Hello. Please introduce yourself.
Hello. I’m model Lee Sung Kyung. Nice to meet you.
Your brown eyes are impressive.
Both of my parents have brown eyes. There was a lot of misunderstandings when I was a rookie because people asked me if I was wearing contact lenses. When I took the audition, producers asked me “who wears contact lenses these days?”. So I had to explain to them that these were not contact lenses. Makeup artists also ask me these days if I wear contact lenses. Because I sometimes use transparent contact lenses, I said I did, but they’re not colored contact lenses. When I was a child, my eyes were so clear that you could even see the iris and I was jealous of those who had dark eyes. Growing up, it was the other way around with people being jealous of me. Especially while working as a model, I’m happy to hear compliments that say I have pretty eyes. It became a strength.
Looking at your SNS, it seems that you went overseas recently. Where did you go?
I was overseas for 4 days with Lee Jong Suk for a Vogue girl photo shoot. During a photo shoot overseas, you’re usually quite busy, you go to various places without taking a break. However, I had a lot of time to rest. Except when we were working, I had a great time with the staff. The locations were quite beautiful, so that made everything even better. Since I had known Lee Jong Suk and the staff for a long time, we’re close and it felt like we were in vacations. I had already met Lee Jong Suk a couple of times for other photo shoots and because of our friends. He’s also close with a designer that made me debut, so I was comfortable with him.
Do you have a funny story to share?
I have no other memory but us having fun. (laugh) However, it seems that the foreigners thought it was awesome to see a tall Asian girl having fun on her own with her camera. A lot of people asked to take a picture together.
I heard you were majoring in piano before you started working as a model.
I’ve been playing the piano since I was 7. My dream was to be a pianist. However, I’m different from the usual image of pianists. I like dancing and I like moving so much that I was a PE leader for three years.
I heard you participated in a super model contest before you started working as a model. I’m curious about it.
When I was in my third year of high school, I prepared the entrance exam to go to music college and major in piano. My teacher asked me if I had heard about this super model contest and suggest that I try out. However, I had never thought about being a model. I only played the piano. I had never looked at magazines. I was already 173cm, so I would always lean on a wall to look short [?]. I felt very embarrassed when I was told to go to this super model contest. Still, people around me said things like “if God doesn’t want you to do something, you’ll never succeed no matter how much you try. So, there’s no need to give up on this challenge”. They kept telling me all these nice things, so I was convinced and I said I’d try my best at the first round. Fortunately, I really managed to pass. I wasn’t afraid to be on stage because I had already participated in dance competitions. That’s why I faced the judges without fear, I didn’t shake when I was on stage, so fortunately for me, I got an award and I even advanced to the Asia festival. The super model winners had to be in an agency for a year, so as I gained some TV experience, I started working as a model.
Your first dream was to be a pianist, so is there anything you regret ?
I liked wearing dresses and playing the piano on stage, but I’m a lively person who enjoys dancing or standing in front of an audience. I guess that’s why modelling is good for me. I like the piano, but I think it would have been suffocating if I had kept going. When my teachers asked me how this modelling work was going, I said it was very fun/interesting. I’m very happy to do this job. (laugh) It’s a bit sad because I played the piano for 10 years, but I think I’ll be able to use this skill one day or another. I don’t play as well as I used to do, but once I start playing, I play for 7 or 8 hours. My fingers get more flexible as I play and I’m too much into the music to feel the struggle and I feel like I play for hours. Although I played the piano for 10 years, if I take even a short break, my fingers harden. I was quite sad when I saw this at first. Still, I’ll be able to play whenever and it’s a skill now, so I see things in a positive way.
You worked as a freelance model for a long time before you signed with your current agency, but I wonder about how you got to be a part of this agency.
I became a super model in 2008. For a year, I gained experience through SBS’ collection shows and TV and shows. I worked as a freelance model for nearly 3 years. I found the auditions for collection shows on my own. I also directly contacted and get contacted for ads. However, I was lucky. Although I worked as a freelance, I kept working constantly and I was able to gain experience. When I shot Simon D’s music video, I didn’t have a manager. I just got to film with a close unnie of mine. I easily get close to people, so I didn’t feel awkward on the set. (laugh) The people working at my agency were a part of the super model contest program, so they already knew me. They wanted me to work with them, but I wasn’t sure about my dream at that time. I had many worries, so it wasn’t an easy decision to make. However, doing TV, ads, collection shows made me realize that being a model was right for me. It was fun, so I worked on my own and still enjoyed what I did. Yet, although I managed to do 7 or 8 shows, no one knew me because I had no other way to get known. I didn’t have an agency, so I had no way to let others know about me. That’s why my first photo shoot was decided in a special way. The editor asked for my number when we were backstage and this was how it was decided. After working as a freelancer, I thought I needed something to make me grow and put me out there, so I joined the agency I’m with today. Before, the info was sent to me every day at school and there were many setbacks, so it was stressful for me. Now, I have people to take care of things like that and to handle my schedule, so I’m able to focus just on my work and it’s great. After working alone and gaining good experience, I joined the right agency.
