►►2NE1’s Dara, “They made us eat stuff like mice, lizards, chicken heads..”
This is a continuation of 2NE1 Dara’s series of interviews with Asia E.
Sandara Park first entered the entertainment industry in a foreign country, and is the prime example of a Korean returning to Korea to debut in their motherland.
In the time between 2003 when Sandara Park became famous in the Philippines, and her return to Korea, she gained a huge amount of popularity. They say it was to the point that if you didn’t know Sandara Park, you weren’t a native Filipino.
When she returned after being active in the Philippines, Korean fans gave her the nickname of ‘the BoA of the Philippines’.
”Becoming a celebrity in the Philippines was a coincidence. One day my friend suggested I try audition for the Filipino TV station ABS-CBN’s ‘Star Circle Quest’. I decided to try thinking it would be a good experience for me, and the results turned out unexpectedly good.”
‘Star Circle Quest’ is the Filipino equivalent of FOX’s ‘American Idol’ in the U.S.A and MNet’s ‘Super Star K’ of Korea, and was a very popular programme in the Philippines at the time, in 2004.
Although immigrating to the Philippines made her silent after being trapped by the obstacles of culture and language barriers, Sandara never gave up on her dream of becoming a celebrity. Her parents reassured her with promises that once she graduated high school, they’d send her back to Korea again. ‘Star Circle Quest’ was a chance that approached the young Sandara who was counting down the days til her high school graduation.
”I couldn’t speak Tagalog at all at the time. I was the first Korean to audition. I didn’t know anything so everything I did seemed clumsy and awkward. It must’ve seemed like a fresh new image to them at the time. I think I was lucky.”
Sandara auditioned in November of 2003 and started filming in April of 2004. Because the programme was popular enough to be broadcasted 6 days a week from Monday to Saturday, more and more people became aware of her.
”Filipinos and Korean expect different things from their artists. The people in the Philippines wanted an all-round entertainer who could sing, act, MC etc. I totally understand how the people on ‘Superstar K’ felt. I experienced for myself how ruthless survival is.”
Though she may only have started it thinking it would be a good experience for her, Sandara tried her best. Even when they put auditionees through ‘fear courses’ for them to build courage to help them act better for horror genres, Sandara did not back down. But some of the fear courses were just too extreme for a young schoolgirl.
“They made us eat stuff like cooked mice and lizards, and go into a house that was apparently actually haunted. They made us do so many awful things like cutting off chickens’ heads. I admit I didn’t eat the mice.”
The contestants’ fearful experiences were all directly broadcasted to be seen by people at home. Though Sandara couldn’t do a few of the terrible missions, she refused to give up her dream of becoming a celebrity.
”When I cried because I was so scared, the production crew just made me do things that were even harder knowing I wouldn’t be able to do them. What I remember the most was making our own chicken meal. Starting with beheading a chicken in a forest, we had to do absolutely everything ourselves. It was so hard for me.”
But despite her frail looks, Sandara stayed strong. Even through repeated experiences that would’ve been difficult for a schoolgirl to endure, not once did Sandara let her parents see her cry.
”I felt like quitting so many times a day. I cried a lot during filming too. I felt like I was the only one in the world. I think it was worse because I didn’t know anything or anyone. I kept holding on though, I didn’t want to make my parents feel hurt because of my own dreams.”
This truthful side of Sandara captured the hearts of the Filipinos. In the last voting when the final 5 were being decided, she received approximately 500,000 votes via text. This was a new record for any female contestant that had ever been on the show. But in the ‘Grand Finals’, Sandara came in second.
”I was actually really happy when I didn’t win. I did try my best but even so, I lacked talent and skill. When they were about to call out the winner I was shouting in my head ‘Not me, not me!’. There would’ve been a lot of pressure, you see. When they didn’t call my name I was so happy that I jumped around. Afterwards, I was complimented for being so genuinely happy for my colleague who had won. It was actually because I was so glad for myself. (laughs)”
The Filipino media introduced Sandara’s charms as being genuine. Most of the other previous contestants ‘Star Circle Quest’ were usually signed to an agency, but Sandara was inexperienced when it came to TV broadcasts.
”On TV, I just said anything that came to mind. The reporters really liked me cos I would drop a bombshell every now and again. I think I was truthful to my emotions too. I’d cry when I was sad and let it show when I was happy; I let my emotions show. I think they liked that I was truthful and innocent.”