Fangirl Diaries - Part 1: Becoming a K-POP Fan

Chi Manimbo
Chi Manimbo

Back in 2007, I had no idea what K-POP was. I remember listening to my first set of Korean songs from Se7en, which I randomly downloaded via Limewire. I would play Se7en’s ‘꽃을 들고서’ in the car on repeat just to familiarize myself with the lyrics – all despite not understanding a single word! But yeah, that was it. There were no signs of any particular fondness that would eventually lead me to loving this phenomenal genre.

When I began working in an academy for Koreans I tried to expand my K-POP knowledge beyond just Se7en. I simply wanted to relate to my Korean students, but what started as plain curiosity led me to a whole new kind of love for music! It’s difficult to imagine how clueless I was ten years ago, considering how K-POP has taken over my life today.

Andrea Centeno (left) and her younger sister at Exo concert

Talking about how a specific artist or band changes your life sounds overly dramatic, but for a loyal fan it is true to the core. One song can change you, motivate you or even save you.

I’m 100% sure that a ton of fangirls can relate to this. Looking at how immensely global K-POP has become, it’s easy to meet someone who claims that they are a K-POP fan. However, a legit fangirl who really puts her heart into it and is willing to go the extra mile is one in a million! Through Fangirl Diaries, we’ll be able to get a glimpse of a different kind of love and dedication. I talked to four amazing K-POP fangirls and asked them to share their story with us. This series will talk about how it all began for them (and me), the struggles of being an avid K-POP fangirl and the genuine happiness that comes along with it.

Falling into K-POP Fandom

Every fangirl has her own story to tell about falling into the fandom.

Ian Rodriguez, a 30-year-old online entrepreneur from Manila, is very well-known in the Philippine K-POP scene not only because of her K-POP-related business, but also because of her travels and activities that are truly #fangirlgoals. She’s been to many countries in Asia and frequents Japan and South Korea just to catch K-POP concerts, fanmeets, and music shows featuring her favorite artists – specifically BIGBANG’s G-Dragon and Infinite’s Dongwoo! With such unparalleled dedication, I couldn’t help but to ask her how it all began.

Ian Rodriguez at BIGBANG’s Fan Meet in Singapore (2014)

“My sister was the one who was into K-POP first, she liked Super Junior. I tagged along to events and saw the potential market for K-POP merchandise. One day she was watching a K-POP show (probably on Arirang) and a video of G-Dragon played. I liked him so much, so I began to research about him, including his music, video interviews and all. As for Infinite’s Dongwoo, my sister got me into that, too! I joined her when they came to the Philippines for the “Dream K-POP Fantasy Concert”. When I saw their sub-unit’s music video (Infinite H), Dongwoo’s style and looks reminded me so much of G-Dragon. So I researched about him, too, and that’s where it all started!”

Just like Ian, there are a lot of fans out there that got into K-POP because it was introduced to them by someone else. Another fangirl who got into the world of K-POP through her friends is 21-year-old YouTuber Gao Lo.

Youtube channel of Gao Lo

Gao Lo is a content creator who’s a huge fan of BTS. I’m pretty sure that by now almost everyone around the world knows who BTS is! After their insanely awesome AMA performance and back-to-back appearances at The Ellen Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Late Show with James Corden, there’s no way you haven’t heard of the BTS boys yet. Before BTS’ popularity skyrocketed, Gao Lo had been following them already. Gao Lo shares:

“I got into BTS through my close friends, Caroline and Donna. They were telling me that I should go to their TRB concert in Chicago in 2015 with them, so I did. I had the best time there because not only was it my first time in Chicago, but it was also my first K-POP concert! Ever since then, BTS has been my favorite group and will remain a group that I will always remember.”

Apart from having a friend pull you into a K-POP fandom, there are also fangirls who found out about it online. As we are in the era where the internet is a major source of entertainment, a few taps can lead you to the biggest K-POP channels on YouTube!

If you search the keywords “EXO collection” on YouTube you are definitely going to land on the “EXO Room Tour” video uploaded by the user elfyeol. I was in total awe when I saw her enormous collection and it led me to the rest of her K-POP merch videos! Emma, a Korean-American living in California, is the girl behind this channel. She’s one of those fans who fell deep into K-POP fandom by stumbling upon a video on the internet.

“I have been into K-POP (specifically Bigbang) since 2009! However, I was more of a casual fan during my early years and wasn’t very involved with the online K-POP community or other aspects of fandom. During the summer of 2013 I came across a video in my recommendations featuring a VERY cute boy in the thumbnail, so I (fatefully) decided to click and watch even though I had no idea who the idol was, nor what group he was from. The video was Chanyeol’s cover of Simon D’s Lonely Night and was titled “130626 Sukira – Lonely Night Live by Chanyeol”. Somehow, within the span of 2 minutes and 33 seconds, I fell head over heels in love.

From that moment on, I watched every video I could find of Chanyeol. Eventually I came across EXO’s discography, which completely blew me away because I loved it so much (I had the XOXO album on repeat every day for months on end!). I also watched all the shows they had appeared on up to that time (this was during the Wolf era) and realized that I loved the group. Everything seemed to fall into place for me. Since then I have only descended further and further into the world of Chanyeol/EXO…”

It’s amazing how one video can truly immerse you in a whole new world, just like Emma was! Without a doubt, K-POP is perfectly concocted to catch your attention; whether it’s their striking hair colors or flashy music videos. I personally know how it feels to fall in love right after one music video, which is why I can totally relate to my fellow VIP (fandom name for BIGBANG fans), Chi. Right after hearing one song and watching its music video, her fangirl story began. She shares,

“It started out with my friends in college, the 2nd year. They were really fans of 2pm and TVXQ. Then I was introduced to 2ne1. Then I stumbled upon BIGBANG’s ‘Tell Me Goodbye’… and the rest is history! Haha!”

Chi Manimbo and BIGBANG’s fan club members

Chi Manimbo is one of the pioneers of BIGBANG’s largest fan club in the Philippines, Bigbang Philippines (BBPH). Moreover, while her career as a production manager can be demanding at times, she still puts in a huge chunk of time and effort for BBPH, organizing events and planning fan projects along with other members.

One could easily say that they like a song because it makes them dance, but being involved in K-POP fandom is a different story. K-POP Fandom entails a great level of dedication; something that can’t be simply described as “liking” a certain group or type of music. It’s a global community where people connect – all because they share the same love for a certain K-POP idol/band.

Being dedicated to a K-POP fandom, however, also has its fair share of struggles. In the next article of the Fangirl Diaries series we’ll hear about what misconceptions and hardships K-POP fangirls encounter in the course of their unique fan-related hobbies and activities.  

Andrea Centeno

Andrea is a beauty blogger and English teacher from Manila, Philippines. In her blog, Shimmering Thoughts, she writes about the media events, product reviews, and beauty tutorials, and her love for Korean Pop Culture.

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