Meeting and talking with other people is my professional mission, so I’m trying not to give too much meaning to one person’s personality, but the afterimage that some of them whose great achievement discovered through an unexpected way can last long. Once the interview was over, I went to the editing department and I complimented him to the point my mouth got dry. I’m talking about rookie model Nam Joo Hyuk I had my eyes on during the 2014 S/S Seoul Fashion Week. He isn’t extraordinary handsome, but he’s a 20-year old with a face that stands out the more you look at him. I pictured him as an “umchina” [t/n: the son every mom dreams to have] with a good behavior, but his bright spirit and specific strong will for winning coming from his athlete past secretly surprised me. One reason to be happy about meeting someone who just started is being able to foresee his still unshaped future. One-hour conversation isn’t enough to figure out everything about Nam Joo Hyuk, but I can bet on one thing, “this kid made it”. It’s the reason I kept repeating in the editing room after the interview was over “I guarantee you he will do great things”.
Hello. Please introduce yourself.
I’m rookie model Nam Joo Hyuk who is in the K Plus agency and I debuted during the 2014 S/S Seoul Fashion Week. I’m 20. (laugh)
You actually met a Cuvism reporter in the showroom of Munsoo Kwon during the 2014 S/S season. Do you remember? (laugh)
This Seoul Fashion Week was my debut stage, so I was too nervous and I didn’t really pay attention.
First of all, let’s hear about when you started dreaming to be a model.
It was around the time I was in my 3rd year of middle school. While I was reading a magazine, I told to myself that the models looked very cool, so how about I try it too?.
Did you start growing tall when you were in your 3rd year of middle school?
When I was in elementary school, I was short. I started playing basketball in 6th grade. Although I wasn’t tall, the team needed someone who was fast. (laugh) After I started playing basketball, I actually grew up to 30 cm. That’s why I remember that my height was already over 180cm when I was in my 3rd year of middle school.
If you played basketball back then, school girls must have been swarming all around you.
Unfortunately, I attended an all-boy school. (laugh) Still, I think it was a good thing because I was able to focus only on basketball. (laugh)
Why did you suddenly turn to modelling after playing basketball?
I had been playing basketball since elementary school and I got injured when I was in my third year of middle school. My skills were really improving. It was unfortunate because I had received offers to be recruited on the high school basketball team, but I quit sports. (laugh) That’s why I sat down again at a desk, but studying was really not my path. (laugh) I was in the athletic club, so I couldn’t really attend all my classes. I had to rush to catch up with the others and it wasn’t easy. It was around that time that I started looking at this job called modelling. I’m from Busan, and I think my dream grew as I moved to Suwon around that time. Seoul is more accessible from Suwon, so I thought it’d be easier to go back and forth and do model activities. (laugh)
Once you quit sports and moved to Suwon, did you attend an academic high school?
I did. I still hated studying, though. (laugh)
It’s quite easy for the high schoolers who are tall and good at sports to follow the wrong path. (laugh) How were you during your school days?
You’re right. The tall kids who are good at sports have a little bit of this tendency. However, the homeroom teacher I had since my first year lead me well, so I didn’t go astray. Even if I didn’t something wrong, he always paid close attention to me. I think he was more severe only with me. Like he would say “don’t do something bad”? He hit me a lot. (laugh) Later on, I studied hard to because I hated being hit. I think it’s thanks to that I didn’t get in trouble during my school days. Teacher, thank you! (laugh)
So did you attend a model academy since high school?
When I was in my second year of high school, I auditioned for a model academy without telling my parents about it. My parents had told me they wouldn’t send me anyway. That’s why I gave up and went back to a regular school. (laugh) I gave up on being an athlete, but I kept playing basketball as a hobby. My skills improved quite fast, and I even won a few street basketball competitions.
Are you still good at basketball today?
I’m still a part of the biggest basketball team in Suwon. It’s called “Suwon Bisang” [t/n: I guess it can be translated as “Suwon Emergency”]. I play guard. (laugh) I even represented Suwon in a competition. I received the MVP award. (laugh) Of course, it wasn’t an official competition. It was a “street basketball competition”. (laugh)
I see. You’re 20 now, are you in college?
No. I didn’t go to college. I thought going to college wasn’t necessary for me. I was definitely not good at studying. Hahaha. (smile) I must be honest about it. (smile)
Since you had a precise dream about being a model, so it seems that you were able to make this decision because you had conviction. So when did you start attending a model academy?
