‘The Wonder Girls’ – How The TV Movie Helped Set The Stage For Korean Pop’s Global Takeover In 2012

A decade ago, K-pop had already established itself as a force in Asia and found niche audiences around the world. But it was soon turned into a truly global phenomenon after Psy’s YouTube-breaking “Gangnam Style” went viral in the summer of 2012. Powered by a galloping dance and bonkers music video, K-pop became a buzz word that even your American parents suddenly knew about.

Six months earlier in 2012, though, a very different effort at introducing Korean pop to Western audiences had played out in the form of a made-for-TV movie, starring a septet who’d actually marked K-pop’s debut on the Billboard Hot 100 three years earlier. 

The Wonder Girls was a 40-minute film starring the Korean group of the same name, co-produced by K-pop company JYP Entertainment and Nick Cannon’s N’Credible company, which premiered on the TeenNick channel in February 2012. The story follows the outfit on their first tour of the United States, with the Wonder Girls — at the time consisting of Kim Yu-bin, Park Ye-eun, Woo Hye-rim, Ahn So-hee and Min Sun-ye, on top of Korean entertainment after a string of hit singles and equally big across Asia — exploring New York city and getting into assorted hijinks. It culminates with them entering a talent competition at the Apollo Theater (where they face off against an American group called School Gyrls, from a different Cannon-produced movie). It’s a fish-out-of-water story geared towards younger audiences.

The TV movie became a K-pop curio, an obscure bit of trivia for fans. Yet a decade later, as K-pop has grown into a major entertainment force in the U.S., The Wonder Girls special seems more like an important moment in the history of Korean entertainment trying to break America, and one hinting at how future groups and companies would vault to the top of music and social media charts.

“The whole point of this was to introduce American audiences to K-pop,” The Wonder Girls writer Krystal M. Harris tells Billboard. “The Wonder Girls were super huge, can’t-walk-down-the-street celebrities at the time in Korea – but over here, not so much…”

K-pop heavyweights had attempted to cross over into the States before Wonder Girls, but with little success. The singer Rain embarked on an ultimately doomed North American tour in 2007, while ‘00s superstar BoA released an English-language album in 2009, complete with hype-generating music videos, but was met with middling sales outside of her home region. 

Wonder Girls had debuted in 2006 as the first girl group in Park Jin-young’s eponymous JYP Entertainment stable. They quickly gained popularity, before the 2008 retro-tinged number “Nobody” turned them into a greater regional force. Their ambitions grew.

“It was about January 2009 when we were invited to JYP’s U.S. concert as the opening guest, and we heard that people loved our performance,” former Wonder Girls’ member Kim Yu-bin, better known as Yubin, says via email to Billboard. “That’s when we started trying to enter the U.S. market.

The quintet became the first K-pop group to mount a serious push into the U.S. market. They signed with Creative Artists Agency and, in a preview of how Korean artists would come to use U.S. talk shows as a launch pad, appeared on The Wendy Williams Show to perform a song and quickly introduce themselves. Most notably, they served as one of the opening acts for The Jonas Brothers, then at the peak of their Disney-pop superstardom, on their 2009 U.S. tour. 

It all would have just been a nice memory if Wonder Girls didn’t make history in the process. Propelled by the Jonas Brothers tour, “Nobody” debuted at number 76 on the Billboard Hot 100. That was the first time a K-pop artist ever appeared on the chart. “Towards the end of the tour, JYP told us we would be starring in a movie,” Yubin says. 

The film needed a director, and it found one in music video director Ethan Ladern – who previously worked with artists such as B.o.BOneRepublic and Bruno Mars. A producer he knew worked closely with Cannon, and he eventually was brought on to direct. “We were doing a grand introduction of the Wonder Girls to the States,” Ladder tells Billboard. It was obviously important that we wanted to show off their singing skills and their talent, and it was about making them really fun.” 

Harris, meanwhile, had previously worked with Lader on music videos, and came on board initially as a cast director. First, though, everyone involved needed a first draft of the script to come in. “The script was…a bit offensive,” Harris says. “We were putting Koreans into America, and the script was relying on stereotypical jokes.” She stepped up and volunteered to take a look at it. 

