Talent overcomes looks for ‘ordinary’ Park Seul-gi“I’m not insecure about the way I look anymore. I learned that there are many ways other than just being pretty to reach your dream,” said Park Seul-gi, 18, who recently became a “star” following failure after failure because of her “ordinary” appearance.
Ms. Park’s oddyssey began in her first year of middle school in Gangwon province when she took a bus to Seoul during each vacation. In one hand, she had money that she had saved over the entire semester and in the other the address of a celebrity management company. Her dream was to become a famous singer ― she was already known as a great singer in her hometown.
But reality let her down ― large entertainment companies did not seem interested in real talent, just in pretty faces.
In auditions, three competitors would show their ability in front of the judges at the same time and invariably the judges would opt for pretty faces, saying the performers would “only” have to be trained to sing well.
Ms. Park’s song was always stopped within about 30 seconds. And she would hear the judge saying, “You can definitely sing, but....” She encountered rejection many times, and forgot about her dream for a while. From Wonju Girls’ Middle school to Bukwon Girls’ High School, she just tried to enjoy acting in her school’s theater company.
But, one day an opportunity came along. Jo Jeong-lin, a comedienne, was advertising a singing competition called “Paldomochang Gasuwang,” in which participants imitate star singers’ voices. Ms. Jo herself was a winner of the contest in the past. Ms. Park suddenly had an urge to grab the opportunity.
As a second grader in high school, she participated in the competition in January 2004 and won.
“I now know that dreams come true. I can’t believe I’m on television now. I thought I would always be one of those girls lined up in front of broadcasting companies.”
Ms. Park may have an ordinary face, but for the past year her growth as a celebrity has been extraordinary. After she won the singing contest, many producers called her to offer roles. She chose “Dugeun Dugeun Change,” a sitcom on Munhwa Broadcasting Company. She played a character called “Geoul Gongju” (Mirror Princess), a superficial and egocentric girl who goes crazy over celebrities. Her enthusiasm on the show won her the “actor of the year” prize, which drew the interest of the film industry as well.
Ms. Park also appears in the recently released film “Mongjeonggi 2 (Wet Dreams 2),” as a high school girl who has enormous curiosity about sex. She got that role after competing against 3,500 other girls. This year, she got the lead in a new sitcom on MBC, “Annyeong Francesca ” (Hello, Francesca), playing an old vampire inhabiting a middle school girl’s body. So far, her acting has been lauded. Next month, she will enter Kyonggi University, majoring in multimedia studies.
“Many opportunities keep coming to me. But I feel that I’m still not good enough,” Ms. Park said. “I’m going to humbly try my best. Fortunately, what I learned in theater club back in high school helps a lot.”
Some people say she reminds them of Park Gyeong-lim, or Jo Jeong-lin, who are known as hard-working actresses with less glamorous appearances. They are favored for their wittiness and talent rather than eyelashes and curly bangs.
“Usually celebrities don’t like to hear that they resemble other celebrities. But I like to hear that I do as I respect them a lot. I just hope that they are okay with that,” Ms. Park said.
She also commented on the recent “X-file” incident, in which rumors and private information about a number of celebrities appeared on the Internet. “From what I saw and learned after getting into the world of TV stars, I think that the stars are innocent rather than ‘bad,’ since their life has been isolated from the real world.
“At first, I was scared to enter the field, thinking that the world of celebrities would be all about sex and violence,” she added.
This year will be a busy one, but for now she wants to focus on her sitcom. “I want to improve my acting skills step by step, and if opportunities allow, I would like to sing more, too,” she said.
by Lee Sang-bok