A year ago on the 25th of October, a team of five boys paved their way with sweat, blood and lots and lots of tears to earn the title of WINNER. It was one hell of a ride and the world was there to witness just about everything.
Did I ever think I’d dedicate write-ups after write-ups, even an anniversary one that I’m writing now, for them? Hell no. But here I am with my heart full to the brim for Kang Seung Yoon, Nam Tae Hyun, Song Minho, Lee Seung Hoon and Kim Jin Woo who I tend to fondly call ‘the boys’. Quite frankly I realize and believe I’m getting too old for this KPop scene – just because I grew up with boy bands doesn’t mean I need to carry this through into my twenties, you know? Last year’s summer just as my fatigue reached its peak, on a whim I decided to watch WIN: Who Is Next.
Big mistake? I’ve no idea. I watched it during the last month of my summer break when my life was going well, so well, that this show was simply empty entertainment. Then grad school started and my life turned upside down and at the same time, the stakes on this show grew higher and higher.
As I felt myself being pulled further away from my own dreams, on another realm of reality, these five boys were working so friggin’ hard to chase after and realize theirs. This paradox was both painful and uplifting and perhaps because of my own emotional limbo, before I realized it I was onboard and embarrassingly extremely emotionally invested that the boys win their opportunity to début.
obsession interest led to a Tumblr account, counting down the days to Friday, and laughing and sobbing uncontrollably over five boys I don’t even personally know in my life. A year later, uh – I just created a Twitter account primarily to spazz about them and my love towards them just keeps growing.
It was an eventful ten weeks and I remember not being able to sleep the night before the grand finale, aired live in Korea, and I’m pretty sure I held my breath during classes and rushed home the moment I could to watch it. I was legitimately so friggin’ anxious that these boys wouldn’t be able to realize their dreams, especially so because back then I was convinced their CEO was blatantly displaying disgusting favoritism (okay, I still think so) and knew that if the boys didn’t win the title, there was never going to be any future for them as Team A. That much I was certain and obviously, I wasn’t alone – it’s the reason why the fandom, now officially known as the Inner Circle, bandied and rallied together oh-so-protectively until now to make sure that these boys’ dreams continue to soar forevermore despite the shitty favoritism by their agency.
The wait though, was excruciating. I kid you not. The feeling of uncertainty lingered so magnanimously during that waiting period and frankly, until now the cynic in me continues to side-eye their agency skeptically but I will hold back this once. The KPop world is unfortunately excessively manufactured and sometimes known for all the wrong reasons, but with these five boys, it feels… different.
From Day 1, I think it’s their sincerity and passion towards music that got me right in the heart. Gutted, over and over with each drooped shoulder and defeated sigh by them as they kept losing before eventually finding their footing. During the WIN era, what affected me most and thus had me rooting for them so damn passionately was because I felt and echo their desperation; I’ve been there, we’ve all been there. It’s not about coming out as the grand winner of a competition that’s conveniently publicized on national TV and accessible to international audience – no, it was the hunger and thirst of an unfulfilled dream and theirs was to create and share their music, that thing in which their hearts and minds live and breathe for.
There’s a lot to be said about the not-so-pretty aspects of their journey to become WINNER and the aftermath that follows before their long-anticipated début and even beyond the explosive début to present-day. In fact, I am certain this is only the beginning of a challenging road to stardom, but on this special day of theirs I choose to maintain an optimistic voice and keep the good faith about their future. I could write what would sound like an eulogy for these boys and all the things they’ve achieved thus far – it’s hilarious and embarrassing to admit out loud, but I swear I feel strangely protective and overtly proud of them like a mother would – but I will sum it up in just five words, that which trended on Twitter yesterday at midnight Korean time:
Thank You for Being Winner!
Thank you for pouring your all – sweat, tears, blood, and spirit – into that 100 days of emotionally abusive and pointless reality show. Thank you for never giving up on your love for music, letting that be your anchor and motivation when the journey felt impossible and that light at the end of the tunnel seemed bleak. Thank you for holding on to and learning to lean on each other, and not forsake the group for individual pursuits. Thank you for patiently enduring the waiting phase of an uncertain début. Thank you above all, for being true to yourselves and your passion for music. Your love, passion, and spirit are deeply felt; they resonate and move hearts, I promise.
With super stardom comes lots of ups and downs including the inevitable rough patches and losing oneself, later on if not now, and I hope when that happens each of you will look back at the past year and realize how far you’ve come. I hope you remember you have each other to depend on but if for whatever reason even that doesn’t do it, I hope you remember that your backs are covered by us, your Inner Circle, who’s been with you every step of the way from countless firsts – win, radio show, live performance, concert, interview, airport photos… you name it, we’ve been there.
We’ll keep being there and this is a promise.
I heart these boys so much in a way that I never have for other musicians I fancy and as always, I wish only the best for them!