She cleaned up the rough bits – which, beyond racist gags, also included the main American character and love interest of member Yenny being named “DJ Nuts, or something relating to a man’s parts.” She changed his name to DJ Skillz, and tightened everything else up, all without losing the TeenNick vibe. “I didn’t have a huge background in anything Korean, but I know when something is a bit insensitive,” she says. 

The Wonder Girls earned Harris her first professional writing credit. She still had to cast the film too, which presented further challenges. “It was a non-union film, so that means my talent pool was going to be a lot of green actors,” Harris says. She describes many auditions as “very, very interesting” – but with some diamonds present, such as Wes Aderhold, who was cast as DJ Skillz. “He just knew how to smolder in the right teen way.”

At the time, Aderhold was a fledgling actor based in Los Angeles with only a few credits to his name. “I obviously wanted to portray a DJ authentically, so I watched countless videos of DJs and went to my friends who spin and mix, and watch them,” Aderhold tells Billboard of how he prepared for shooting, alongside working with his acting coach at the time. 

The Wonder Girls prepped too, for what would be one of their first forays into acting. “We took acting classes as a group and worked on our English pronunciation and language skills,” Woo Hye-rim, better known as Lim, tells Billboard through email. “Thankfully, our characters were based on our real-life personalities, so it wasn’t that hard to get into the character.” 

Language, though, loomed as a challenge. Prior to shooting The Wonder Girls, the group had only needed to use English in a handful of promotional situations, like their aforementioned TV appearances (though Yubin spent part of high school in San Jose). “It was hard enough to act in Korean, but to act in English was even more challenging,” Yubin says. “There was a scene where we had to argue, and that was the most challenging for us. Just imagine having a serious argument with broken English. That was hilarious. It was really hard to keep a straight face.”

Lader, on the other hand, doesn’t remember there being many hurdles for the group – recalling early takes coming off as dry, but with everyone finding their rhythm gradually. “Actually, what I remember was during dress rehearsals, the girls already knowing everything by heart,” he says. “They came prepared and were ready to take the challenge.” Aderhold noticed the same professionalism while acting with them. “I don’t believe any of the girls had acted before. So there was this excitement of doing something for the first time and realizing they were really good at it. That was fun energy to play off of.”

Everyone interviewed about the actual filming of The Wonder Girls recalls it being fun, albeit frantic to finish everything in a short amount of time. Visual gags happened in the moment — including JYP, playing the role of overprotective manager, opting to wear silly pajamas and an eye mask in one scene — while unforeseen challenges like filming above a kickboxing gym added unforeseen stress (“Everytime the ‘ding’ happened between rounds, that’s when we shoot scenes,” Lader says).

“I want to say the Wonder Girls got like three hours of sleep, because they were shooting with us for 12, 15 hours, and then they’d rehearse their dance sequences and then they’d have to be back on set early in the morning,” Harris says.

Some of the fond memories stem from The Wonder Girls’ off-set freedom. Harris recalls the crew talking about making plans to go out, “and the girls were so excited about it because nobody was going to know who they were. They weren’t going to be hounded like they usually were when they went out. For this one moment in time, they were able to just be young women, having fun.”

The film premiered in February 2012, at a time when K-pop was taking more serious strides into the U.S. market. At the same time as The Wonder Girls, compatriots Girls’ Generation promoted their English-language release “The Boys” on American TV shows, including a somewhat surreal performance on The David Letterman Show with Bill Murray and Regis Philbin watching on. In July of that year, Wonder Girls shared their big swing at the English-language markets (and a number previewed in their movie), “Like Money,” featuring Akon and a video directed by Lader, featuring the Wonder Girls reimagined as cyborgs. While performing well on Korean charts, the song largely breezed by the intended American audiences.

Five days after that clip debuted, though, “Gangnam Style” appeared on YouTube. Its soon-to-be mega-success underlined something the K-pop industry had actually taken advantage of before and what would become necessary moving forward – easy access online. The Wonder Girls could only be viewed when TeenNick broadcast it (or through illegal streaming sites) in 2012. Currently, the best place to view it is on YouTube via fan uploads.