That photo shoot you did because you caught the eye of the editor backstage, what kind of photo shoot was it?
It was for “Elle Girl”. It’s not that the editor asked for my number backstage and contacted me right away. It happened two years later and that’s how I got to do my first photo shoot. No matter how I look at it, you must put a lot of faith into the model you choose for a magazine photo shoot. I didn’t have an agency back then, so it must have been hard to find out info about me. I did my first photo shoot with Baek Ji Won and Ahn Jae Hyun.
Were you able to live well when you worked as a freelance model?
I was young back then. It was possible because living wasn’t just about what I earned. For a freelancer, I kept working constantly which I’m thankful for, so my life was okay.
How was your first time on the runway?
It was for designer Kim Si Hyang’s S/S collection in 2009. She doesn’t do fashion shows rigth now, she’s taking care of her own fashion company. Recetnly, she designed A-Pink’s outfits.
If it was for the S/S collection in 2009, that means you started working right after the 2008 super model contest?
Yes. I knew absolutely nothing about collection shows back then. I was told I had to take an audition and things went on naturally. Back then, I was surprised to see how big of a stage these collection stages were. While doing the contest, I took walking lessons for two months and I went straight to the runway with what I learned.
Have you always been thin and tall?
I was 170 cm when I was in my third year of middle school. I wasn’t really the type to put on weight. Today, I’m a bit taller than what I used to be back then, but my body frame changed. Compared to my weight when I did the super model contest, I weigh 7 kg more. I was so thin that I had never seen people with longer legs than mine [?].
You must have changed the way you take care of your body since your frame changed.
I had to. When I was young, I exercised a lot because I loved dancing, but when I was tired after I finished working, I went home and enjoyed snacks or a dessert, so I think I put on some weight. It was a coincidence that I weighed myself one day and I was surprised to see I had put on 7 kg. I thought to myself “I can actually gain weight”. I have never been on a diet, but I work out these days in the way it should be done. (laugh)
What was difficult about modelling?
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always enjoyed doing anything I did. That’s why I was never stressed out. Today, anything is just entertaining for me, anything feels great. Getting my make-up done and looking at a photo shoot plan, CF shooting or TV shooting, everything. There are many ways to get stressed, but I enjoy the work I do because it’s fun even if it’s hard.
Getting along with the photographer is a big influence on the final result, so it’s an important factor. Can you choose a photographer you worked well with?
Experts from different fields gathered and I’m putting out a book with this photo shoot. There were Ahn Joo Young from the Great Studio, make-up artist Ryu Hyun Jung, hair stylist Yoo Da and the concept was “Nolita”. I think this photo shoot really showed a good image of me. There was no big thing about the expressions or the poses. It was not superficial. I did it with no make-up and no hair styling. Ahn Joo Young really took good care of me, talked to me with honesty about charm and what would be good, so it was great. I’m really thankful. We also did a photo shoot for Buckaroo. The outcome was great too.
What have you been up to lately?
After I did many photo shoots with a cute and bright concept, I’ve been doing many beauty photo shoots. To the point I even say to myself “looks like I’m doing beauty photo shoots all week”. When I was a freelancer, I did the “PushBUTTON” show. Designer Park Seung Gun complimented my eyes and thought I was pretty, so I wore a crown and a bikini and did the finale. It was so much fun!
Do your modelling activities influence you?
I study the poses my sunbaes use during their photo shoots and I try to come up with own style. I often check out photo shoots. I must try, so I can get ideas and bring them to life. There are many important things, but I think the most important thing is what I gain through experience. And I must also try to go deeper through those experiences, so it can show later on.
What is the knowledge models must prepare themselves with?
I think self-discipline is very necessary and you must get rid of your illusions. Telling people who try that they must get rid of their illusions may sound cruel, but I think it’s necessary to be realistic. Modelling requires more things that you may think of and a lot of experience and discipline are important. If you don’t have these things, then you will lose your self-confidence and you will no longer enjoy doing this job. That’s how I feel. It can be said about anything else, but you must be humble. Especially now because models are getting more and more attention and their fandom is increasing, so models need to get that knowledge and be prepared.
