This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
On February 12, 2019, a fresh and powerful wave of talent took over the world. The mystically synchronized K-pop girl group ITZY emerged, with a splash of their “DALLA DALLA” -- the title for their debut single, meaning different in Korean. ITZY’s self-love anthem positioned the band, signed to JYP Entertainment, for worldwide success and the premiere of the “DALLA DALLA” music video became the quickest to reach 100 million views in K-pop history.
The powerhouse group is comprised of members Yeji (19), Lia (19), Ryujin (18), Chaeryeong (18), and Yuna, (16) and they have a clear message they want to spread all over the world: being exactly who you are is more than enough. In the saturated world of K-pop, standing out is key to success, and their lyrics focus on breaking out from socially accepted norms and letting your uniqueness take over. “Don't measure me by your standards alone/ I love being myself/ I'm nobody else,” Lia sings in Korean on “DALLA DALLA”.
Clearly, they’re doing something right. ITZY have a dedicated group of stans, called MIDZY, who not only enjoy their upbeat tunes, slick routines and killer visuals, but also the strong message behind their music and every single concept they put out there. Thousands of their fans lined up for hours outside of Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre for the group's first-ever showcase in New York City. “It’s just a matter of playing one of their songs for me to start feeling a bit better about myself, and the person I’m growing to be,” says Daisy, a 15-year-old fan who’s been waiting in line since mid-day for the chance to meet the band.
ITZY may have had a big 2019, and come away from end-of-year award ceremonies with a dozen trophies and millions of fans (including Best New Artist), but that doesn’t mean they’ve figured out who they are just yet. While there’s confidence in their songs, they’re all still teenagers. “To tell you the truth, before "DALLA DALLA", before our debut, we weren’t that confident,” Lia, the group’s main vocalist said backstage before the show.
Before they took the stage for the last stop of their “‘Itzy? Itzy!’ IN USA” tour, i-D caught up with the charismatic girl group, who were dressed head to toe in metallic silver looks, to hear all about their record-breaking journey and how they inspire self-confidence in each other.
What goals did you have when you debuted, that you wanted to achieve in your first year?
Yeji: What we wanted was to make a debut, and we did. After that, we said that we wanted to win an award for the best new artist, and we did! We’re so grateful that we won. This year’s been very surreal, truly. So many things have happened and it’s only been a year!
But even when a year may sound like a short time, you guys see each other every single day. What’s part of your off-stage routine that you love to share with each other?
Chaeryeong: Chatting. Since we’re about the same age, it’s natural that we click, so we laugh a lot, and we talk a lot.
Throughout your life, what’s a piece of advice someone gave you that you never forgot?
Ryujin: My father always said to me that whatever happens, happens. It’s been the motto of my life. It’s a powerful quote. Things are gonna happen anyway so you may as well take the risk. Just be confident about it.
There’s lots of confidence in your songs. What’s something that makes you feel confident? Chaeryeong: Yuna.
Ryujin: It’s true!
Lia: She’s the most confident member. She compliments us a lot.
Yuna: Thank you, thank you! Lia: Actually, our songs are about self-confidence and loving ourselves, but to tell you the truth, before “Dalla-Dalla”, before our debut, we weren’t that confident. We didn’t have that much self-confidence compared to now, and I think we gained lots of it after our debut, thanks to our fans. Ryujin: We try to be confident the most that we can, but there are times when we’re not.
Lia: During our U.S. Tour... one of our fans said, “Thank you for influencing everyone around the world.” That’s it. Having an impact. That’s what we wanted to do, but we weren’t really sure if it was actually working, and if we were actually doing it right. Now, after this tour, we realized how MIDZY actually got the message in our songs.
You’ve probably taught each other a lot too. What’s something you’ve learned from the person to your left?
Yeji: What I’ve learned from Lia, is how she empathizes with people. I often talk to her about my problems and every time I do so, she really listens and empathizes with me, almost as if it was her own problem. She’s so good at comforting people.
Lia: Ryujin is, in a way… very different from me, so there are lots of things I learn from her. She’s very cool… she doesn’t burden herself with worries, you know?
You mean being more carefree?
Ryujin: From Chaeryeong, um… There’re so many things. She’s a very patient person, and I wasn’t really patient in the past. Being on the same team, I really learned to be patient from her. And she’s well-spoken. She knows how to talk, how to calm things down. I really want to learn that.
Yuna (to Chaeryeong): It’s your turn.
Chaeryeong: Yes, I know… Yuna is very different from me and because of that, I always find things to learn from her, even though she’s younger than me. I need to learn more about how Yuna accepts any situation with such positive energy.
Yuna: What I’ve learned from Yeji is how gently she treats other people. She’s always so nice to everybody, no exceptions.
What’s something you’d like to explore in the future that you haven’t just yet? Either musically, aesthetically or in your lives.
Ryujin: We really like our current concept, but we want to show MIDZY and the world how we’ve grown up and how we mature with time. I think that’s what a new concept will always be for us. Not really trying something just because, but more like continuing to explore our own road, the one we’ve built so far for ourselves.
Just going with the flow.
Ryujin: Yes. See where it takes us, no matter what people around think. We build it, we walk it. They keep talking, we keep walking.