Back in late 2015, DR Music made huge headline news in the K-pop community when they signed on Alexandra Reid, better known as Alex, to their girl group Regeneration Idol of Asia, better known as Rania. The only reason why it was big news is that she is of African-American descent thus making her the first African-American to be signed to any K-pop girl group. Summarized, DR Music, Rania, and Alex made K-pop history.
Since then, Alex has made both positive and controversial headlines. One example of the former includes her becoming the first African-American to become leader of a K-pop girl group (Rania re-branded to BP Rania) when Di, T-Ae, and Xia decided to leave. As for one example of the latter, Alex was in a controversial argument with choreographer Ra-Gi in which Alex supposedly did not want to learn choreography because she said “she’s a rapper.”
Either you like how Alex is doing in BP Rania or not, one thing is for sure. How Alex is in BP Rania will have a direct effect if other K-pop agencies and labels keep signing non-Asian foreigners to their K-pop acts or not.
As much as I want Alex to succeed as a non-Asian member of a K-pop group, I cannot let it slide that her debut was already a snafu. One of the big issues that has haunted Alex was her lack of a training phase to be a K-pop idol. To most, everyone things training is just singing, dancing, exercise, presentation, and the like. With that in mind, Alex has plenty of experience as she’s been singing and dancing for many years in pursuit of a career in the American music industry.
What most people including K-pop fans don’t know is that training also teaches other important details outside of entertainment. For example, the Korean language, how to read and write Hangul, Korean customs, and mannerisms, things like that. You will not get a true representation of what Korea is by watching hordes of K-dramas. You got invest both time and perseverance to live it. Unless Alex knows all of the aforementioned, I doubt she was able to learn all the basics within the small amount of time she had before Demonstrate.
This brings us up to the present with BP Rania. Alex has at least lived in Korea for about a year. Within that time, she became the girl group’s leader and has made their re-debut comeback with “Start a Fire.” Though the song wasn’t the most popular among K-pop fans, it did initiate an emphasis that Alex would be more vested in the girl group. Problem is the music video gave the opposite message as Alex only appeared for her rap parts and the very end of the music video for a panning group shot at the end. She did not participate in the choreography or was seen with other members outside of the ending. That brought up questions if Alex is really vested to BP Rania or only on convenience.
Criticisms were almost put to rest when DR Music released the dance video for “Make Me Ah,” the second featured track song off of Start a Fire mini-album. It showed Alex actually being a part of the choreography and not just being tacked on whenever she had parts. To be frank, it gave me hope that DR Music was finally utilizing Alex. Unfortunately, it was made known that Alex would not participate in the majority of post-release promotions which includes music competition shows. I found that to be perplexing given the fact she is leader.
Right now, we don’t know if Alex not partaking in most of the post-release promotions is on behalf of DR Music or Alex herself, but it further adds if K-pop labels and agencies will continue to hire non-Asian foreigners to K-pop acts. Sadly, the answer is steering towards a definite “no.”
We will start with the international perspective on the matter. It is true many K-pop idols are from America, Europe, and other places out of the East Asian area, but what must be stressed is that they are of Asian descent. Also, they went into K-pop, or any Asian entertainment industry, most likely because they found little to no opportunity where they lived. Take the United States for example. How many acting and singing opportunities are afforded to hopefuls of Asian descent? Very limited right? However, they have a better chance in East Asian countries especially if they speak the language.
I don’t exactly know Alex’s reasons for joining a K-pop girl group, but the prospect of pursuing such is in line with the fact Hallyu made K-pop an international phenomenon. This, in turn, increases the desire among non-Asians to be in a K-pop act in general. However, the chances of a Korean entertainment agency or label picking non-Asian foreigners now are limited as Alex has set the standard among a huge K-pop community. Though it is most likely not her fault, many of them will see the situation surrounding Alex as more of a reason not to sign on non-Asian hopefuls. That to me is a shame as I am sure there are many non-Asian hopeful K-pop stars who are willing to work their butt off but will most likely be given a chance.
[Featured Image by DR Music]