Is there a model you’re close with?
In an interview she did with Cuvism, Baek Ji Won chose me, so I was quite happy. We talked a lot because we went to the same church before. We have the same interests, so we could understand each other and we could communicate, so we comforted each other. There’s Kwak Ji Young who is in the same agency. She’s smart and determined. She’s a good listener and gives me honest answers to my worries. She really understands me, so she’s a friend I can rely on.
How do you feel when you look at your own pictures?
It’s fun. (laugh) Before, it was even better if the pictures came out nice. Now, I want to try new things. More than pretty stuff, I want to challenge myself by doing more charismatic stuff. I want to do photo shoots that will reach the emotional limit.
Do you think about acting?
I’m definitely not an entertainer. My dream is to be one. My goal is to be the lead in “Legally Blonde”. I think it’s not something easy. That’s why I want to do enough modelling and prepare myself first. In a couple of years, I will audition.
You were in Lee Hyun’s “Because It’s You” and Simon D. “Stay Cool” music videos. It must have been something different for you. Do you have a funny story to share about the filming?
I really love shooting music videos because it allows you to express your talent as much as you want. I shot the “Because It’s You” music video with Do Sang Woo. I couldn’t sleep the night before, so it’s quite unfortunate that my face was so puffy. Although it had been a year, I still didn’t know what to do about it and my face was often bloated, I had bad skin. I didn’t know how to take care of it back then, so the result wasn’t pretty. I cried the first time. I felt that I would lose self-confidence if I didn’t take care of myself and I wouldn’t feel good about myself. I realized how important it was to take care of myself. In the music video, there’s an underwater scene. It was so much fun. However, it gave me an allergy to my ears. For Simon D “Stay Cool” music video, the concept was to be a model and take sexy poses. When the music was on, I would strike the pose. I spun around, tried various poses and flirted with the camera. It was really fun.
You worked with a lot of people on music videos or photo shoots. Did you get close with these people while working with them?
Zion.T and I talked when we were not filming, so we grew closer. There’s not more than one year of difference between Zion.T and me, so he told me to be comfortable in the way I talked to to him. Since we grew closer during this music video shooting, we met in Hongdae for a coffee or went to the noraebang. Zion.T doesn’t seem to have the voice to sing Yoo Jae Ha’s or Kim Jo Han’s songs, but he’s really good at singing them. (laugh) I also went to the Amoeba Culture studio to hang out with him. Seeing him work on his music made me think that he’s really a genius. It’s amazing how he’s able to create music although he didn’t study it.
You were also one of the hosts of On Style’s “Style Log” fashion program. Can you tell us about this experience?
I really worked hard. I debuted as a super model when I was 19, so I had many opportunities to be on TV. No one told me how MCing was supposed to be done. If there’s someone speaking at the same time, there’s an overlap on the audio. If you speak seriously, you look depressed. These are things I wasn’t aware of. That’s why I told myself that I should speak with a higher tone. I learned how to adapt quickly by working with people for music programs or celebrity news programs. It’s not just about reading the script, they also do ad-libs and add some flavor to what they say. I really worked hard by trying to follow their lead here and there.
Do you know that when we look up your name, the first result is “Lee Sung Kyung Jjangpocha”? It might be because you have experience as a MC and you did TV before, but you’re really a good VJ. How did you get to film this video?
The jjangpocha video was really filmed out of fun. It’s not that I wanted to try something like that. It’s just something we filmed like that. The Jjangpocha is a place ran by Kim Won Joong’s mother. We were doing our year-end party, it started snowing and we just decided to film there. I was pretending to be a reporter doing ad-libs and I had fun in front of the camera. When we go inside, you can see Kim Won Joong, Kim Chan and some other people who came to enjoy our year-end party, so I improvised questions to ask them. My older brother is the one who shot the video. He promised he’d never uploaded it online but only on Facebook. He told me “it’s okay, how many people would see if it’s on Facebook?”. However, through tagging, the video spread online and got out. (laugh) To be honest, it was embarrassing, but I’m thankful that so many people told me they enjoyed watching me with this carefree image. Thanks to this video, they recognizd me and paid attention to what I do, so I’m thankful. It was very fortunate.
You chose the 87 crew or Zion.T and Simon D as the people you’re close with, so I think many women must be jealous.
Most of my friends have always been boys since I was a kid. Even in front of my guy friends, I’m still crazy and I act openly. I don’t know why people would be jealous of me because I have close male friends, but I think fans might be. I think we just got close naturally because we did the 87MM shopping mall photo shoot together, and we also got to meet through many other photo shoots.
Do you have a role model?
