Scores of new groups debut every year, their members becoming increasingly young and often thrust into the judgmental, volatile and deeply exhausting world of the entertainment industry with as little as a year of formal training. Kim Hyoyeon – dancer, singer, mood-maker, mother and member of Girls’ Generation pushed herself through 6 years of training after being casted by SM in 2000 before debuting together with her 8 other members who first became her friends, and then the closest family she would have after her own in Incheon, South Korea. For 6 years Hyoyeon trained while juggling school work, driven by her passion for dance and the sincere hope that at the very least, she’d be able to debut.
“It doesn’t matter where I stand; whether at the front or at the back, in the middle or at the side. As long as I can get on stage and do what I love, that’s enough for me.”
Those were the words of a woman who would later become part of one of the biggest driving forces behind the Hallyu wave; who would later dazzle and mesmerize with solo performances of her own during Girls’ Generation’s solo concerts across Asia – right in the middle of her own special stage. And when she’s on it, she shines with pure joy; her excitement transmitted to the audience through eyes filled with a deep sense of belonging. Did she think she would’ve gotten this far? Perhaps not, but the present reality is too powerful to deny: she is part of a Korean icon, whose stellar success can only be called unprecedented.
Despite all her success as a member of Girls’ Generation, Hyoyeon remains humble at heart, aspiring to marry early and placing priority upon starting a family, into which she could place the same passion, devotion and love she has unceasingly dedicated to her work. And when her kids question her about her past, she would tell them with utmost pride:
“I wouldn’t feel embarrassed about being a Girls’ Generation member. For me, I think I would feel proud thinking ‘I was in Girls’ Generation’. These days too I always think, when I have kids, I’ll show them my videos proudly and say, ‘This was your mom! The person with her bangs waving around prettily, that’s your mom!’”
Girls’ Generation’s Hyoyeon: Aspiring mother
Behind Hyoyeon’s charming smile and witty jokes burns a passionate desire and love for dancing. There are many things that define Kim Hyoyeon, but her love for dancing is what truly sets her apart from the rest, and is the language she speaks when she steps on a stage to perform. Between the lines of her earth-shattering popping, fluid waving and precise locking, we catch glimpses into who Kim Hyoyeon really is – what defines her as a person and as a professional entertainer, and what gives her the strength and resolve to push harder in achieving her dreams.
Recently, Hyoyeon was given the opportunity to participate in the second season of ‘Dancing With The Stars’, where she and her partner Hyungseok dazzled the judges and audience week after week with their stunningly precise and breathtaking synchronized routines to the tunes of the rhythmic Cha-cha and the flamboyant Paso Doble. Hyoyeon has a reputation for being underappreciated and underrated, with the rest of the members usually being preferred for opportunities such as DJing, emceeing and acting. DTWS2 was her chance to shine; to show that she truly had what it took to accomplish something extraordinary on her own, without the fans’ and critics’ biases toward other members to carry her through.
But this opportunity was also her biggest challenge yet. Despite her inexperience with ballroom dancing, which was in great contrast to her Hip-Hop background, Hyoyeon worked extra hard with the help of her partner, practicing through the night to prepare for the show despite having endured tiring, day-long schedules just before. That Hyoyeon was able to beam with such energy and smile so brightly for the cameras despite having survived upon little to no sleep was really nothing new – it was just another day as a member of Girls’ Generation; proof of their professionalism and sheer determination.
A day before the finals, Hyoyeon proceeded straight to practice after returning from an overseas concert at 2am, pushing through to 5am before allowing herself to rest. That the duo was able to produce such rich and impressive routines and be on par with professional dancers who have had extensive experience in ballroom dancing is testament to Hyoyeon’s unwavering passion, fighting spirit and dedication to her work, and humility in accepting that she was striving to master something new to her, and the only way she could do that was to work hard and depend on the help of her partner, Hyungseok. Through it all, through the few hours of sleep and punishing practice schedules on top of those she’d had to attend with Girls’ Generation, Kim Hyoyeon had truly made a name for herself in the industry as not only a talented dancer, but as someone with impeccable work ethic and who repeatedly pushed herself beyond her physical limits in pursuit of the greater dream. She hadn’t participated in DWTS2 as an idol – but as a dancer.
In an interview with Osen, the producer of ‘Dancing with the Stars 2′ revealed, “Hyoyeon is a person who changed my perception of idols. She’s working hard despite her ridiculous schedule. It made me think, ‘They are Girls’ Generation because they work so hard.’ (Translator’s note: the producer is saying that Hyoyeon lives up to Girls’ Generation’s reputation for always working hard.) Not only is she good at dancing, but she really is respectful to her seniors and livens up the atmosphere on the set.”
Ballroom dancer Hyoyeon: a new dimension to her phenomenal Hip-Hop background
Aside from DWTS2, Hyoyeon is also a permanent member of the ‘Invincible Youth 2′ cast, where idols experience the simple, back-breaking life of farming and living away from the city. Despite the tiring work and sometimes less-than-appealing activities, it is clear that Hyoyeon puts her best into everything, right down to smiling for the camera and having fun while her hair soaks up the same mud that the rest of her body is caked in, as she reaches down into the ground to catch octopi.
But beyond the stage and the powerful dance moves, beyond the practiced smiles and careful words as the world watches on, when everything is said and done and the girls retire to their homes or the dorm and remove the glitzy clothes and heavy makeup, Kim Hyoyeon becomes the group’s mother. She cooks and cleans, trying to live what passes for a normal life in relative solitude, before they are once again thrust out into the real world to do what they do best: to win over the hearts and minds of people across the planet with sincere words, pure hard work and love for the very people who claim to hate them – and they’re getting better at it every day.
Despite her success and how far she has come all these years, Hyoyeon remains true to her dream, clutching it close to her heart to remind herself of what is, what was, and what is to come, just like how she did during her trainee days as she wondered if she would ever follow in her seniors’ footsteps and earn the right to debut. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The next time we fall down in the pursuit of the things we love and wonder if getting back up again is worth all the pain and hardship; the time and uncertainty, we need only remember Kim Hyoyeon’s deep-seated passion to fulfill her dreams and her sprightly zest for life, and realize that if we can find it in ourselves to put in the same dedication and determination, we will one day be standing in her position: at the halfway point of the mountain of life, looking down at all the things we once thought were impossible, but have now achieved.
The nickname ‘Hyoraengi’ suits her well – beneath the disarming smiles is a tiger with intense fighting spirit.
Happy birthday, Kim Hyoyeon. You continue to inspire us every day as a fighter and a dreamer who not just sits down and envisions the future you’d love to have, but who never stops chasing after it, reaching out with outstretched arms toward the dreams that with each passing day become part of your reality. Never stop dreaming. Never stop fighting. And most importantly, never stop loving.
Written by: Hurricane_boi@twitter
Photos credit: dd_universe.tistory.com, charmingg.tistory.com, hyoyeon0922.com