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Since K-pop group 2NE1 went on hiatus in 2014, Sandara Park has tried her hand at all kinds of arty disciplines. Now that the group has officially disbanded, she’s set to make her mark on the film industry with a starring role in One Step.
Mention the name Sandara Park to anyone who’s heard of the Hallyu wave and it will elicit a cloudburst of descriptions – singer, actress, TV personality, social media influencer, fashion rebel, celebrity endorser, world traveler, all-around superstar. Park is the complete package as far as the entertainment industry is concerned, but the perky and petite South Korean pace-setter continues to search for more worlds to conquer.
“I still have many unfulfilled dreams,” she says, reflecting on a successful career that has been riding the crest of fame for over a decade. “I want to make my own albums and go on tour, get more acting jobs and host my own radio program.” While other idols have secured their future by funneling their hard-earned money into various entrepreneurial pursuits beyond the entertainment industry, Park admits that in her particular case, there is no Plan B. “I have no interest in anything that is not music- or arts related,” she asserts. “Improving myself is my only investment.”
The winsome girl from Busan, South Korea, had her first taste of the limelight in 2004 when she starred in an interactive reality show in the Philippines, where she moved with her family at the age of 10. With her lively, quirky personality she became a runaway success with a string of blockbuster movies, TV programs and solo albums to her name.
Three years later, at the height of K-pop’s global popularity, she bid farewell to her career in Manila and joined one of Korea’s biggest agencies, YG Entertainment. After spending two years in the company’s training pool, she was given a coveted spot as one-quarter of phenomenal girl group 2NE1. Since their 2009 debut, critics and music lovers across the globe have hailed 2NE1 as a game-changer. Smashing the predictable “cute and sexy” girl group stereotypes with their brash attitude and fearless fashion sense, they built a solid discography that has unleashed 65 million digital singles sales worldwide. However, in a move that isn’t uncommon in the Korean music industry, the agency placed the group on an extended break after its All or Nothing world tour in 2014, leaving the members free to pursue individual projects. The band officially disbanded in November 2016, though Park is still being managed by YG Entertainment.
Despite missing the rush of going onstage and performing as 2NE1’s “Dara”, the pragmatist in Park quickly kicked in and she began hustling for solo activities, which included realizing a long-cherished dream of becoming an actress in South Korea. Following the success of her popular web dramas (Dr. Ian, We Broke Up and Missing Korea) and a comedy skit that went viral – where she played the love interest of Korean-American actor Steven Yeun – Park has finally been given the chance to star in her first feature film. In One Step she plays a young woman who loses her memory in a car accident and begins to “see” sounds in color. The movie, an adaptation of the Hollywood film Begin Again starring Keira Knightley, is scheduled for a 2017 international release following successful premieres in Hong Kong and Cannes.
Meanwhile, Park is also fast becoming a notable presence in the front row of important fashion events. Her first major outing was at New York Fashion Week, when she showed up at the Givenchy spring collection parade in Pier 26 wearing a black leather poncho that provided a gritty counterpoint to her heavily lined cat eyes and flaming red lips.
Last September, she made a splash at Milan Fashion Week as guest editor of Cosmopolitan Korea and was seen diligently at work on the frontlines of the Fendi, Diesel Gold and Moschino shows. Maverick designer Jeremy Scott, Moschino’s artistic head and captain of his own line, also happens to be an old friend who dressed up 2NE1 in outrageous threads for their very first world tour.
Park’s increased visibility in the world capitals of fashion has caught the attention of Vogue, who dubbed her their “new girl crush” and extolled the trendsetting choices that have made her one of K-pop’s most influential style icons. Since debuting with 2NE1, Park has shown a preference for unconventional attire that’s best described as eclectic,fresh and personalized. While known to match high-end labels with upand- coming indie brands for her public appearances, she’s frequently
spotted sporting the latest addition to her infinite collection of upmarket sneakers and caps, as well as ripped denims and oversized jackets swiped from the men’s section.
“I’ve always worked very closely with professional stylists in creating my look,” Park reveals. “Other YG Entertainment artists also helped and inspired me to find my own style. Since many of them are hiphop warriors with very strong taste in fashion, their influence led me to take on an image that was unique and different from other female artists out there today. I really like that.”
At the age of 32, as with everything else that has defined her career, Park continues to defy the standard formulas for success – choosing to remain authentic, even imperfect, in the world of the fabricated and contrived. Asked how she maintains her flawless, radiant glow, she modestly replies that there is no big secret: “I take good care of my skin, use mask packs at home, get regular massages and surround myself with positive people. I like being around friends who give out good vibes – I learn from them every day. I believe that in order to stay young, it’s very important to live happily.”
Despite her punishing schedule, she always makes time to unwind. Her frequent business travels are often bookended by side trips, where she transforms into “Tourist Dara”. This alter ego’s colorful exploits in discovering new destinations, sampling unfamiliar flavors, shopping the streets for unusual finds and embarking on thrill-seeking adventures are faithfully chronicled in detail to the millions who follow her on several social media platforms.
“I can’t pinpoint all of my favorite travel destinations, but the Philippines will always be one of them because it’s my second home,” Park says. “I also like to visit Tokyo, Singapore and New York. Those places make me feel good and get me all excited. Unfortunately, there is no way I can travel incognito,” she laughs. “Social media is too active these days, and there are fans all over the world who always recognize me. But when I travel alone, they also cheer me up with their presence and try to help me with a lot of things, so I can’t complain. It’s very heartwarming.”
– Angela Blardony Ureta