“I often watch the clips on YouTube — the movie makes me feel refreshed,” Yubin says, while Hyerim also says she revisits it via these unofficial uploads.

The lack of access hurt its overall reach, but The Wonder Girls did foreshadow an approach that would become crucial in K-pop’s future promotion — creating a shared bond between fan and performer. “Just like the message we give in the movie, we wanted to share our journey with our fans; the journey to success in the U.S. as a foreign idol group from South Korea,” Hyerim says. 

Despite being scripted, the movie aimed to show new viewers who the members of this group were, while also giving existing fans a different perspective on their favorites. This approach is commonplace today, whether through social media or more slice-of-life offerings like Blackpink’s Netflix documentary or aespa’s New York trip diary (including a chat with Nick Cannon).

“In my experience, they were really the first time time a group came out like, ”I want to go to the States. I want to plant our flag, and have K-pop be recognized for how amazing it is,” Lader says. “Now flash forward to someone like BTS, and if there aren’t those forebearers leading the way, they don’t get the same opportunity.”

Lader is still directing music videos, for artists such as David Guetta and NLE Choppa, while working on other projects. Aderhold recently moved to New York to pursue artistic ambitions, and says that the last time he saw the movie “was two or three years ago…my friends put it on the big screen, while we were having mimosas.” Harris kept in touch with The Wonder Girls via Facebook for a bit after, and focused on her acting and writing career.

The Wonder Girls marked the first serious effort to introduce K-pop into the United States, a process that has paid off in recent years. Yet for Yubin, there’s something more personal to it: “The most fabulous thing is that the movie allowed me to reminisce about our time in the U.S. The people that I met during shooting the film and the experience that I was on the scene are unforgettably precious to me.”

The Wonder Girls never pushed too much into the U.S. market after 2012, and the group disbanded in 2017. While not held up as an important step in K-pop’s push into the United States, The Wonder Girls marked the moment of an industry’s ambitions becoming much more serious. 

“It was a brand new market not only for our group, but for a K-pop group to debut in the U.S.,” Hyerim recalls. “Regardless of the result, I enjoyed the challenge as I believe it made our group stronger as a team and also left us with such a special memory. If I could turn back time, I would do the same without a doubt.”

Source: Billboard

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Wendy’s Rips Into McDonald’s French Fries In Savage New Billboard

Fast-food rivalries have been longstanding, and perhaps no rivalry has been more fun to watch over social media than that between Wendy’s and McDonald’s.

From Wendy’s savagely slamming the Golden Arches on Twitter over the seemingly forever broken ice cream machines to the former calling its new hot honey chicken sandwich “anything but McBland,” it’s safe to say that the two know how to riff each other when it comes to who reigns supreme.

Wendy’s latest not-so-subtle campaign is taking it one step further, and it looks like social media has caught on rather quickly.

Over the past few months, Wendy’s has put billboards up around Chicago advertising its famous French fries after the recipe was reformulated in August 2021 to maintain a fresher and crispier consistency upon delivery.

“What we’ve done is balance the cut of the fry and kept a little bit of the skin of the potato on the fry to be able to drive flavor,” Wendy’s President Kurt Kane said at the time. “We used a batter system that allows us to be able to maintain crispiness, both when they’re fresh and hot out of the fryer as well as several minutes later.”

The billboards read “hot and crispy fries don’t arch, just sayin’” alongside a photo of a folded fry that has an uncanny resemblance to half of the “M” in the famous McDonald’s Golden Arches symbol.

Naturally, Twitter took note and had a field day with it.

“I have tears in my eyes from laughing so much,” one user commented below one of the billboard photos. “I love how savage @Wendys is.”

“Twitter’s not enough..so we’re taking it to the streets now, huh, Wendy’s,” another joked alongside a crying laughing emoji.

Wendy’s even tweeted back a sly face emoji at one of the original posters, playing along with the social media fodder.

The fast-food chain still maintains that their fries are preferred 2:1 to McDonald’s.

Your move, Mickey D’s.

