Discovering Amber

Hello, readers. It’s Lydia.

I was trying to find my last post and was like, “Didn’t I write it in May?”

I didn’t. I wrote it in March.

PHAIL.

I’m trying my best to stay on top of things, but I’m involved in so many projects and personal endeavours, it’s spreading me really thin. But I just thought I’d share my feelings about the entertainment industry in Japan as someone who’s trying to actually be a part of it.

About a year ago I registered with a talent agency specialising in providing the industry with foreign talent. This doesn’t mean I’m actually contracted to the agency; it means they have my email and phone number and will let me know if any jobs come my way. There have been jobs but I’ve not taken any. This is mainly due to scheduling conflicts and failing to pass the preliminary screenings (where they look at your photos). Also, because I want to perform as a singer, not a model, I tend to reject some job offers. (My company has more models than singers. Or maybe no singers. IDK.)

Honestly, I think being a foreigner in the entertainment industry here calls up a lot of weird emotions. On one hand, you’re glad there’s a clear ‘box’ for you to be in – the foreigner box – but on the other hand, it seems like you are only recognised for being in that box. I don’t know if this is just me being anecdotal, but it’s very frustrating for me sometimes because I feel I don’t look or sound foreign enough to be a foreign talent, yet I am 100% foreign. And that’s supposed to be what makes me marketable.

I was feeling very discouraged about this for most of this year, and sort of hit rock bottom when I got a call for a job and essentially didn’t qualify for it because I didn’t know my blood type (the TV station told my agency they very specifically wanted someone with the blood type B), because I was wondering why I was putting up with an industry as ridiculous as this. The thing is, while I say ‘ridiculous’, I still love this country. I love the language, I love the people, I love functioning as an aspiring performer in Japan. It’s not something I can do in Singapore.

Around this time I discovered this girl, Amber Liu, by complete accident.

Amber (on the cover of her mini-album, ‘Beautiful’)

I was watching some YouTube videos and because my god-brother made me watch a video done by Korean Englishman (great channel by the way), my feed was prompting me with other Korea + English related videos. One of them was ‘K-pop stars with the best English’ or something like that, and because I had just finished watching ‘We Got Married – Global Edition Season 1’ on Japanese Netflix (it’s a Korean variety show), I clicked on it, curious if I’d see 2PM’s Taecyon rank in, since he spoke really awesome English on We Got Married.

Pause.

Prior to watching We Got Married, I had zero knowledge about Korean pop culture. I just wasn’t (and to confess, still am not) interested.

Unpause.

So now you get why I didn’t expect to discover Amber. I noticed her because she was from the group f(x), which my best friend had mentioned when we were talking about We Got Married since one of the other members of f(x), Victoria, was part of a very popular international couple on the Korean version. (Are you guys keeping up with all these references? lol) So I was like, “Oh, f(x), I know that group! It’s the one with the girl from China!” (Girl from China = Victoria.)

f(x) – from their album ‘4 Walls’

It’s kind of a big deal that Lydia knows a Korean pop culture THING, okay?

Then I Googled Amber and found out she’s the other foreigner in f(x), and she’s not even from East Asia, not strictly; she’s American, and her parents emigrated to the US from Taiwan. I was sort of mind-blown because I felt this weird mix of emotions, like simultaneously becoming very fond of her (she’s quite an awesome person) and yet envious that there was someone out there who was in a foreign environment – just like me; fluent in the lingua franca after working super hard at it – just like me; yet, unlike me, she was getting all these opportunities that I personally feel Japan wouldn’t give to me. Perhaps not because they don’t want to (not necessarily) but because they can’t.

But more than envy I felt inspired. Truly inspired. It comforted me that there was someone out there – many someones, in fact, because through Amber I discovered Henry, another talented foreigner (Canadian with Hong Kong/Taiwanese heritage) performing in Korea – that had an audience. It made me re-evaluate what I want to do as a performer who is also multilingual – it made me realise that I don’t have to keep ramming at a door that wouldn’t budge. If I can’t get to my audience through mainstream media, I’ll get to them through the internet. I’ll work harder at my YouTube channel, streamline my content, put out more music. There has to be an audience out there for me. That’s what discovering Amber (& co.) made me realise.

Henry and Amber doing their ‘Henberger’ gag for a variety show

I think Korea is awesome in this sense – they position themselves to appeal to an international audience. It’s very smart manufacturing. Of course, the artists can get mistreated (there have been so many scandals regarding contracts over the years, and even Amber and Henry have posted about their dissatisfaction with their management on social media), so I know it’s not a perfect system.

I can’t tell you guys everything about the jobs that have come through my mailbox, but I feel that there seems to be myriad limitations. Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. I mean, I understand about the time I couldn’t take a job because they wanted a model with short hair but my hair had grown out, but I wish it didn’t have to be a problem that I don’t know my blood type, or that I’m married. (Yes, being married has been a deterrent.)

In any case, I hope I can seek out my audience better in the weeks to come. Wait for me, Internet!!!

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