When I turned 20, I read an ad about the “Model 1-day experience” program organized by K Plus. You have one day to study and you take an audition after a short period of practice. The person who ranks first is given a scholarship to attend the K Plus Academy. Being a model is the only thing I have ever wanted to become, so I decided to try at least once because I had never properly tried before. There were about 50 contestants, but I’m the one who ranked first. (smiles) That’s why I ended up attending the K Plus model academy for three months starting from May this year and without my parents’ help.
How were the 3 months you spent at the model academy?
It’s a place where we all share the same dream, so the only thing I had in mind was that I must do better. It’s a war everywhere you look. I think I just work hard blindly in order to survive. (smile) Since I was an athlete in my childhood, I have a strong will to win. You can get back in the game anytime if you stand out and are better than the others even just once. I think I was dedicated to modelling with the same mindset. I didn’t have particular skills to make myself stand out, but the good results I had were only because I worked hard for it.
Where would you rank yourself among the ones in your league? Your friend model Lee Chul Woo said confidently in a recent interview that he’d count them on one hand among 60 trainees.
Hm, I guess I’d say the same. Isn’t it like how I ranked first in the “1-Day Model experience” competition? (smile) I’m kidding. Once I finished the 3-month course, I signed a contract with the agency right away at the end of August. My first show was the PLAC Jean’s 2013 F/W show. It was my first time seeing all the other hyungs. Male models like Won Joongie-hyung, Ki Yongie-hyung, Hyung Seopie-hyung, Ahn Chae Hyun-hyung, they were all there.
How was your debut stage?
The atmosphere was thrilling even backstage. When it was actually my turn, I walked on stage and I saw absolutely nothing. I could only see the lights on the runway, so I couldn’t actually see the audience. I felt like there was a wall on both sides of the stage. I was so nervous that I felt like I was just walking following the track. (laugh) I didn’t make big mistakes, but I have some regrets because I feel like I could have done better.
What were you disappointed about?
The fact that I wasn’t able to show my natural image on stage. After that, I practiced my walk a lot.
Are you satisfied of your walk now?
I want to give off a vibe rather than show a good walk. (laugh) When the model is too overwhelming, his walk won’t stand out. I’m trying to find my own special feel. I think it’s not something that can be acquired only through blind practice. That’s why I also do image training. I’m working hard in my own way.
The few brand shows you did made you understand your strengths and your weaknesses and this was when you got the opportunity to be a part of the Seoul Fashion Week.
Yes. Although I debuted last year during the 2014 S/S season, I did 10 shows. Everything was a first experience for me. All the things that I had dreamed of finally came true. I was very nervous on my first day of the Fashion Week.
As a rookie, it must be hard to keep your mind straight when you get so many good opportunities so fast. How do you handle it?
It’s something I’m always cautious about. To be honest, modelling is a job when you can’t know if you’ll sink or not. I’m only starting now, there are still many things I’m lacking in. I have yet to sort out what my obvious strong points as a model are. However, as soon as I started, I ended up working excessively. When I listen to the debut stories of the hyungs who are active today, they say they did one or two shows during their first collection season. I did 10 shows right from the start. I’m quite happy, but I think I’ll be disappointed in myself if I can’t do more shows next season. That’s why I can do nothing but work harder.
What was the most memorable moment of your Seoul Fashion Week debut shows?
The last show on my first day schedule was Kang Dong Jun’s D.GNAK show, but it wasn’t regular walking. The show was freely conducted without a precise walk guide. I jumped out from the audience in the middle. (laugh) It’s my most memorable show.
You must have been quite nervous since you’re a rookie. Weren’t you anxious?
During rehearsal, Kang Dong Jun said “if you can’t joke around and have fun on the runway, leave now”. It was my first Seoul collection, so it was enough to make me very nervous, so I was confused when he gave this offhand order. I said I wouldn’t know how to do it. (smile) Anyway, I appeared in the audience and I followed along the music. This show made me release a lot of stress and I was able to enjoy it. And three people of the audience behind this wall I felt both sides of the runway came in my line of sight. (smile) I think it was the opportunity to break my own limits.
What efforts are you making today after the collection season?
