Some people view too much love and dedication an obsession, and being called “obsessed” is nothing new for many KPop fangirls. I can totally relate. Friends would criticize how much money I spent on a concert that would only last a few hours and say that I was being very unreasonable. I usually ignored such comments, but they still somehow got into my head. Being judged hurts, after all.
The KPop industry is huge and full of activities to keep the fans involved. Concerts, fan meets, official merchandise, and fan club memberships are just a sample. To support your favorite artist/band, you need to spend a lot of time, effort, and money. This may seem shallow, especially to people unfamiliar with KPop, and it is one reason KPop fans are often misunderstood. The fangirls I met share similar stories. For the second part of the Fangirl Diaries, I discuss the struggles and judgments they usually face when it comes to their unique fandom-related hobbies.
There are times when Gao Lo would fly to another state and line up for hours just to see BTS. Friends and family often feel like her efforts are for nothing. I asked Gao Lo about how she deals with negative comments about her favorite fangirl activities:
“I’m sure a lot of KPop fans have encountered negative comments before. I personally have been told that I’m just wasting my time and money on KPop groups/bands that I’m never going to see! Others would tell me that these KPop bands/groups don’t even know I exist so I shouldn’t invest in them so much. However, I think if you love or enjoy something and if you’re willing to invest in that, it shouldn’t be a problem. I’m that person who encourages people to find happiness in life; so if you’re not happy with where you are or what you’re doing, go find what works for you. KPop is my happiness and I don’t see a problem in making time for something that makes my life more wonderful and better.”
Apart from concerts, official merchandise is also one of the things KPop fangirls splurge on. Emma loves collecting pretty much everything related to EXO – from each and every album to LED lamps, even! While a lot of her YouTube subscribers marvel at her KPop collection, there’s still a handful who thinks otherwise:
“There are definitely people who don’t understand why I put so much time, effort, and money into merchandise, albums, music, concerts, etc. Those comments are familiar. Well, I’m not gonna lie, it can definitely be an expensive hobby! However, I honestly don’t mind what others think. I live my life for me and spend my own money that I’ve worked hard for on things that make me happy. To be honest, I usually choose not to respond at all.”
While spending money is one way for a KPop fangirl to support her favorite artist, Ian, an online KPop entrepreneur, still talks about being materially balanced and properly disciplined when spending:
“I am fortunate enough to be fangirling for a living. I get to enjoy the best of both worlds with my online shop, running since 2007. It used to be a whole different kind of shop, but now it’s purely KPop, which caters to fan cravings. I always say #WorkHardFangirlHarder, although sometimes I get tempted to spend beyond my capacity. This is when I really need to remind myself not to overdo it, and that I have bills to pay. It’s a matter of having the right balance with everything. I understand that I cannot go to every single event that takes place.”
One may think that being a fangirl is nothing more than just simply “liking” a KPop band or artist. However, being a solid supporter of your favorite KPop group can involve a lot of struggles that will truly test your patience. Gao Lo shares her BTS concert experience that truly put her to the test!
“Being a fangirl is difficult! I attended BTS’s concert in March for their Wings Tour in Newark, NJ and this event, by far, is the craziest thing I’ve done for any KPop groups. Since it was in March, the weather was still very cold. I thought waiting in line from 4 AM for Infinite’s concert in January was crazy but what I did for BTS was even crazier. I waited in line from 5 PM the day before and finally got inside around 6 PM the day of the concert. This was only necessary because I had a general admission ticket, which means it’s first come first serve in the floor section.
Of course, I wanted to get the BEST view from this concert so I had to do all I could even if it means to camping out in front of the venue. All the struggles from trying to stay warm and comfortable from waiting in line overnight definitely paid off when I saw BTS came out to perform. I had a front row view and it was absolutely the best thing ever!”
When I was reading Gao Lo’s concert experience, it totally reminded me of my very own story back in 2012 for the BIGBANG Alive Tour Concert. I lined up for hours and the stress was unimaginable considering the huge crowd that I had to squeeze myself in, not to mention Manila’s extremely humid weather! But well, that’s what you do for love!
Apart from the struggles that involve concerts and fan meetings, Chi Manimbo also shares the stress of managing a huge fan club. With BIGBANG Philippines (BBPH) having almost 290,000 followers, the pressure can be quite overwhelming.
“Managing a huge fan club is not an easy task. This one is really hard because you can’t really pin down people to do what we do. You need passion. We often say we don’t get paid to do this when other fans are demanding of us to do so many things. Looking for passionate fangirls/boys is like digging for gemstones nowadays.”
Ian also talked about the challenges that come along with her KPop-related travels. While the budget is a constant issue, time, more than anything, is something she always needs to work with.
“I honestly never plan anything! KPop concerts and showcases are usually announced weeks before the event itself, so I really have no time to plan anything. Mostly I book my flights a day before I leave. My travels peaked when I got my multiple Korean entry visa. Before it was so hard to travel because I had to anxiously wait if I’d be granted a visa or not. I used to frequent Tokyo instead to follow artists, because I already had a Japan multiple entry visa. Now with the help of some friends I met along the way, I have more knowledge on how to get into music shows and showcases.”
The life of a KPop fangirl is not always rainbows and butterflies. It demands work, budgeting and time; all of which are driven by passion. To understand such a level of dedication can be hard, which often leads to misunderstandings about fandom. But, it’s really quite simple – replace KPop with something you really love, something that makes you very happy. What are you willing to do for it?
Many KPop-related activities can be a real struggle when you’re doing them alone. But then, just like Ian mentioned, the beauty of being a KPop fangirl is meeting a lot of friends along the way. You share the same love and dedication that leads you to meaningful relationships and genuine happiness. The struggles of being a fangirl are inevitable, but so is the whole new kind of happiness that comes with it. What’s the best thing about being in a KPop fandom? In the last part of “Fangirl Diaries”, we’ll talk about what is the most rewarding part of the KPop fangirl experience.