I want to do musicals, because I have this goal, I want to make it come true. There are people I want to look like to, but I don’t have one specific role model. The model I like is Lee Hye Jung. Whenever I see her photo shoots or when she’s doing a show, I find her so charismatic that I even give an exclamation. She’s someone I’ve been admiring ever since I was a kid. She’s the model I love the most.
Is there a goal you want to achieve as a model?
I want to show diversity through the photo shoots I do. I also want to do better in the collection shows. Although I did many shows, there are always things I’m not satisfied with. (laugh) And I want to show a new charm through my work. I’m not exercising these days, so I must work a little bit harder.
The lifestyle of the charming Lee Sung Kyung who has bright energy
What do you usually do in your free time?
When I’m resting, I exercise and I get skin care. I do so many beauty photo shoots or shows that I have many skin problems. So I must go to the hospital. When I was taking a break, I used to see a lot of my friends until the evening. When a shooting is over, I would see them during my free time. However, I want to exercise or spend some time on my own, so I don’t make that many plans with them.
Is there something you’re interested in these days?
Musicals are the thing I’m the most interested in these days. I used to go to see musicals with two of my friends. However, one of them had an accident once, one had to go to the ER. That day, I went to the musical by myself and I realized I was more focused and it was good. Besides, I was in the VIP section, so I wanted to see everything and even the slightest expression of the actors. I don’t have friends who are invested this much, so I’m enjoying these cultural activities by myself.
Looking at your street pictures, you seem quite lively. What do your friends think about you?
I’m just “Kkap-Kyung” (laugh) They say that they think I’m coy or slick before they get to know me, but once they do know me, they often say they’re surprised to see how wild I can be. I’m being serious these days, so I don’t play around. I’m trying my best for this interview. (laugh)
We can see you often on the 87 crew pictures. Who are you close with?
I’m close with almost all the models I worked with. It’s not just the ones who are in the same agency as me. I’m also close with [missing] There’s also Zion.T I became close with him while we shot a music video. There are also Shinji from Superstar K, Park Kwang Sun from Ulala Session and model Choi Joon Young. I’ve known Zion.T before he got famous. People don’t know things like this, so they think I know a lot of people. (laugh) It’s great how working as a model allowed me to meet nice people. I’m thankful.
I saw the picture you took with EXO-K. How did it happen?
I was with EXO-K when I was going to the Lee Sang Bong show in Jeju Island. We were all together backstage. The makeup artist who took care of me was the one in charge of EXO-K, so she asked for a picture to celebrate this moment. We did and it was uploaded online. (laugh)
You have a lot of female friends, so what do you think makes you so appealing to them?
I think it’s because I have this “unnie-next-door” vibe. My fanclub members do charity in my name, they make me suprises. I’m really thankful. Not long ago, 20 persons gathered some money and they made a memo board for my teacher. Yet, there’s nothing I can do for them in return. I’m only on the receiving hand, so I’m very sorry. That’s why I take pictures and upload them. Sometimes, I meet some members of my fanclub. The fanclub members are close, so they even hold some gatherings between them. Not long ago, I secretly told only one person and I paid them a surprise visit once I was done filming. I bought them some nice food, we talked and we had fun. I think the ones who like me enjoy more this image than a distant and cold image like a celebrity usually has. That’s why they share a lot of their worries. So I listen to them and I cheer them on. I was so shy when people asked for my autograph at first. I was so curious that I asked them why they were asking for my autograph. (laugh) It’s great that these people show me unchanging love and emotion.
As someone who is dreaming of being a musical actress, what efforts are you making to make this dream come true?
I studied singing for a month, but I couldn’t keep going to the singing academy because I was working and going to school at the same time. Still, I’m almost done with school, so I’m planning to try and study singing. I watched ‘Legally Blonde’a lot, I memorized every dance, every song and every move.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I think I will be happyly working as a musical actress. I think I will manage a café with my mom. I will sometimes invite some people at the café and hold parties. I will be traveling a lot and I will keep working on new projects. I’ll be 34 in ten years, but I will try my best to keep a young heart. I’d be quite happy if the brief image of me you have live go on into reality. (laugh)
Please say something to our Cuvism readers.
Thank you so much for reading this interview. Thank you for being nice to me, although I still lack a lot. I’ll work hard to show you a good image so you will always show me love and interest.
T/n: So I had been working on this translation for a couple of months. I thought I had saved the Korean file… It turned out that I didn’t. I think Cuvism will be back up at some point, so when it does I will get the missing names and words. Sorry.
Original interview: Cuvism
Translation: @onesunnylady – thesunnytown.com