K-pop celebrity, reporter... and acting star?

Korean-American K-pop singer Eric Nam is based in South Korea, where he is the go-to entertainment reporter for interviews with Hollywood stars.
Korean-American K-pop singer Eric Nam is based in South Korea, where he is the go-to entertainment reporter for interviews with Hollywood stars.PHOTO: MODE ENTERTAINMENT
Jessi.
Jessi.PHOTO: JESSI/ INSTAGRAM
Ailee.
Ailee.PHOTO: AILEE/INSTAGRAM
Jessica (above, left) in Girls’ Generation and Krystal (above, right).
Jessica (above, left) in Girls’ Generation and Krystal (above, right).PHOTO: JESSICA JUNG/INSTAGRAM

K-pop singer Eric Nam, 28, does not get starstruck interviewing Hollywood stars such as Emma Stone and Robert Downey Jr.

He says: "Celebrities are people too. When I walk in, I just act like they are my next-door neighbours. I make normal conversation, like asking them what they ate for lunch."

In South Korea, where he is based, the Korean-American singer is the go-to entertainment reporter for interviews with Hollywood stars.

But last Saturday, he was in the hot seat fielding interviews instead, ahead of his first live concert in Singapore.

Which is harder, interviewing or being interviewed? Sitting in either seat has its own challenges, he says.

When answering questions, he wants to sound eloquent and "say the right thing".

When asking questions, the challenge is to match the celebrities' personality and make them feel comfortable.

  • Other Korean-American K-pop artists

  • HIP-HOP ARTIST JESSI , 28

    Hip-hop artist Jessi flew under the radar for more than a decade before making it big on rap survival show Unpretty Rapstar (2016).

    Fellow contestants were left flabbergasted by her fiesty declaration: "We are not a team. This is a competition."

    The fiery remarks ignited Jessi's popularity as fans loved her candid personality and comedians parodied her on variety shows.

    Born Ho Hyun Joo, the current Jessi is no longer the struggling singer Jessica H.O, who debuted in 2005.

    Last month, she released her first EP, Un2verse, which went to No. 4 on Billboard's World Album chart.

    SINGER AILEE, 28

    Singer Ailee, born Lee Ye Jin, has been nicknamed South Korea's Beyonce.

    Raw talent helped the rookie survive a scandal when her nude photos were leaked online in 2013, a year after her debut. She continued to top music charts and sell out concerts. She also blew audiences away with her powerhouse vocals as she sang while riding on a roller-coaster on popular game show Running Man in 2014.

    Pop culture magazine Rolling Stone picked her as one of the K-pop acts likely to break into the American market in a 2012 article.

    It remains to be seen if the prediction will come true.

    Ailee reportedly made her US debut under another alias, A.Leean, in January without much fanfare.

    K-POP IDOLS JESSICA, 28, AND KRYSTAL JUNG , 22

    The Jung sisters are the Barbie dolls of the K-pop world.

    The California-born siblings were recruited by SM Entertainment at a young age.

    They trained to be K-pop stars and joined different girl groups - Jessica in Girls' Generation and Krystal in f(x).

    Jessica is now a solo artist and runs her own fashion brand, Blanc & Eclare. She was reportedly ousted from the group for prioritising her fashion ambitions.

    Krystal remains with f(x) and SM Entertainment. She is also currently seen playing a water goddess in the fantasy K-drama Bride Of The Water God.

He adds: "I really have to throw my ego aside because my job then is to be a reporter, not a celebrity."

On Sunday, the bubbly balladeer was every bit the celebrity to the 800-strong crowd at the MES Theatre in Mediacorp. A few fans had stickers with his likeness stuck to their forehead and Nam joked that they should get it tattooed.

He serenaded the screaming crowd with Korean and English songs as well as English covers of Korean tunes such as Beautiful from the K-drama Goblin and singer Taeyang's Eyes, Nose, Lips.

Nam's road to stardom began with a cover of now-defunct group 2NE1's song Lonely, which he uploaded online. Television network MBC took notice and asked him to audition for the singing reality contest Birth Of A Great Star in 2011.

Though he made it only to the top five, he got a recording contract and released a string of singles and two EPs, Cloud 9 (2013) and Interview (2016). Last month, he dropped an English EDM-pop track, Idea Of You, in collaboration with Russian DJ Arty.

Fun-loving and affable, he often appears on South Korean variety shows. Last year, he was also seen roughing it out in Mongolia in survival reality show Law Of The Jungle and romancing a K-pop starlet in We Got Married, a celebrity virtual marriage show.

His achievements earned him a spot in the entertainment and sports category of this year's Forbes' 30 Under 30 Asia list, which honours young talents across various industries.

Born and bred in Atlanta, Nam harbours dreams of making music or acting in the United States. He is recognised by strangers there and has heard his song playing in a cafe.

He says: "When I was back in the US a few years ago and went to church, I couldn't do anything because people were just screaming. I was like, I need to go to a different church."

Raising the profile of AsianAmerican talents has always been something close to his heart.

When he was in college, he founded the Boston chapter of Kollaboration, a non-profit that promotes Asian-American talents in the US.

He says: "I feel like a lot of Asians may get discouraged from pursuing their dreams because of finances or family objections. But always try to put out your content and talent.

"You never know. I never expected to be where I am."

Gwendolyn Ng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2017, with the headline 'K-pop celebrity, reporter... and acting star?'. Print Edition | Subscribe