K-pop industry is extremely harsh when it comes to the stress they put on workers- is it really as stressful as it appears? How do the idols manage, and did the physical/mental strain at any point, to your knowledge, become too much?
Yes. Adapting to, coping with, and learning through experience, to operate successfully under extremely stressful and high pressure situations is key to succeeding in this industry. Learning to manage tempers, as well as mental strain, was something that was constantly consulted to the individuals as well as the staff and administration. Keeping a level head and constantly reminding yourself and others that they were doing all they were capable of, as well as acknowledging the results, were essential and necessary.
How stressful was your own job there, as compared to jobs you have had here? Can you give me some specifics of the job, like if you were on call, how group assignment worked (like, if you were just put with random groups or if you had a set list to work with), how much free reign you got with makeup, and things like that?
While it is difficult to accurately gauge “how much is too much” when it comes to stress, strain, and pressure, the individuals I worked with were amazingly stable and able to cope with these situations. I would consider this a talent. While there were indeed, several situations in which an individual suffered more so from physical exhaustion, their mental health was always kept in optimum condition.
My position in the entertainment industry (as I’m sure any other person involved in the industry would agree) is an experience unlike any other and cannot be compared to any other career position. It is widely unique in and of its own as far as everything conclusive of what the job requires (named on paper– contract and just unspokenly known). I suppose it made quite a large difference in stress levels, for the fact that I actually enjoyed what I did in the industry, in comparison to other positions I’d held in other jobs, in which I thought I enjoyed what I was doing simply for the paycheck or the perks.
There were very rare situations in which I was on call, and upon being hired, I was assigned to a closed and permanent team of stylists, hair stylist, other makeup artists, and stage crew. We lived together (we were provided housing by the agency through which we were hired). Specific looks were always pre-determined by the Creative Directing crew and room for variation was little to none. But this of course was all dependent upon the theme of their promotions as well as the event or appearance significance.
In terms of group dynamics, were there every any big conflicts that arose within groups, or are idols really as close as they make it seem?
More times that not, the individuals are, indeed, as close as they appear on stage and on camera. What is exposed to the public is real. There might be friendships that are stronger than others within the group simply because of common interests, home towns, trainee periods, experiences, or other random facts.
However, there have been several conflicts and disputes that have broken out within the group(s). While these occurrences did not last long, nor escalate to the point of physical altercations, they were more times than not, over small or petty issues.
In terms of idol personalities, are they drastically different on vs off camera? For example, some idols seem like they’re incredibly shy around girls on camera, or seem really peppy on camera, etc. If so, do you have any examples or stories to share about it?
Often times (especially in my experiences), what you see is what you get. Stage personas are exactly that– learned, coached, trained, and polished personalities. During live recordings for backstage footage, in-dorm, or behind the scenes, including reality shows, the personalities portrayed are true in and of themselves. While it’s a given that an individual who is high-energy all the time, simply cannot maintain those levels for all hours of the day, they are consistently in good spirits and is often times the “solver” of the group.
Idols are typically never seen with the opposite sex on camera. To your knowledge, do idols typically have many, or even any friends of the opposite gender that they often hang out with?
To managers of the industry as well as promotion specialists, it is critical to keep the individuals’ images as “available” and “wholesome” as possible. This is simply to add to their appeal for the age bracket of the fans as well as the generalized public. Showing too much interaction with individuals of the opposite sex is viewed as showing that person as being too “easy,” and tarnishes their appeal of being “obtainable” to the public and fans of the opposite sex (which usually consists of most of their fandom).
Are there any moments that really stuck with you? It can be a funny story or even something serious.
There are an uncountable amount of experiences and situations during my employment within the industry that I will never experience again, nor will ever forget. I have met individuals which of whom I would give anything in the world for, including my last breath. Likewise, there are individuals which whom I’ve met, that I hope for the remaining duration of my life, I very blatantly hope I will never even be in the presence of, ever again.
The below is an excerpt taken from my blog that documents my experiences as a makeup artist “to the stars” and answers questions that are submitted. The following is an example of moments pertaining individual(s) that I have encountered or worked with and examples of things that stuck with me:
Do you have any advice or parting words for readers or anyone looking to work as a coordi in the K-pop industry?
Expect the unexpected. Never stop dreaming, believing, or lose determination and ambition. The moment you become content and settle for anything short of what you know you deserve or what you know will make you ultimately happy, that dream is gone.
Take advantage of all and any opportunities presented to you. There will always be another opportunity to progress and further yourself and your abilities that will follow afterwards. Don’t over-concern yourself with the views, thoughts, and criticism of others. Others will attempt to tell you different, and even though they may not intentionally do so, their words and thought process will dwindle your dreams. Never stop chasing and pursuing what you really would desire to do, and make absolutely sure it is for the right intentions. If not, it will be known.
Of course CN’s expressions both on her blog and in this interview reflect her own opinions and experiences, giving us a glimpse into the mysterious world of coordi-noonas and the idols with which they interact. That being said, some answers seem to only raise more questions, like WHO ARE THESE SPECIFIC IDOLS? We might never know, but it won’t stop us from doing our damnedest to figure it out.
Let us know down below, do you have any guesses as to who these stories might be about?