Wendy’s was up 12.59% year over year as of Friday afternoon.

Source: Entrepreneur

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos And Doritos Tease New Super Bowl Ad And A Mysterious Celebrity Spokesperson

Flamin’ Hot has its first ever Super Bowl ad on the way, and they’ve recruited a flamin’ hot celebrity spokesperson to help them celebrate!

Frito-Lay, the company behind the über-popular flavor, is bringing two of its iconic brands together — Cheetos and Doritos — for the new Flamin’ Hot spot, highlighting Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Crunchy and the new Doritos Flamin’ Hot Cool Ranch.

PEOPLE has an exclusive first look at the commercial, and the A-List superstar talent holding the spicy, cheese-flavored snacks for the camera.

Right now, the identity of the spokesperson is being kept under wraps, though there are plenty of clues to get the guessing going.

In the photos, the mysterious celeb’s hand is decked in bling. A diamond bracelet hangs from their wrist, while one pic features a sparkling braided ring and another, a golden ring seemingly made up of stacked yellow diamond bands.

The secret star’s nails make a statement, too, with bright red tips studded in red gems.

This is one of the first Super Bowl ads to be teased this year.

The big game, Super Bowl LVI, will take place on Feb. 13 at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.

While sports fans are weeks away from finding out who will be playing, it’s been announced that Dr. Dre is headlining the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show, with EminemMary J. BligeKendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg making guest appearances.

“The opportunity to perform at the Super Bowl Halftime show, and to do it in my own backyard, will be one of the biggest thrills of my career,” Dre in a press release when news came out back in September. “I’m grateful to JAY-Z, Roc Nation, the NFL, and Pepsi as well as Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar for joining me in what will be an unforgettable cultural moment.”

Frito-Lay’s Flamin’ Hot flavor was first introduced as Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, the product making it out to test markets in the summer of 1990 before being launched nationwide in early 1992.

Richard Montañez — who began working for Frito-Lay as a janitor — has long said he created the product, telling Variety he came up with the idea during one of Frito-Lay’s “method improvement programs” where they looked for new ideas and fresh products. He later tested out the seasoning for the Cheetos in his garage.

Frito-Lay’s subsidiary PepsiCo later clarified to PEOPLE that they attribute “the launch and success of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and other products to several people who worked at PepsiCo, including Richard Montañez.”

“Far from being an urban legend, Richard had a remarkable 40-plus-year career at PepsiCo and made an incredible impact on our business and employees and continues to serve as an inspiration today,” the statement read. “His insights and ideas on how to better serve Hispanic consumers were invaluable and directly resulted in the success of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.”

Montañez has gone on to write two books about his success, spoken about it in multiple engagements, and even will see his life told on the big screen in an upcoming biopic.

And the beloved spicy snack food has since inspired a sea of unique food offerings — like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Mac n’ Cheese, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Mountain Dew, and Taco Bell’s Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Taco Shells — as well as a seemingly never-ending list of at-home recipes involving the product, including sushi rollschicken fingersmozzarella sticks, and even macarons.

Source: People

Eating A Hot Dog Shaves 36 Minutes Off A Human Life, Study Says – Nathan’s Champion Joey Chestnut Isn’t Worried

Researchers at the University of Michigan released a peer-reviewed study last week claiming that eating a single hot dog can take 36 minutes off of a human’s life. In contrast, the study found that eating nuts could add 26 minutes to someone’s lifespan. 

That study could cause someone to think twice about devouring a frankfurter at a baseball game or holiday cookout. It also takes a direct shot at a sportsman who has built his legacy off of eating hot dogs. 

“Interesting, I might need to eat more nuts to go back in time,” tweeted 13-time Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest champion Joey Chestnut, who owns the world record for eating 76 hot dogs in 10 minutes and, by the study’s calculation, would’ve lost one year and 15 minutes of his life for consuming his estimated 19,200 hot dogs over 16 years

Could eating hot dogs actually shorten your life span?

Olivier Jolliet, one of the lead researchers on the study, published in the journal Nature Food, told USA TODAY that 5,800 foods were evaluated and then ranked based on their nutritional disease burden as well as their impact on the environment. Hot dogs were considered the most unhealthy. 