After that, I watched much more closely the way the hyungs walk and I think each of them has their own vibe. I think this is something I must also have. Having people remember this feel as soon as they say “Nam Joo Hyuk”. That’s what I’m working on right now. The vibe I give off while I’m doing a photo shoot, my expressions must be diversified. I think my expressions aren’t diverse enough, so I’m checking a lot of the photo shoots my hyungs did. I check out a lot of Do Sang Woo-hyung’s photo shoots these days. I think the variety of his expressions is rich. (smile)
I looked it up online and you’re said to look alike many celebrities. Tell us your own list of celebrities you think you look alike.
Ah, should I say it myself? (laugh) Hm, let’s try? (laugh) I often hear that I look like actor Lee Hyun Woo. This is a bit embarrassing. Should I really say it myself? (laugh) These days, I also hear that I look like B1A4 Baro who is playing “Bingeurae” in “Reply 1994”, and CN Blue Lee Jung Shin. And of course I don’t think we look alike, but these are the people fans say we look alike. (laugh)
And what about an actor who is currently doing activities under a stage name? Do you know the actor whose real name is Uhm?
Oh, right! Uhm Hong Sik. It’s actor Yoo Ah In. (laugh) I think I hear a lot that we look alike. I’m thankful, but it makes me shy too. I’m just Nam Joo Hyuk. (laugh)
All the celebrities you mentionned are actors or singers who branched out into acting. I wonder if you don’t also dream of becoming an actor. (laugh)
I have no desire for acting yet because my dream was to be a model. I started as a model first, so I must reach the peak as a model, right? (laugh)
Do you have set yourself for what is a “model peak”?
I have never thought about it concretely, but isn’t the peak when everybody ackwnoledges you? (laugh) I thinks success is when someone who despises me thinks “Nam Joo Hyuk really did well”. (laugh)
Seems like there’s something more right there. Do you hold a grudge or something? (laugh)
I don’t have none. (laugh) I’m kidding. It’s not a grudge, but it’s more like stimulation. There are people who compliment me when I do a photo shoot sometimes, but there are also people who say “kids like you are quite common”. Since I’m getting started, comments like this are a bit hurtful. (laugh) But what I have today is because I’m standing among those with common faces, right? (laugh) I’m trying hard to make it happen.
Is there a designer you’d like to walk the runway for?
My teenage image is still quite strong, so I want to do the “Beyond Closet” show of Ko Tae Yong, and I did the opening for “Beyond Closet” at the “Cutting Ede Fashion W Hotel & Céci” show that W Hotel and Céci organized together. (laugh) Munsoo Kwon by Kwon Mun Soo is nice too and I like Choi Bum Seok too. I definitely want to work for Song Hye Myung’s “Dominic’s Way”, but she said I didn’t really match her brand image because Dominic’s Way is for models with a fierce and unique image. However, if my image changes as I get older, I might be able to walk the runway for her? (laugh) And I’m also interested in “Steve J & Yoni P”. Later on, I definitely want to be a part of a “Kim Seo Ryong Homme” show. I think you upgrade to another level once you did this show.
Before talking to you, I pictured you as some “cool model student”. It’s not the case!
My style isn’t the one of a model student. As a model, I want to show more the bad boy image than the model student image. The model student image is restrictive, but the bad boy can be expressed through various different ways. (laugh)
Are you studying wrong behaviors in order to get this bad boy image?
Hahaha. No. It’s not like that. Still, I want to give off this mischevious vibe one day.
Right now, Lee Hyun Woo’s image is strong, but you’ll get the tough image similar to Yoo Ah In as your image slowly develops.
I’m trying my best to make it happen that way. (laugh)
How do you want people to describe you five years from now?
I want people to say “his image is very different from when he debuted”. Righ now, I hear the words “he’s cute” a lot. To be honest, as a man, it’s better to hear that you’re manly rather than you’re cute. (laugh) I want to have this masculine vibe. Becoming more handsome as I’m improving? (laugh) I hope my image will be a bit more carefree and mischevious than it is today. I’m planning to keep the cute until I’m done with braces, though. (laugh) I’m currently getting my teeth straightened. It should be over some time around next summer. After that, I will change from a boy to a man. (laugh)
Have you already made precise plans? (laugh)
Yes. I think you must have big goals in order to have strong will. Right now, I think the activities I’m doing are right for my age, but I’m determined to develop fast. (laugh) I feel like there’s something inside of me. Some kind of charm that has yet to come out. Hahaha. It’s nice to be a model loved by his fans, but I want to be recognized for being qualified to be a model. This is definitely why I work hard to become a charismatic model like that.
Translation: @thesunnytown – thesunnytown.wordpress.com