“I wouldn’t get too worried about eating a hot dog from this,” Jolliet said. “Basically, we were trying to show how you can improve your lifestyle and the environment without necessarily trying to be vegan.”

The study found that substituting 10% of daily caloric intake from beef and processed meats for a mix of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and select seafood could reduce your dietary carbon footprint by one-third and allow people to gain 48 minutes of healthy life per day.’

Should Joey Chestnut be worried? 

Every Independence Day, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut takes center stage at Coney Island – with a live ESPN national audience – to do what no human has done before: Eating 70-plus hot dogs in 10 minutes. This past July 4, Chestnut eclipsed his own world record with 76 dogs

That doesn’t happen overnight. Chestnut told The Washington Post that he sees doctors, does dietary cleanses and eats healthy (believe it or not) when he’s not in-season training. So when the study started to go viral, Chestnut, accordingly, disagreed with its premise. 

“People will think automatically that if they eat healthy food, they might live forever,” Chestnut said. “And then I see on Twitter like, ‘Oh, watch out, Joey Chestnut’s going to die.’ There are so many other things to a person’s health than their worst eating habits. The only way I can continue doing (competitive eating) is by being healthy.”

Nutrition expert Dr. Cate Shanahan, author of “The Fatburn Fix and a former consultant for the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Yankees and Green Bay Packers, said Chestnut is “better off than the average American” when he’s eating healthy and exercising in conjunction with competitive eating. 

“We have to define what is healthy eating carefully,” she said. “… If Mr. Chestnut does avoid seed oils, he can eat all the hot dogs he wants a couple times a year for a contest because the extra (food consumption) turns into body fat.”

Can hot dogs be a part of a healthy diet?

Regardless of moderation, hot dogs are not exactly healthy. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) reported ham, hot dogs and other processed meats may contribute to colorectal cancer. Hot dogs also are high in saturated fat and sodium. Just one hot dog can contain over a quarter of your day’s sodium allowance and over 14 grams of fat.

Shanahan believes that while processed meats like hot dogs can inherently be unhealthy, it’s wrong to zero in on just hot dogs as the study does in highlighting the food. 

“We haven’t established that hot dogs are toxic and not all hot dogs are created equal,” she said. “… What’s most important to know about hot dogs is they don’t have seed oils. And what’s most unhealthy is industry-produced vegetable oils that accumulate in our body fat and disrupt our body’s energy-producing systems.”

Source: USA Today

Eddie Huang Opens Up On Racism Towards Asian Community, Pop Smoke, And Leaving ‘Fresh Off The Boat’

Producer, director & personality Eddie Huang sat down with Ebro in the Morning for an honest conversation about racism against the Asian community following the shooting at massage parlors in Atlanta. He also discussed some of the experiences he has had himself, and its effects in the community.

He also spoke about the passing of Pop Smoke, solidarity among different races in Los Angeles, his decision to leave the show ‘Fresh off the Boat,’ and more.

He directs the film, ‘Boogie’ which is in theaters now.

Tourist Accidentally Breaks Toes Off Of 200-Year-Old Statue While Posing For Photo

An Austrian tourist is in hot water with museum officials in Italy after accidentally breaking the toes off of a 200-year-old statue while posing for a photo.

The incident occurred on July 31 at the Gipsoteca Museum in Possagno when he sat on Antonio Canova’s statue of Paolina Bonaparte, causing two toes to break off of the plaster sculpture, the art gallery said in a statement.

According to the museum, the tourist quickly moved away from the exhibit without telling anyone, and staffers were only alerted of the damage after an alarm in the room went off.

The tourist was tracked down by police using personal information the guest had left with the museum for contact tracing in the event that a coronavirus outbreak is tied to the gallery, CNN reported.

Police told the outlet that the man was with eight other Austrian tourists and broke away from the group to take a picture of himself “sprawled over the statue.” Security camera footage also captured the tourist jumping onto the base of the sculpture to get the selfie when he snapped off part of the artwork.

Source: Travel + Leisure